Sylvie Macmillan: the nail artist you need to know now

Rachael Dove
Sylvie Macmillan: Kezia Quarcoo

Macmillan toyed with graphic design, model making, set design and being a chef before settling on nails, and you can kind of tell.

Forget French manis, she makes hands, and feet, into other-wordly works of art, from curled talons dripping with rhinestones for Vogue Italia to painfully chipped, irregular claws for the Fenty campaign — all sculpted on the dining table in her shared house in Peckham.

Why nails?

Nail bars are such a good community for women. How often is it that you have someone sat opposite you for an hour, holding your hands, paying attention to you? It’s deeply therapeutic.

What’s been your pinch-me moment?

Madonna was quite a weird moment. I did a set of red-tip acrylics on her for her hologram performance at the Billboard Music Awards. She is powerful in every sense and very particular.

One of Sylvie's fantastical creations

How did you get into nails?

I was working in model making and set design, but I found it solitary and not creative enough. I like the processes but something was missing. I had a eureka moment where I was like, why aren’t I doing nails because it’s all the same techniques?’ I loved getting my nails done, I had used all sorts of polymer systems and I knew lots about resins, plus I thought it would be sociable.

So I gave up everything with set design and worked as a chef for nine months while i did my CND nails training. I loved it. Nails is by far the best thing i have ever done.

What’s your USP?

I think people come to me because I don’t just think about nails - its about the whole hand and foot. Hands can be so emotive and expressive and exciting, and it’s a fab way for a model to remind themselves what character they are in.

Which film most inspires your work?

The Fifth Element, 100 per cent. It blew my mind as an eight year old and totally determined my aesthetic. The production design is incredible and Jean Paul Gaultier’s costume design is amazing.

Shell-out success

Describe your favourite item of clothing.

A skirt by Di Petsa is the most beautifully crafted, imaginative thing I own.

She hand sews skirts and dresses so they look like they are wet and clinging to your skin, like a Grecian goddess who has jumped into the sea and out again.

Who is your style icon?

Dolly Parton because she loves what she wears and she embraces it whole-heartedly. She is my dream client.

Where do you go out in London?

I chase nights around so I could end up in a warehouse in Bermondsey or a house party. The Bodymotion nights are fun.

Which song would you take to the grave with you?

Probably Your Love by Frankie Knuckles.

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