Stylist Spotlight: Celebrity Manicurist Jin Soon Choi

Undoubtedly one of the most well known names in the nail care space, Jin Soon Choi is not only responsible for spearheading the nail looks for some of the biggest Fashion Week shows and editorial shoots, she owns three namesake salons and her own line of polishes. We spoke with the influential celebrity/editorial manicurist-turned-entrepreneur to find out more about her growing personal brand.

Have you always been interested in nails? At what point did you think it would become a career?

I've always been interested in beauty and fashion. I got my start as a wholesale clothing business owner in Seoul, South Korea and for a young lady new to the US with limited English proficiency, I found the nail industry more accessible than clothing, so that's where I went.

Now, instead of juggling clothing inventory, I enjoy orchestrating nail polish shades and working on editorial photo shoots.

How did you transition from nail artist to entrepreneur with your own line/salons etc.?

It was a natural progression; first I honed my manicuring skill by working at various nail salons, then I started doing at-home mani/pedi's via bicycle which led to a lead on a store front where I opened the first of three nail salons, which in turn led to me landing an agent who connected me to prestigious photoshoots working with famous photographers and models, and then I applied all of my acquired expertise to creating the JINsoon nail lacquer line.

A pedicure seat at Jin Soon's Upper East Side salon.

A pedicure seat at Jin Soon's Upper East Side salon.

What are the biggest challenges?

In opening and operating my salons I have found that managing people has been the biggest challenge.  I've also encountered challenges in dealing with suppliers in connection with my newly launched nail lacquer line - I suppose those difficulties stem from the fact that I am a relatively small player in the industry, but I don't plan on staying that way for long!

What is the process like working with designers during fashion week?

Working with designers during fashion week is actually very pleasant and easy. Some designers send me the inspiration behind their collections beforehand so I can create simple, easy nail art that can be applied quickly on the shows.  Some designers only want solid nail colors, in which case I go to their test shoot and let them select a color or I recommend a color that is appropriate for their look.

Do you work with hair and makeup when conceiving the nail looks?

Yes - hair, makeup, and nails all contribute inextricably to the overall look.

What keeps you excited about working backstage after so many years?

I love seeing editors, bloggers, and old friends backstage. It often seems as though it's more of a friend's reunion than work - we all work hard but it is fun and exciting as well.  I also love to experience emerging trends firsthand.

The black and textured Chamonix nail polish from Jin Soon's 'Tout Ensemble' collection. 

The black and textured Chamonix nail polish from Jin Soon's 'Tout Ensemble' collection. 

Speaking of trends, what are some emerging trends we should have our eye on?

Very subtly textured nail polish such as JINsoon Georgette (cream crepe finish) and Chamonix (black leather-ette finish) are emerging trends since over-the-top nail art has run its course and people are looking for alternate ways of expressing excitement. I call this new look nail art in a bottle - you simply paint it on and the texture and finish are complete.

Do you think gel and nail art are trends that are here to stay?

They will be here to stay, but in a more simplified way; instead of getting gel nail art, just getting gel color will be more popular because it has the plus side of being long lasting and nail art will trend toward more simplicity as well, so people can enjoy a hint of art as an accent.

What are some important things to consider when selecting nail colors?

The first thing is to do is to confirm that the colors are compatible with your skin tone and your outfit of the day.  Then I suggest confirming that the nail polish is 5-free, long lasting and has a high shine.

The storefront of Jin Soon's Upper East Side nail spa, located at 421 East 73rd Street.

The storefront of Jin Soon's Upper East Side nail spa, located at 421 East 73rd Street.

 How has the nail industry changed since you started?

The nail industry has changed dramatically since I started.  It used to play a bit part in the fashion industry but now it enjoys an elevated status.

What are some of your favorite polish brands?

JINsoon, NARS, Michael Kors, Chanel, and Revlon.

What are the essentials for a DIY mani/pedi?

The three most important steps are shaping, grooming cuticles, and applying nail polish. Use the JINsoon Diamond Nail File, which can be sterilized, is very easy to use and effective.  A Tweezerman Cuticle Pusher is also a must-have in your tool arsenal.