Monthly Archives: June 2011

The brains behind Nails Inc Thea Green

We’ve all been obsessed with nail varnish for many decades, many generations over, but it was the idea of specialising in nail bars that set Thea Green from the rest. With a home to run and three kids under the age of seven, she saw a gap in the market for busy women wanting a cheap, quick way of treating their nails without having to sit around a day spa all day. Here is a day in her life and the secret to her success.

You started your business when you were quite young. Was it always the plan to have kids at that time, regardless of what was going on with your business?

I think you work out after the first two years, it’s easier in a whole lot of ways but it’s also more time consuming as it gets bigger. So I think I worked out that there was never going to be the perfect time to have kids and I’m glad that I’m not still sitting here debating whether or not it’s the right time. I work more now than I probably did in the beginning, so I don’t think there would have been a perfect time to have done it.

Your husband, Nick runs his own business as well. Is there ever a clash of the titans at home?

No…we always say we’re at our best at our ugliest moments because we’re brilliant together when we’re both really stressed and we have a million things going on. It’s almost like laughing through the pain a bit, you have to giggle about it. I think we’re both natural copers, so it’s almost like the more that’s going on, the more we rise to the occasion but when only one of us has got an issue I think it creates tension.

How do you deal as a working mum? Do you have people you can call and be like, ‘oh I’m trapped in this meeting or my flight is cancelled?’

I don’t really do it. You know why? Like I’m sure I could call on any one of my neighbours but I’ve got a nanny, I’ve got a husband, I’ve got myself, I’ve got a nice mum who although lives an hour away would be there if I needed her. So I just do it in my little group of system rather than… I’ve never kind of liked that, what I call a sort of a slightly flaky childcare where they’re going all over the place, different people picking them up and looking after them, I just feel like I would get in a muddle with it.  I like the idea that if my kids aren’t with me they’re either with my nanny or there with my husband or they might be with my mum and that’s about it.

Tell me about your day, because there must be so much in there, I mean you’re doing an interview from your holiday? What’s a normal working morning?

I’m up at six. Allegra is my rooster, my little one. We are so sure she wakes up earlier than everyone, because she’s the third child, to get some attention. She wakes up a whole hour before the boys and she gets an hour of mummy and daddy time. So she wakes up at six, religiously regardless of what time she has gone to bed, she has built in an alarm clock for 6am. Even ten past six is a lie in for her. She wakes us all up every morning and then my husband leaves early, he walks to work so he sort of leaves around seven-thirty.  Then Charlie is the next one up in my house. I give him breakfast and then Harry is my sleeping in boy, you literally have to go and wake him up. So I eventually go and get him up, get all the kids dressed for school, although Charlie is now able to get himself dressed for school. I somewhere in between getting them dressed, wash myself, probably don’t have makeup on. I usually do my makeup literally at that kind of last minute as I’m going out. But I’m definitely dressed quite early on… washed and dressed.

And what kind of thing do you throw on?

I wear probably quite a lot of dresses. I often go to work in high heels but they rarely stay on all day. I’ll run around in my flat shoes and have a pair of high heels for a particular meeting in my bag.

Do you have favourite pair of heels?

I’ve got black Stella McCartney heels that I can wear all day cause they’re not that high and then I’ve got a pair of fancy Allaia super high heels which I wear quite a lot for work but they’re the ones I’m in for only a couple of hours. Usually I have a suit jacket with me but I’m not necessarily wearing it all day but I sort of have a funny life I think now in terms of you go from very casual meetings to very business meetings to being in the office. So you need that sort of wardrobe where you can smarten yourself up. I usually have stuff in my car or a suit jacket on me. I definitely take things on and off all day just because I do have very different types of meetings.

Do you have any particular designers that you just love for dresses?

I’ve bought loads of Stella McCartney stuff this year for Summer, I’ve bought lots of her stuff and I love it, she did an amazing kind of crazy flower  so I bought loads of dresses and I bought quite a lot of denim. I bought a denim jacket for work that you can dress up with heels and I bought a knee length denim skirt that I wear with a suit jacket. I bought a couple of Celine dresses and I normally buy a lot of Chloe stuff. Feeling too old for Topshop at the moment. Usually I’m Topshop crazy but I’ve definitely felt too old these days. I’ve done lots of Zara. My High Street fix has been Zara this year. I’ve bought Maxi dresses from Zara which I’ve worn for work again with the suit jacket and I bought fancy blazers from people like Stella McCartney and Chloe but I definitely have a wardrobe of Zara jackets that are brilliant. You know like the random colour jacket.

Do you find you have a real passion for how you look or have you just always dressed a certain way and gone with it?

Love fashion. I love fashion. Love clothes. Proper shopper, love clothes. Used to work in magazines so I love clothes and I think I’ve never stopped being the girl who wants to make the newest thing. Definitely interested in the newest thing and something odd and all that stuff. But it is odd for me because I go from a meeting with a PR company or doing a photo shoot for nails Inc to a formal meeting. So I do have mornings where I think ‘I am really going to have to figure this out today’. You know, figure out a casual pair of trousers with a pair of high heels with a suit jacket and a vest underneath. I definitely think about what I’m wearing for the extra 5 minutes in the morning. Department stores are quite conservative, you know if you’re doing store visits or meeting the floor manager or meeting the buyer. They’d all be wearing suit jackets and those things. It’s quite a formal industry, beauty… more formal than fashion and department stores are particularly formal. You know, if you’ve ever been to a meeting in a department store, women are in corporate dress.

So getting back to your daily routine, you then drive into work and what about your HQ?

Drive. Yes, I’m very naughty, I park in the West End but it’s my super luxury and I love taking Charlie to school, you know Charlie’s my first child, my big grown up boy, that’s my half an hour every morning with just Charlie and I like it used to be. He’s almost a bit cheated if one of the others gets in the car for whatever reason, like that’s his special time.

What do you do in the car once you’ve dropped off Charlie? Are you on your Blackberry? Are you on your hands free?

I’m on my phone; I’m on my hands free and I’m usually calling Nails Inc people. I’m usually talking to the girls who run the stores, like our area management because that’s a great time to get them before they go into store. They go in at around nine, ten o’clock and so that’s a good time to get them. The person who does our marketing is in the office at that time so I often speak to her in terms of what things are going on. She does marketing and product management, her name is Heather. So her and I often speak at that time because there’s no one else in the office for another 15 minutes. So she’ll often have a catch up with me if we’re not going to see much of each other during the day.

What time do you get in?

I’m usually in work by about twenty to nine, depending on traffic. It’s quick from home.

What do you do, what’s your morning like? What are the kind of things taking up your list?

Totally different, I mean really varied so I definitely spend huge amount of time in a day in back to back meetings. I tend to do things like emailing and that sort of admin stuff from home at night. I don’t really do that much during the day. The odd email, but I spend most of my days in meetings either with external people like buyers or suppliers, manufacturers or PR companies. Otherwise I’m in meetings with Nails Inc people.

So when you say Nails Inc people, can you give me some specifics?

My team, so my team is.. I have a commercial director called Lisa, so her and I would be talking about sales figures where we are on the week, where we are since last year, where we are on budget, what we’ve still got left to do, how we want to out perform this. We’re constantly the challenge for each other on how we can stretch, how we can do better. We would then together have a meeting with Heather who is product and marketing, in terms of the next few months’ launches. Heather’s the kind of creative, the sort of back end that needs to happen which is when is the stock physically coming into the ware house. Then Caroline, she looks after the head of retail. So she’s the person who runs the area managers and effectively runs all the Nail bar stores. We would talk to her a lot about numbers in terms of where we’re up to on retail, what we need to do in terms of just motivating. We do a lot of competitions and all sorts of different things because you know, we run a lot of young people at Nails Inc.

How many staff do you have?

About 400 at any one time in the UK.

Is the company international?

We’re just starting. So this year we’re launching at Clicks in South Africa, which is like a Boots, in October and we’re launching in Sephora in the States and Canada in August/September. That’s our first big international.

How do you feel about it?

Sephora? I was so excited because I love Sephora. Love Sephora. I always shop there when I go for some bits, so it’s nice genuinely when you can say that. But it’s incredibly challenging in terms of the volumes you’re supposed to do in the States. But we’re really excited. You know, we have a good size stand and if successful  we’ll go into a whole lot more stores and probably do Sephora in a few other countries.

How did you win that client? Did you physically go over there and pitch to them?

Yep. I did. I did that six months ago now…  I think it will end up being 7 months from start to finish until we are in store.

How was that?

Fantastic. Really good. It was an interesting time in the nail varnish market because a couple of big brands had been bought in the last year, so it’s a good moment if you’re a younger niche brand to come forward and offer something different and also Nails has been really successful through the last recession. So nail varnish has been like the lipstick of the previous recession where everyone’s bought them in crazy colours and experimented with special effects, whether it was glitter or crackle. So it’s the right time to go and talk to a giant like Sephora because there’s so much happening with nails that most of the retailers that we’re talking to want more.

Have you ever made any mistakes or thought of things that if you did again, you might do differently?

Not to do with the brand but when you first start your own business you’re so in love with the business, that initial leap is the naivety. I just think if you could bottle it and keep it forever it would be amazing because you’re so confident that it’s going to work, you almost ignore everyone’s advice. You can only see your own vision and goal, which you only have when you first start a business and then like everything you become realistic about all the elements and you learn a huge amount. You need that initial tunnel visions that it’s going to work but then you really need to broaden out and listen to a huge amount of other people’s information and get a hold of as much as you can. I think Nails Inc is a very fast environment, it always has been and I think you can make mistakes when you’re working too quickly. But the other thing about Nails Inc is there’s never been anyone’s copy. So we’ve never really had a big competitor. There’s never been another big nail bar in department stores, there’s never been a UK nail varnish company that was solely focussed on nail varnish. There’s beauty salons and that side of things but there isn’t another competitor in Harvey Nichols on that ground floor or another nail varnish company selling nail varnish next to you. So the negative of that is that you never have anyone to look to to see how they’re going. The positive is that you’re doing it and you’re the first and you’re the obvious phone call because we are the choice in that. We’ve always got the retail deals because we’re the only ones to work with but at the same time there isn’t anyone to look at and mimic. There’s never been that with Nails Inc which is actually probably more negative than positive because there isn’t anyone to get that information from.

What time do you finish?

Well my nanny leaves between six and seven every day, so we kind of have a flexible arrangement for when my day finishes but I let her know at least a week ahead what time I’ll finish. I don’t overrun. I want to go back and see my kids for a couple of hours, so if I’m going to stay late, I will arrange to stay late because I’ve got kids I can’t do that whole staying in the office until my work’s done. I will often go home, have diner, put my kids to bed and work a bit in the evening when the kids are in bed. Particularly doing the stuff in the States, I’m now often on a phone call to the States late at night.

There are many entrepreneurs out there, hoping to become successful. Is there a key piece of advice?

Probably the biggest lesson is people skills because 90% of what we do is to do with people, so whether it’s presenting for buyers or motivating a team of ten working in a store, I think you really learn who you need to be in different environments and what people want from that meeting. I think the people skills that I’ve learnt will be invaluable to me forever, so I’d never change it. The people are what makes Nails Inc have the personality. Also realising what motivates creative people. A lot of the girls at Nails Inc aren’t necessarily business people, they’re not motivated by money like some people. Some are currently a manicurist and they’d like to learn ho two do gel false nails or they’d like us to be buying a certain product for them to use in a manicure. So you need to motivate them by creative things and training rather than just money. Really motivating people who are motivated by money you just offer them bonuses but motivating creative people is a bit more of an art form.

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Inglorious Melanie Laurent

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing the new face of Christian Dior’s Hypnotic Poison scent, Melanie Laurent. Best known for her fierce role as Shoshana in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, we spoke about growing up with a dad doing voice over’s for Ned Flanders, making porn films and hanging out with Ewan McGrgeor on the set of her new flick, Beginners.

You recently filmed Beginners with Ewan McGregor. How was that? Was he a total charmer?

Oh yeah exactly. You said the right word (laughs)

Did you go out for dinner or drinks? Or was it all basically work?

We had a burger on the road, actually I had two burgers and he was like, ‘Oh my god you’re the first actress I’ve seen do that.’ But that was about all of the time we had to go out.

Is breaking into Hollywood a priority for you? Or do you love French films too much?

I love all films. I love Hollywood, Spanish, English, Italian, Irish movies. I care about the stories that’s all.

It must be a bit nerve racking as your star continues to rise. Do you have to dodge Paparazzi on the street?

No, I’m not Jude Law, I’m ok.

And you don’t worry about crossing that threshold?

Well, I had my first paparazzi experience like three weeks ago. They just took pictures of me at the airport which was really interesting.

Did you find it exciting.

Oh no. No. I don’t know, it was my first time I just realised a paparazzi guy was hiding himself behind a fake tree. Super ridiculous. And I looked at him and he pretended he didn’t see me and I thought it was such a stupid situation. He kept going and taking pictures of me doing nothing at the airport and so yeah, I don’t know. It was my first time. But in France we are really protected by all that stuff. You don’t really see paparazzi.

Really?

Oh no. We don’t have that terrible paparazzi. I know a lot of actresses who want to live in Paris because of that. I mean you can have paparazzi take photos but you really have to be doing cocaine in the middle of the street. Which I wont be doing (laughs).

So just a little bit about growing up in Paris… I read that your mother was a ballerina and your father did the voice-over for Ned Flanders. Did your friends think that was great?

Oh yeah. When I was at school, all the cartoons, my friends knew my dad was on it, so yeah it was kind of funny.

Did they ever get him to do the voice over for them?

Yeah. When he tells me stories, he did all the mouse voice and the cat voice, yeah it was a little bit crazy.

Because your parents were both into the arts, do you think that career path was set for you?

Yeah I think so. I’m sure of it. They just always told me, do everything you want and try everything you want and they were super happy for me when I did my first movie. They didn’t puish me into anything, but they understood everything. I think it’s hard when your parents don’t understand why you want to be an artist.

Your first film was Des Moins en Moins? Sorry about my accent.

(laughs) Des Moins en Moins (in my voice still laughing)… Des Moins en Moins.  Very good. Yeah it was my first short movie about a young woman who loses her memories.

What inspired you to make that film?

Honestly I don’t know (laughs). It’s a long story. Ha. Ok, are you ready? I was working on a play as a writer and in my play I wanted to put a screen on stage so I wanted to shoot something to put the scenes on, so I found a producer to produce all those screening things and I was working on my feature at that time and the producer asked me to write a short lovie because she wanted to use the productions to do a short movie and use the short film as a demo for the featuring movie and I’m not good at writing short films because I think it’s super more difficult to write short movies than featuring movies. So I was on a train and I was working on a movie as an actress so I didn’t have time to write a great story and I knew I would have a few hours to make a short movie in one room so I don’t know why but I just had that idea of someone having her analyst meeting and she just loses all of her memories in 10 minutes.

Wow.

I don’t know if it’s wow (laughs) but I did it. I actually had a big fight with my producer because I didn’t like working with them and they showed my movies to Cannes festival without my permission and I was really not happy with the movie and I was selected for Cannes. I was so surprised. I went o Cannes as a director for the first time with my first short movie. I still don’t know why they chose that short movie.

Following that you directed a porn film?

Yes it was a nice second short movie (laughs). It was a special project, it was a channel called Canal+ which is  very famous in France and they wanted to make  five female porn movies. Like, we don’t have any female producers in the porn industry so they wanted to choose 5 female directors and have a point of view of the women on porn. So it was very chic and very intellectual project. It was not like, let’s make a porn.

So was it a feminist movement?

Yeah. Completely and I’m an avid feminist.

So moving from your directing and moving onto you being an actress. How did you get into acting?

I met Gerard Depardieu and I was 14 and I was on a set because my best friend at that time had her father working as a technician on the set, so she just asked me if I wanted to see how the set worked and Gerard Depardieu comes to me and said ‘do you want to make movies?’ and I said ‘why not?’ and I was 14 and did my first movie with him, so he kind of chose all of this for me.

And then you went on to do Inglourious Basterds by the fabulous Quentin Tarantino. How did he direct you in the film considering he didn’t speak French and you didn’t speak English?

Oh I had to learn fast because I lied to him. I said to him I was perfectly fluent in English. So I watched again and again Gossip Girl (laughs). Domini xxx who’s playing the farmer on Inglorious Basterds, he became my best friend and he offered me a little screen and put on a lot of TV shows and it was the best way to learn, without titles and I had to learn so fast. So when you have to do something fast, it works. I think it’s the best way to learn a language because I had to understand everything.

Were there any other English TV shows you watched?

Well I’ve started to watch Desperate housewives without sub titles, I don’t know every movie after that I had to watch without sub titles and it’s a great way to learn.

So obviously you ended up getting the part in the movie…

Really? (laughs)

How was it working with Brad Pitt?!

He was cool. Very cool.

How did you prepare for your role as Shoshana?

Well he chose me and I was supposed to shoot like 3 weeks after so he sent me to LA in his house alone and I learned how to project movie. It was complicated because the guy who was teaching me didn’t speak French so I had to learn to speak English and project movies. They were absolutely amazed because I didn’t know really what they were saying but I managed to get it all right.

I read that you’re Jewish and your grandfather survived deportation by the Nazis. Did you feel emotionally attached to any aspect of the film?

Oh yeah. I felt emotionally attached to all of it. It would be hard not to. I mean, I’ve wanted to kill Hitler since I was little, so I definitely was emotionally involved in the film and the connection with it and it was sort of great for me because it was like a release of hatred towards Hitler. But yeah, I definitely was emotionally connected to the film.

Were you  stressed out after filming? Were you able to go home and switch off?

I don’t think you can ever switch off from that. Anything to do with Hitler and that history… you can’t just turn it off. It’s always there.

Well it seems you found a connection with Shoshana. Are there any roles you wont take?

Well I choose the roles I like but I would like to make comedy. I would really like to do that. I always seem to be given the serious roles, but I think comedy would be really fun.

You call yourself an ‘artist’ because you don’t pigeon hole yourself as a director or musician or actress. Does your heart belong more to one than the other?

No. Not really. I mean, when I directed my feature I felt myself complete. I prefer being the captain. I like being the big boss and when you’re a director  you don’t have to be nasty, you can be very nice. I like being a nice director. I don’t really like being called just an actress. You know, once I started getting into acting people stopped referring to me as a human being. They would say you are an actress, you are not real, you don’t have feelings, it’s all an act and I wanted to tell them, I am still a person. I am still like all human beings.

You’ve met some amazing people during your career. Was there any special person who gave you advice.

Gerard Depardieu. Yes. Definitely Gerard Depardieu. He told me three things when I was young that I have remembered during my career so far. He said first don’t go to acting school. Second he said Don’t try and learn your text and what it’s meant to be, you just have to do and third he told me never be afraid to be ridiculous. Which was great because if you are afraid then you won’t do anything.

Lastly, I heard that you’re a great cook. Can you tell me the last meal you cooked?

Oh… I was in New York and I spent about 4 hours in the kitchen! It was incredible because I had this pressure from being French, you know, I had to do something great. I really specialise in salads. I’m very good at salads and I made them a cucumber salad with radish and yogurt and (asks her translator in French how to say ‘ciboulette’ in English) chives (laughs), some ginger and lemon and I can’t really remember what else. It was very fresh and I think my cooking is ok because I put a lot of time in to making it perfect.

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