First stop today was a visit to Unistella, a world-famous nail salon, founded by Eunkyung Park who is famous for her innovative designs and more recently, an intellectual property social media battle involving nail brand giant, Sally Hansen (article here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.verygoodlight.com/2018/04/03/unistella-sally-hansen/amp/ ). I had been seeing Unistella’s collection of Instagramable nail designs for years and even went to a nail artist in L.A. to get a copy of her shattered glass nails.
But the knock off job I got in L.A. was nothing compared to getting it done at the place that actually invented it. The version I had done in L.A. was made using machine cut mass produced stickers. There was no innovation or art just a paid “procedure”. In fact, I was told what it should look like and wasn’t given a choice on color and style. Here, it was hand cut and free style based on what the nail artist and I designed together. In L.A., the job took about 4 hours with the artist bitching the whole time. Here, it took less than hours with the artist being all happy because she wanted to see what our “vision” was going to look like as a finished product.
During the 2 hours I spent in the salon, I got to watch videos of Ms. Park because they were playing videos of all of her interviews right behind the nail desk. While I’d read about her before and found her interesting (Vogue article here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vogue.com/article/shattered-glass-nails-unistella-park-eun-kyung/amp ) I never really understood her passion for nail art until I came to see it in person. This is truly a person who lives and breathes her craft, translating the world she sees into nail art. Someone who innovates beyond what is available just so she can share a tangible version of her vision with those who visit her salon.
Now, this isn’t a blog post promoting Unistella, I don’t think the salon needs anymore promotion, it’s written about in every major fashion magazine. Rather, it’s about finding your passion and running with it to take it as far as you can like Ms. Park at Unistella. I came to Seoul to learn about their innovation culture specifically in their beauty and wellness industry. And slowly but surely I’m starting to understand based on what I’ve seen from the nail salon to other establishments here like the spas (which needs its own blog post btw) and in their products. This isn’t a culture that’s huge on using laws to protect their intellectual property (as far as I know, Ms. Park still hasn’t filed anything to protect her IP) rather, most people are focused on honing their skills to the point where no one can replicate them.
The things I’ve found in the 2 days I’ve been here are things I haven’t been able to find in the U.S. While there may be knock-offs, the quality and the passion that shows through the work whether it be nail paint formulations or ingredient combinations in skin care products are unparalleled. There’s a certain magic that people have here in Seoul when it comes to taking an old, tried and true process (like nail art) and applying their own innovative new idea on top of it. And I think that’s part of the reason why their innovation culture is so strong. Truly an amazing place. I.Seoul.U