A woman who swapped nappies for nails will be decorating the fingertips of models at London Fashion Week.
Antonia Catalano can normally be found in her beauty room Polished Nails and Beauty, based at The Haycock Hotel in Wansford, but for the next week, she’ll be behind the scenes preparing models to strut their stuff on the catwalks for some of the biggest designers in the world.
And it all seems a million miles away from Antonia’s life a few years ago when she worked as deputy manager at a nursery in Newborough.
But she had always been interested in nail art and as more and more of her time was taken up doing the nails of friends and family members, she decided to give it a go.
Antonia, 28, who lives in Deeping St James with her parents, said: “Nail art started off as a bit of a hobby but I just really loved it and I thought this is what makes me really happy. I didn’t have anything to lose by taking a chance.
“I loved working with the children but I felt I’d taken it as far as I could. Even today, if clients ask they can bring their children along, I still love seeing them.”
Antonia fell in love with the room in Wansford and she has been based there for just over two years. Luckily her parents and boyfriend Ian were supportive and encouraged her to follow her dreams.
Last year, she decided to try and develop her skills further on a global programme to help established technicians propel their career in the fashion industry called Nails: Mastered and it was through this that her skills were picked up by Marian Newman, who Antonia says is a “legend” in the nail industry.
Antonia was then approached by Marian Newman’s team to work at London Fashion Week last year, where she did session nails as part of a small team for a range of designers, including Burberry.
She said: “It’s just spiralled beyond anything I thought. When I went on the Mastered course, it was to gain a little bit of insider knowledge and develop my skills. I never dreamed it would lead to this but I definitely want to keep assisting at shows.
“Marian Newman is all about developing this new brand of fashion creativities and it’s been an absolutely amazing experience so far.”
She has also recently worked on a Vivienne Westwood show, where a team of five nail technicians decorated the nails of more than 80 models - both male and female - with designs including puppets!
Antonia said: “It was absolutely mental backstage - I could be under the desk or crouched down beside the model just doing two or three fingers, while other members of the team do the others.
“It’s crazy and tiring but it’s also such an amazing buzz. To walk in and see these piles of amazing dresses and designer handbags, it’s like ‘wow’. It is just another world to salon work.”
Antonia also gets a sneak peak at the shows she’s involved with when she sees a rehearsal where the technicians can make sure the nails look their best.
While Antonia is happy to dip her toe into the fashion world, she still loves painting the nails of women from across Stamford, Bourne and Peterborough, at her beauty salon and hearing their stories.
She said: “I wouldn’t want to give up my salon work though - it’s the best of both worlds. I’m not sure any of the ladies in Wansford would want the same kind of nails as the session nails - some of the designs are really avant-garde.
“I feel very fortunate to love what I do and to keep having such great opportunities.”
When Antonia spoke to the Mercury this week before travelling down to London last night it wasn’t clear which shows she’d be working on during London Fashion Week, which starts today and runs until Tuesday.
As well as nails, Antonia has also trained to do Lash Perfect extensions, eyebrow treatments and waxing, but says she would only offer a treatment she felt she was good enough.
“You could say I’m a perfectionist,” she added. “And you have to be on fashion shows.”
To find out more about Antonia’s salon, visit :http://www.polished-nailsandbeauty.co.uk|www.polished-nailsandbeauty.co.uk}