Beauty Backstage: Unistella the Celebrity Nail Artist and Her Jewelry Drop

Unistella aka Eunkyung Park is a rockstar in the nail art world. A bit of punk, glam, and elegance all rolled into one, her cutting edge nail art trends have gone viral and upended standard approaches to nail art. If you’ve ever seen wire nails or shattered glass nails trending on Instagram, yup that’s all her. Her ingenuity has drawn clientele from Karlie Kloss to K-Pop idols like Blackpink, but it doesn’t stop there though. June 2, her new line of nail jewelry is dropping at Barney’s The Drop. She sat down with Soak to chat about what Unistella projects are in the pipeline and what’s the next big thing in nail trends.

Personal Background

What is your first memory with nail art?

When I was in elementary school, I was in a cosmetics store, and my mom told me to buy nail polish. So I bought it, and I did it for my mom, and it was so fun. I still remember that moment so clearly.

You started doing nail art at an early age. How has it changed over time?

When I did my mom’s nails, that generation had a very simple trend that just left a streak in the middle of her nails. That was the norm back then. It was a bit shocking. So I asked my mom, “Why do you put your nail polish like this?” She said “Nails need to breathe!” I was surprised.

Pushing back cuticles too. When I was 20 years old, I started working at a nail salon, and I saw my mom’s generation’s nails. I realized it wasn’t just my mom doing this but everyone. Their fingers were always swollen. I didn’t like it, but they said “It’s okay to let me bleed as long it’s refreshing”. Now I never want to make them bleed. They wanted to make sure its refreshing and clean, but now it’s changed.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

What do you love most when doing nail art?

I love putting a dot on nails – a simple design. I also really like short nails, I like seeing the skin behind the nails. Before social media, if you looked at models in the past, their nails were ugly and natural. I loved those nails. It seemed like it had more balance than the high fashion nails. I actually cut my nails short – it seems more balanced instead of all the nice posed content.

What’s your overall beauty philosophy?

Confidence. Having confidence and looking good for yourself is important. I think it’s pretty cool that people do things for themselves and more than caring about what other people think.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

When did you start your own shop? How is it being a female entrepreneur in Korea?

September 2014. It’s not hard. I got asked a lot of questions if I got investments. They thought it’d be impossible for a girl to start a business herself. But I didn’t really care. I took out my deposit money (from my apartment) to start the shop. I lived in the office in the basement before we started. It wasn’t easy. My bed was just a futon.

What is your working process like?

My personality is very much hyper-focused and like a perfectionist. If I get into something, I really get into the details of it and do it thoroughly. Out of 100 ideas, 10 of them I really follow through with and pursue to the end. For example, for the shattered glass nails I wanted to get that abalone shell light reflection on nails. I would search online, try different candy wrappers for texture, and keep going to find the perfect design. I sometimes wonder why I can’t focus on one thing – because I actually don’t do this for 90% of my ideas. But once I do get into it, I go in all the way.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

Unistella Brand

What is Unistella’s brand going for this year? 

I’m launching an accessory line! Wire nail art picked up really well and was super popular as my design. I wanted to make it into a product you could actually put on your finger, so I started a jewelry line that you could wear and put on your nails.

I’m in the process of doing the trademark for my jewelry line. The bolt that screws the jewels onto the ring will be trademarked under my name. You can use it as jewelry like a ring, or you can put it directly on your nails as an accessory. They are nail charms! You can switch them in and out of the bolts and wear different jewels. Barneys New York will be hosting my new line at the LA Pop Up happening this week. It’s a venue partnership with Barneys. Rather than editorial collaborations, I’m interested in breaking into markets like nail accessories, nail jewelry, nail art pens, etc.

Tell me about the nail art pen!

It’s super fun, and I love using it. You can basically draw on your nails like a normal pen. I’m working with manufacturers in Japan, but they see nail art as a small industry. They want more business information before we launch any products.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

You’ve got this project coming out, but what is your long term vision for Unistella ?

I want Unistella to go in the direction of Pantone. Every year, Pantone announces what the color of the year is – what’s going to trend and that influences everything. I want Unistella to be the trendsetter for nail art trends for nail artists and influencers. I want to even show easy ways to do nail art – using stickers, nail products.

Can you describe a typical day as you?

It always starts and ends with nail art – whether it’s going to fashion shoots, working with customers, or drawing new designs. If the weather is nice I like to go outside and take photos – document my everyday nails with photos. I love how nails look in natural spaces. 

I also love going to Dongdaemun Market. There are accessories vendors that sell earrings, and I’m always trying the products on my nails for future inspiration and looks. The funny thing is that some of the accessories look really nice when I try them on there, but when I take them home they can look really weird (laughs). But I save everything. There’s always a time to use it.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

What has been your favorite or most memorable shoot or job?

It’s not the shoots that stand out in my mind. What I remember is when I felt inspired for new nail design. For example, I remember exactly when the glass nail and wire nail “hit my brain”. I just got inspired in the moment.

 

How is the business side of making your new line of jewelry?

I think there’s a reason why nail art accessories haven’t existed. Manufacturing is difficult because finger sizes and nail shapes are so different. With nails, not everyone’s are round. People told me nail accessories would be hard to produce. But even if it’s difficult, I was afraid I would regret not pursuing this. I still wanted to invest because I am ambitious and want to see how it turns out. 

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

Trends

Do you follow trends? I notice you also develop trends as an artist – what is that like? 

I don’t really follow trends. I like to make new ones. I throw away things. I do new nail art everyday, and I get sad that a lot don’t end up being trends, so I like to upload those photos anyway because I love them.

What are some upcoming trends you see in nail art?

Short nails.

Do you have any beauty/makeup tricks you swear by?

I like dark circles. I think they’re like contours for your eyes. I don’t understand why people like to cover it up – it’s something I like.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

Basic Skincare

What’s your normal skincare routine?

I don’t do skincare. My personality doesn’t like doing a lot of unnecessary things. I use sunblock. I only started using it for a year. I don’t know what type of skin type I have. Now I have more interest because I’m getting older, and I think “Why didn’t I take care of my skin before?” I do think now I should take care of my skin a bit more. 

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

Favorite product?

SK-II Toner

Is there anything you do when you feel stressed?

I like to walk around and do things and be active. Not being able to do anything makes me stressed out.

I love doing lots of things, but sometimes I don’t accomplish what I wanted to do in the morning. So when I think to myself “Why am I like this?”, I sometimes start meditating. I listened for 15 minutes on an app. It helps me to organize my thoughts and calm myself. Meditation helps me to relax.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

Basic Makeup

What is your everyday makeup look?

I don’t really don’t wear make up. I put on concealer, BB cream, and use Urban Decay brown eyeshadow. I don’t have steps. I just need my index and pinky to apply it on my eyes, eyebrows. *laughs*

Do you have any favorite brands?

I like Urban Decay because they have a lot of brown tones.

I love NARS concealer it covers up everything.

Life Advice

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Slow down a bit… The things I do are the precursor to trends. It’s okay to go slow. Don’t get hurt because other people don’t get it now – think of the long-term goals. I never thought that people would come to the nail shops to just get a dot on their nail. Now it’s a trend, and I can’t believe it’s come to this – it’s great.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

What’s the one thing you’d like to say to your audience?

People who like me are basically people interested in nail art. They have their own thoughts and opinions about nail art. I don’t want someone to just like me because they are fans. I want them to give me feedback – I like it. I don’t know what direction I would’ve gone in if they didn’t give feedback. Even if I make things they don’t like, it’s okay because it’s just one part of me. 

Liking me means liking nail art. I hope that people continue to look at it and love it too. I want to change their life. Nail art is confidence, it’s healing, there are many good things that come with nail art, and I hope to give that to my audience.

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

Rapid Fire

Current favorite brand: Chanel

Makeup bag essential: Concealer

Current favorite musical artist: DUA LIPA

Want to travel destination: Marfa, Texas, USA (Artist village, prada Marfa, it’s hard to get here but I want to visit)

Favorite dessert: Cheesecake

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Photographed by Judy Kim exclusively for Soak

 

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