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05.14.13

CHARACTER STUDY: JIN SOON CHOI

CHARACTER STUDY: JIN SOON CHOI

The JINsoon Nail Polish founder and master of the manicure.

If you’ve flipped through a beauty magazine, drooled over a high-profile fashion campaign, or hung out with any supermodels lately, chances are you’ve seen Jin Soon Choi’s flawless work. The famed editorial manicurist has the palms of beauty’s elite in her hands. She recently launched JINsoon Nail Polish, her own line of glossy, durable lacquers, in a chic range of refined neutrals, sophisticated darks, and trendy brights. We chatted with the nail-care entrepreneur about everything from how she got her start in the beauty biz to her new spring/summer vivid varnish collection. RENEE TRILIVAS

When did you get started doing nails?
When I came to this country from Korea in 1991, I didn’t speak English at all. I started learning it when I started doing nails in a West Village hair salon. But I didn’t enjoy working with the hairdressers—they’re nice, but they are a lot of drama! So, I asked my clients what to do, and one suggested I start doing at-home manicures. I had nothing to lose, so that’s what I did!

How entrepreneurial!
One client gave me a bicycle and I would go to people’s houses and give them manicures—they called me “Bicycle Jin!” Later, I started doing magazine photo shoots, fashion shows, and campaigns. I opened up my first nail salon in the East Village in 1999 and now I have three locations. I worked hard, but also I was super lucky.

What inspired you to launch your own polish line?
It was a natural step for me. I saw a lot of people doing their own lines, even non-experts, so I wanted to have my own products that represented me and what I do—that would be my last step as a manicurist. Because really, what’s better than having your own products?

How did you go about deciding which colors would be in the permanent line?
Some people are really into bling bling and nail stickers, but I wanted to create my own signature style with my background as a high-fashion, editorial manicurist. I had my model friends name each polish in the collection, so even the names are high fashion! The Quintessential Collection is classic—I’ve used those colors forever. And the formula is jelly-like—no shimmer, glitter, or effects.

What colors did you immediately know you had to have in your line?
Red! Red is classic, glamorous, and modern. We have a bright red [Coquette], medium red [Audacity], and dark red [Risqué]. In my photo shoots, I’ve used those three reds like crazy—red is huge in fashion. I also knew I needed to create a light pink. Sheer pink and sheer cream are the most popular colors at my salons.

Tell me about your new seasonal collection.
For my spring and summer collection, I really wanted to celebrate bright colors. I went to the Botanical Gardens in New York and I was so inspired by the flowers. I took pictures of all the flowers and wrote down all their names. I thought, “I must have a Botanical Flower Collection!” They’re mature, but wearable. They have a very light feeling. I think bright colors make you happy, just like looking at flowers makes you happy!

What’s your favorite polish in the Botanical Flower Collection?
It’s like you’re asking me, “Which child do you like the best?” It’s so hard! I do love Blue Iris because we had to tweak the formula so many times…but I love them all! Spring and summer is the time to enjoy color. I say, have fun with it—they’re not tattoos!

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