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Top Nail Artist Dawson Luo

A Focused Passion for Beauty


After just six years and without holding any illustrious degrees, Dawson Luo has become Taiwan's top nail art designer, breaking ground in a new industry that many people felt held no future for men.



A Focused Passion for Beauty

By Alice Ting
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 410 )

"Nail art is what I love most. I am ready to gamble my life on it," says Luo, confidence radiating from his black eyes.

With his delicate features the 25-year-old nail artist catches people's eyes. His shining white nails contrast with his plain pink dress shirt.

Luo got into nail art only six years ago. Having graduated from a two-year technical college, he does not have an outstanding educational background. Yet he already is Taiwan's foremost nail artist, with more than 100 students and his own "Dawson Nail" brand of nail art products. Luo's brand is hot-selling on the Internet, earning him an income of NT$150,000 per month.

Luo's unique skill is to create paper-thin French manicure acrylic nails, the most difficult kind of artificial nails, in a very short time.

Sixty Seconds of Golden Time

The whole process from applying a few drops of acrylic liquid to the nail and sculpting it into a perfectly shaped ultra-thin artificial nail to painting it with an eye-catching design must not take more than one minute, or else the acrylic will have dried and cannot be worked on any further.

A nail artist needs to be fast, accurate and resolute. Luo has it all. When he works his magic his movements are precise, accurate and quick. But the masterly skills that Luo shows off today were honed over more than 2,100 days of continued intensive training.

Luo's masterful nail designs won him the crown at international nail art competitions in Japan and Singapore in 2006 and 2007, respectively. A Japanese TV station even reported on Luo's exquisite craftsmanship.

A Fearless Young Man

Nail art is a new industry, and it requires some courage to enter such a fledgling trade.

When still in senior high school Luo tried with dogged persistence to find direction in his life.

At his vocational high school, Luo selected horticulture, but soon felt that his studies were somehow meaningless. Then he happened to spot a photo of Japanese pop singer and fashion queen Ayumi Hamasaki in a Japanese fashion magazine. What drew Luo's attention was the perfectly manicured hand that cupped Hamasaki's rouged cheek. Luo was mesmerized by the elaborate design of Hamasaki's nails, which matched her outfit. Fascinated by the seemingly endless design possibilities, and the considerable technical challenges, that an artificial nail of just one square centimeter could entail, Luo was immediately drawn into the miniature world of nail art design.

But since Luo had no relevant experience or professional skills, he felt in the beginning like a blind person trying to feel his way. He would drive all the way from Pingdong to Kaohsiung just to buy Japanese beauty magazines, and then he would slavishly copy whatever nail designs he could find in the magazine photographs.

Frustrated with his slow progress, he borrowed money from his father to attend a summer course at NSJ Nail Academy, Japan's leading nail technician training school. "I am an impatient type of person. When I think of doing something, I want to get it done right away," Luo ardently asserts.

Everyone in the older generation, including Luo's father, told him not to pursue his plans any further, arguing that nail art is not a suitable career for a man.

But their pessimistic outlook did not prevent Luo from pursuing his dream. Driven by his passion for nail art, the undeterred Luo packed his bags to learn the ropes from the leading nail technicians in Japan.

The Simplest Skills Require the Greatest Learning

At NSJ Nail Academy Luo experienced how tough it is to work among true professionals. Putting on nail polish seems like a straightforward affair, but Luo had to practice for a whole month before he was able to hold the brush at the required 45-degree angle and keep the temperature and water content of the nail-making materials at the required levels.

At the school, nail polish was even thrown out when the bottle was only half empty, because its concentration and saturation would deteriorate with time.

For Luo this was a big awakening. He realized that a good work of nail art does not score success based solely on gorgeous, intricate patterns and designs, but that creativity comes into play only after one has gained a thorough understanding of the properties of nail art materials.

Consequently, Luo relinquished his elaborate designs and instead sat down each night in his room to practice doggedly on his own fingernails. With a stopwatch on the table he would apply color, check for evenness and the right shape. If he wasn't satisfied, he would do it all over again.

Two years later Luo opened his first nail art studio in Pingdong with start-up capital of NT$300,000, finally facing the pressures of the workplace.

"At school, the teachers impart techniques, but at the studio things are not that simple, since customers will return home with these nails to live their lives," says Luo. Two months into the job, he encountered his first major challenge.

A customer who had cracked her fingernail came running to Luo for help to stop the bleeding. Luo remembers that he was sweating profusely trying to control his panic, when he suddenly remembered that his teacher had told him to use a hemostatic agent to halt the blood flow. But he was not sure about its dosage. And he asked himself whether it would hurt if it was applied directly to the customer's wound. But he didn't have a clue.

This episode made him realize that interaction with the customer and understanding customer needs are as important as technique.

Luo observed that young women regard nails as a trendy product and therefore go for the most fashionable designs, while working women prefer the ladylike elegant look with pink nails that are not too long, for practical reasons. Older women want nails that are simple and neat.

In his spare time Luo delves into all kinds of techniques and avidly reads both Taiwanese and international industry magazines to find the fashion trends that most suit Taiwanese women.

But he also keeps seeking advice from the veterans of nail design. He spends several months each year in Japan for further training. Even Japanese nail design guru Sachiko Nakasone was deeply impressed by Luo's enthusiasm. You will surely find him among the participants in every nail art contest in Japan. He is also the only nail technician who brings with him his own creations to get further advice.

"Persistent and diligent," is how Nakasone described Luo, according to Han Ming-hui, chairperson of the Taiwan International Nail Art Association.

Shining on the Right Stage

In February this year Luo's father made a special trip to Taipei to attend his son's nail art exhibition. During the trip back home he did not say a single word. Only at the very end did he reveal his feelings, saying he no longer needs to worry that his son will be unemployed and that he is proud of his achievements.

Since Luo came back with the top prizes from the international nail art competitions, his skills have quickly gained fame in Taiwan. Variety show producer Wang Wei-chung even offered Luo the chance to produce a nail art show.

Eventually, Luo decided instead to open a workshop, because he wants young people with talent who lack an opportunity for professional training to be able to learn nail art techniques in a systematic way.

Having gotten into nail art over the opposition of his father, Luo eventually carved out his own niche, creating shining success out of nothing and inspiring others.

Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz

Chinese Version: 熱情加專注 美出一片天