It’s been many years since Jin Soon earned the nickname “Bicycle Jin.” An OG when it comes to nail art, she has worked her way up the beauty chain and is now known as New York’s go-to nail pro. After launching a nail polish line with its own fan following and the fourth location of the Jin Soon Hand & Foot Spa, she’s learned a few things along the way.
What Should We Do: How’d you get started as a nail artist?
Jin Soon: When I moved to New York City from South Korea, my job options were limited because I didn’t speak English, so I took the familiar route that many Korean immigrants take by working at a Korean-owned nail salon. This taught me the craft of being a nail technician, but I eventually worked as the sole manicurist in an American-owned hair salon, which helped me with my English proficiency. While there, and with permission from my boss, I began providing mani-pedis in clients’ homes. One of those clients connected me with an agent, and I began doing editorial work for magazines, where I could distinguish myself as a nail artist.
WSWD: How did you get the nickname Bicycle Jin?
Soon: During my time as a freelance manicurist, I rode my 10-speed bike to people’s houses with a manicure kit in the front basket and a backpack with a foot bath on my back. When one client would recommend me to another, they would refer to me as Bicycle Jin, and the name stuck!
WSWD: Did you always know you’d eventually open your own shop?
Soon: Since becoming a manicurist I had always wanted to open a salon, but I wanted the service to be relaxed, with a warm and inviting atmosphere; more like a quiet oasis in the midst of a hectic city providing spalike hand and foot treatments. The architect who I hired to design my first salon, who is now my husband, guided me in realizing my vision. I recently opened my flagship spa in Tribeca and it’s yet another design by my husband that I am so proud of!
WSWD: Why did you launch your eponymous nail collection in 2012?
Soon: Launching my nail polish collection was a natural step in the evolution of my career. The range of experience I have had in the nail industry, from working at salons and with private clients to working on photo shoots and fashion campaigns as an editorial nail artist, all contribute to my nail lacquer line. I’m really enjoying this creative and fulfilling aspect of my career.
WSWD: What makes the lacquer line high fashion?
Soon: The shades are unique, refined, and sophisticated, with an emphasis on rich color pigmentation. The shades are also formulated with extra shine and based on a long-lasting gel-finish lacquer without any harsh gel ingredients.
WSWD: What’s the one thing you want all women to know about their nails?
Soon: Nails should be taken care of just like you take care of your face.
WSWD: How do New Yorkers approach their nails?
Soon: At this moment, they are moving toward pure colors and simple, modern nail art. It is a sophisticated aesthetic and supports their fashion style. New Yorkers tend to be ahead of the curve in the beauty industry. Right now they’re going for a minimalistic and natural look, such as wearing sheer makeup with an accent lip color in two ways: sheer makeup and lipstick and sheer nails, or nude makeup with a “punch” lipstick and dark nail colors.
WSWD: How do you transfer your experience from runway shows, fashion shoots, and celebrities to everyday New York women?
Soon: I reinterpret aspects of runway shows and fashion shoots to everyday New York women by making the look accessible. For instance, if I do long nails with complicated nail art on a photo shoot, I make the nails shorter but in the same shape and tweak the complicated design to a very simple, adoptable design, so anyone could enjoy a taste of the trends.
WSWD: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned while running your beauty empire in New York?
Soon: Be authentic and speak with your own voice—New Yorkers will know the difference!