Not just a store featuring an awesome selection of streetwear, but also the number one place in Berlin to get amazing nail art done, ISLA is an exceptional concept space every woman interested in looking great should visit. For those unaware, nail art is so much more impressive than getting your nails done in a standard nail salon – the artists here actually paint highly detailed patterns or pictures onto your nails using Shellac paint, which is both stronger and longer-lasting. Having visited many times, we had to find out a little more from the entrepreneurial owner Charissa Chioccarelli how she created such a brilliant and stylish space… and in such an unusual area too!
What made you decide to open a concept space offering proper nail art?
The fact I couldn’t find a place to get my nails done how I wanted – so I thought this is what Berlin needs!
Where are you originally from and what did you do before you opened ISLA?
I moved from Amsterdam two and half years ago, to build up the Influencer Marketing department at Zalando.
I’ve mainly worked in Fashion/Marketing related jobs, so I didn’t have any experience in running a shop – ha!
Why do you think nail art isn’t quite ‘a thing’ yet in Berlin as it is in other European cities?
I’m not quite sure actually, I think it’s because nail art isn’t really offered in Berlin yet plus people have really bad experiences with nail salons in Berlin.
A lot of the salons use electric drills to remove even Shellac which can be really damaging for the nails. We do everything by hand and work with high quality products which give a great long lasting finish and help to protect the nails.
For those unaware, why is your nail art different to what most nail salons can offer?
Most salons in Berlin don’t offer nail art at all, and if they do they usually can’t provide the complex designs that we do. It’s our speciality in the store and we take pride in doing even the most intricate patterns completely by hand.
You made the decision to combine your excellent selection of streetwear with the specialist nail art, as well as offering a space for people to come and play on the CDJs. Which came first as the priority for you and how do they all harmonise with each other?
The whole idea started with the nails.
I always have long over-the-top acrylic nails and I could never find a place to get proper nail art. So at some point I just got so frustrated that I thought, I will just start it myself.
Since nail art is not really a thing in Berlin yet I wanted to combine it with other elements that are hard to find in Berlin, such streetwear for women.
What’s the most memorable nail art someone has requested so far?
I would say pet portraits!
You created a space for women that also offers a lot of great events with fantastic female brands. What kind of events are they and are there any exciting ones already planned for 2018?
So far we’ve organised a couple of successful events, for example the ISLA Flea Markets (where we curate the sellers in order to guarantee the quality of the products), exhibitions and sample sales.
For 2018 we will continue with the events but we want to focus on more substantial events, such as DJ workshops
What is the hottest trend in nail art right now?
Because nail art is relatively new in Berlin most of the designs we do are quite safe. Most people are making the move from regular polish to shellac at the moment.
Shellac is a polish that dries under led light and stays on up to three weeks! Chrome, holographic glitters and foils are definitely the most popular at our salon at the moment.
You’ve chosen an interesting location for such a cool shop, in a quiet-ish area of Berlin Mitte (Heinrich-Heine-Strasse / Märkisches Museum). What was your reasoning for this?
The location was offered to us by one of our brands; Obey. They use the space in the back as their showroom and rent out the front to us.
At first when I saw the location on the map I wasn’t convinced but when I went to visit the place I immediately fell in love, the layout is perfect for our concept! It might not be a shopping street but the location is very central and has central lines on both sides (U8 & U2).
What struggles did you encounter setting up ISLA?
Setting up a company as a foreigner is not easy, I understand German but I don’t really speak it which doesn’t help, but luckily I got a lot of help from people around me.
Another big struggle was to find a nail technician, there are hardly any in Berlin. Eventually I found Maddy via Instagram who moved from London to Berlin to work with us, which I’m very very happy with.
As the reality is often far different than the dream, what advice would you give to people dreaming of setting up their own shop in Berlin?
It’s very cliché but being an entrepreneur is hard work and the work never ends. Be prepared to work hard and a lot. If you have an idea you believe in though, you can make it happen!
Where do you yourself like to eat, drink and relax in Berlin?
There are so many places I still have to explore! One of the great things about Berlin is that food is so cheap, therefore we eat out almost every day.
One of my favourite (affordable) places is the Georgian restaurant Schwiliko, their cheese-bread-starter is amazing!
Berlin is a wonderful city for many reasons – what makes it so special to you?
“For me, Berlin…” …is the first city I lived in abroad, so the first place to experience life as an expat so it will always have a special place in my heart. Berlin is also a great place to start your own business due to the creative nature and relatively cheap rents”