After spending 17 years in the corporate world in Australia, Celia Cecchi needed a change of pace and a way to blow off some creative steam. While thinking over her future plans, she took a trip to New York. After getting her nails done at Tomahawk Salon by Fleury Rose, she was inspired by the transformation before her. Cecchi had had an affinity for nail art for some time, citing it as a hobby even during her time in the corporate world. So she decided to focus on launching a special kind of nail bar, something that hadn’t been seen before in Australia.
The first glimpse into the I Scream Nails brand came in Melbourne in 2012. Cecchi and crew popped up in a vacant space behind the Melbourne fashion store Lupa Clothing. I Scream Nails went from a four-week stint to a brick-and-mortar establishment in a quick second. “We were a pop-up salon for about a year before we opened our first salon,” says Cecchi. I Scream Nails now has two salons, one in Collingwood and the other in Newtown.
The original I Scream Nails is located in Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne. Collingwood is one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs and it’s notable for its 19th-century buildings. The small suburb is big on the arts and known for its lively ambiance. Ever present is its rich history and cultural diversity.
“We are located in an almost hidden location with no street frontage,” says Cecchi. “Surrounding our salon are lots of wholesale clothing dealers.” Cecchi also notes that the small streets around the salon lead to hidden cafes, bars, and restaurants. In this niche, she found the perfect place to make I Scream Nails a busy hidden gem.
The demand to open a salon in Sydney prompted Cecchi to open a second location in Newtown, a Sydney suburb, in October 2014. “This salon has street frontage. We are a two-minute walk from the main shopping strip, which is known for being artistic and unconventional,” says Cecchi.
Pedicure thrones and spa rooms are nowhere to be found at I Scream Nails. The salon offers nothing but polish and nail art on the hands. From polka dots to intricately designed Disney princesses, the extensive, graphics-filled menu displays a wide selection of designs to choose from. The price list breaks things down, even approximating the time it will take to complete the service. There are four services offered: Plain Polish, Feature Nails, Mix & Match 5, and Mix & Match 10. The cost for services at I Scream Nails ranges from AU$15 (around US$11) for the plain polish to AU$80 (US$57) for the 90-minute Mix & Match 10. The Mix & Match 10 lets clients pick up to 10 different designs for artists to recreate on their nails.
Cecchi and her staff don’t miss a beat when it comes to staying attuned to what’s hot in the nail industry. They are influenced by fashion and pop culture. “At the moment, the most popular designs are unicorns, mermaids, eyes, and fruit,” she says.
Cecchi employs a grand total of 30 nail artists across Australia; each is paid an hourly rate. As a perk, I Scream Nails offers its nail artists “mate’s rates” (discounted prices) for friends and family. Due to the size of the salon, a maximum of four techs can work at a time.
Cecchi believes in allowing the freedom and creativity of her nail artists to flow at I Scream Nails. For that reason, there is no set uniform for employees. “They can dress as loud and outrageous as they desire,” says Cecchi. All nail artists receive training. “Our trainings have five levels and start from basics and work up towards more difficult designs,” says Cecchi.
“Our theme is pretty much just fun and colorful,” says Cecchi. Benjamin Johnson, the creative director and co-owner of I Scream Nails, has adorned the walls with everything from giant pink hands to smiling popsicle stickers. “The theme of the salon was created by Ben,” says Cecchi. “I am constantly telling him to channel his inner 14-year-old girl.”
Although the salon is small, I Scream Nails is big on lively ambiance. “We’re all about the all-around experience,” she says.
Included free with all salon services is a dry manicure consisting of filing, cuticle care, and a light buff.
Off the standard menu, I Scream Nails offers embellishments and diamante-encrusted nails. Diamante-encrusted nails run $20 per nail. Clients are free to bring in their own ideas for custom designs. Pricing for embellishments and custom designs are available upon request. “The maximum spend on a custom or super-detailed design at I Scream Nails is $90 Australian dollars,” says Cecchi.
Apart from receiving nail art services in the salon, locals can also get their nails painted on the street. In February 2014, I Scream Nails launched the first “nail art bike,” a portable nail-painting station that can be seen wheeling around the streets of Melbourne during the summertime.
In December of that same year, I Scream Nails launched its line of lacquers. Each polish is 100% vegan and 5-free. In keeping with the salon’s theme, the bottle caps look like cones and the bottles resemble a scoop of ice cream.
They’ve also started having pop-up exhibitions. “At the moment we have an exhibition with over 250 My Little Ponys on display,” says Cecchi. A big part of I Scream Nails’ business comes from events with major brands like Westfield, Nike, Lululemon Athletica, and many more. “We are still heavily involved in the event and pop-up scene,” she says. “Events are a major part of our business.”
“We only have a few male clients; the majority of our clients are female,” says Cecchi. “We do have a male nail artist working with us in Melbourne.” She describes I Scream Nails’ client base as fun-loving girls and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. “I Scream Nails appeals to a broad range of clientele but one thing they all have in common is that they love something a little different, fun, and out of the ordinary,” says Cecchi.
Salon name: I Scream Nails
Locations: Collingwood and Newtown, Australia
Owners: Celia Cecchi and Benjamin Johnson
Opened: The pop-up salon launched September 2012. The first permanent location opened September 2013 and approximately a year later, I Scream Nails Sydney opened its doors.
Number of Nail Techs/Artists: 30+
Number of Employees: 34
Specialties: Nail art