What started out as a way to create more traffic at her mom’s salon in Korea became the origin of Yuri’s life-long love: doing nails. From the posh spa at Holt Renfrew to the halls and classrooms of Blanche Macdonald where she works as a nail instructor, to her current table at Style Lab HQ, Yuri spends her days creating some of Vancouver’s best nails or teaching others how to do it, too!
You’ve had a pretty long career in Nails and worked extensively in Korea. Can you tell us a bit about the difference in the Canadian and Korean nail scene?
I’ve been doing nails for over ten years, teaching skills and techniques. The nail industry in Canada has evolved since I first moved here from Korea a decade ago. Korean nails are similar to Japanese nails and Japan is known to set the standard and be the industry leader of the nail world. When I got my first nail set in Japan 20 years ago, I couldn’t believe it. Korea adapted to the nail craze in Asia and soon every second door was a nail salon. When I first came to Canada and said I did nails, people assumed I meant really basic manicures and pedicures. Those are OK too! But in Korea, I was used to nail art and very intricate designs with unicorns, Totoros and super high-end products and expectations. There is just a little bit of a different perspective between the two countries though it’s getting closer and closer!
The nail industry in Canada has evolved since I first moved here from Korea a decade ago. In Korea, I was used to nail art and very intricate designs with unicorns, Totoros and super high-end products and expectations.
How did you get started on your own Nail journey?
When I was in Korea, my mom owned a hair salon and wanted to offer nail services so she asked me to learn and do nails. When I came to Canada, I didn’t speak much English but I got a job in a salon doing nails and I realized how much I liked doing it. When I went back to Korea, I took more classes, learned everything I could and I’ve been working here ever since!
Tell us a bit about your teaching and work schedule.
I’ve rented a chair at Style Lab HQ salon in Yaletown for almost three years. Before this, I worked in the salon at Holt Renfrew until it closed. I teach Nail classes at Blanche Macdonald on Tuesday nights and Sundays, so I have clients on the rest of the days of the week. My only day off is Saturday… I work a lot!
Blanche Macdonald nail instructors share their knowledge between each other and as a group, we go through the curriculum once or twice a year to make sure it’s as up-to-date as possible.
You’re one Nail Instructor that isn’t a grad, that’s pretty rare amongst our faculty—how did you end up instructing at Blanche Macdonald?
My job at the Holts salon was how I got my job at Blanche Macdonald! I was working on a client who also happened to be Simona’s friend. Simona loved the nails and asked who had done them—she came to see me that week!
What kind of students can you find in our Nail classes?
More than one-third of our Nail students come from an Esthetics or Makeup background so they know a lot at the start, but even still, there’s so much to learn. We also have students who are coming in completely new to the industry, but they are naturally skilled, artistic and creative. They want to be in this industry because they recognize that it’s growing every year.
There are always opportunities to find inspiration everywhere, whether it’s geometry, other art, social media, or a specific colour. We encourage our students to always be open to inspiration while keeping the foundations of nail art in mind.
How do you balance the technical aspects of Nails while also being creative in the classroom?
I teach the Artificial module, but no matter what module the students are in, we teach hygiene and technique every single class. Even though we are always focusing on building a solid understanding of the fundamentals, there are always opportunities to find inspiration everywhere, whether it’s geometry, other art, social media, or a specific colour. We encourage our students to always be open to inspiration while keeping the foundations of nail art in mind. Some people want to do more basic nail sets that focus on colour; some want to focus on art and nail art. Both are great.
How does each nail instructor and the program as a whole keep up-to-date with such a rapidly changing industry?
We do a lot of research on our own and all nail instructors go to other training classes or spa and nail shows. We also do a lot of social media research. Each nail instructor shares their knowledge to the group, we go through the curriculum once or twice a year to make sure it’s as up-to-date as possible.
What is the best thing about doing nails?
I like how you can create something from nothing, plus it makes people so happy. In Canada, the Nail industry gets bigger and bigger every year. When my clients come back and tell me how many compliments they got and how much they loved their set, it makes me want to do an even better job than the last time. I’ve got a couple clients from LA that come to see me and a few that live in Europe who come to see me every time they are in town. That’s so special to me.