Marie-Louise Coster is a Session Nail Tech, salon owner and educator. She runs her salon All About Mi salon specialising in facial aesthetics and nails, along with the All About Mi Training Academy offering courses in nail, beauty, holistic and business, and works across Europe on Fashion Weeks and commercial shoots.
From a very young age Marie-Louise showed a real flair for creativity, she longed to be a Fashion Designer, a Disney Animator or a writer but was repeatedly reminded ‘that there was no place for ambition and to know her limitations'.
Born to a working-class family in a small town, dreams and ambitions were not encouraged, quite the opposite in fact. Childhood was difficult; Marie-Louise was born the only surviving twin and spent many years lost trying to find what was missing. Before her twenties she had moved out of the family home, where she felt she was confined by small minds and determined not to be defined by life's circumstances, but with a great sense of self-imposed pressure to make something of herself; after all, surely she owed it to her brother to live life for both of them?
At the age of 15, Marie-Louise had a summer job helping out at a beauty salon. She loved the job, learning new skills and being able to make people feel better about themselves. She continued to work at the salon whilst she studied for her A Levels, and once she had completed her studies she applied to go to college to study beauty.
Unfortunately, at that moment in time, the course was fully subscribed, and there was a waiting list of 27 people ahead of her, so she was told she would need to wait a whole year to join. She continued at the local salon that summer and decided she would just need to get a job, any old job, whilst the year passed. However, after attending open evenings at the college, Marie-Louise was amazed to be offered a place straight away. It was a whirlwind of buying kit, getting uniforms, textbooks etc. but it had to be done as this was her chance.
Marie-Louise had two years, full time at college, whilst maintaining her salon job. By her second year at college, she had gained employment with Clarins in a department store, on counter and in the beauty studio. She worked for Clarins for several years making her way up to Business Manager before moving to Lancôme, in the same role, for their biggest account in the South West of England. Although very successful, she longed to be more hands-on and own her own business. Whilst working at Lancôme she undertook her teaching qualifications and started doing onsite initial training with new employees, as well as teaching evening classes at the college.
A few months before her 25th birthday, Marie-Louise she opened her first high street salon, Apotheke. It was small, just two treatment rooms, a nail bar area and reception, but it was hers and she loved it. Alongside the salon she continued to teach at college, and eventually started to offer her own accredited courses at the salon.
Unfortunately life outside of her profession had not been so kind. Marie-Louise was sadly subjected to years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her partner, and eventually found the strength to leave but needed the stability of employment to move on with her life, so after five years of owning the salon, she had no choice but to move on.
At this point she went back to her sales and skincare roots gaining a position as Account Executive for Guinot, responsible for salons spanning from South Wales to Hampshire. She was constantly away, drove a thousand miles a week, but it was what she needed, it was a job she loved, she was successful at it and life was looking better. Sadly, after almost five years the company changed ownership and redundancies were made, Marie-Louise being one of them. She had just bought a new house with her new partner (later to become her husband) so the timing was not ideal, but even after all the knocks she was still armed with this unwavering determination to succeed. The redundancy proved to be positive as it meant Marie-Louise could get back to being hands-on and working with clients again.
In a recession, with virtually no client base, Marie-Louise opened a beauty room in her new home, All About Mi. With no passing trade and a snobbery at the time about home salons, Marie-Louise says it was tough but the business started to build and has continued to grow every year. All About Mi is now almost 11 years old.
During this time Marie-Louise worked, and continues to work, alongside HABIA reviewing standards and various other tasks.
Her ambition of seeing her written word in print was achieved thanks to Melissa Dennis who believed in her enough to give her own feature, every month, in trade publications
Irish Beauty and
Guild News in the UK (Marie-Louise continues to write for trade publications, including
Irish Beauty and
She continued to teach her own courses within her business and was short listed for, and won, many industry awards including being named as one of the Top 15 Nail Artists in the world.
Outgrowing the room upstairs, seven years ago Marie-Louise had an extension built, purposely for her to work from. During the build she discovered she was pregnant. Becoming a mum had brought its challenges; Marie-Louise and her husband had been trying for many years.
Beatrice Victoria Joyce Wolfenden was born in September 2015. Business, and life, changed at this point. Marie-Louise had worked hard to build a very successful business but now that needed to fit around her being a mum. She changed her hours, worked late into the night and weekends, but this gave her time to be a mummy.
Equally, she needed to still be achieving things. Shortly after Beatrice's birth, Marie-Louise was selected for the Nails: Mastered Programme, a mentoring programme for those who want to work within the fashion industry doing nails at shows, shoots and on advertising campaigns etc. Marie-Louise had always loved nails, and her love of fashion had never left her, but she never felt good enough at them, she had a real lack of confidence that she could not shift. But she decided to do the programme, if for no other reason than the fact she had a little girl to whom she was now a role model and she never wanted that little girl to grow up, as she had, thinking that life was full of limitation. She wanted her to realise that you couldn't do anything and everything you ever wanted if you just try.
The programme was not the greatest experience of Marie-Louise's life, but determined to be positive, this experience gave her one almighty boot up the bum to contact session manicurists and agencies to gain experience. She had been wanting to do this for some time but her lack of confidence kept getting in the way.
Marie-Louise began assisting manicurists at shows and shoots. Like anything in life, some were great experiences, others not so. For those looking to get into session work, Marie-Louise says: “Assist everyone who asks you once, if they are unpleasant you don't need to put yourself through it a second time, there are plenty of other people to work with, life is far too short to work with people who are unkind.”
Assisting was hard work, long days, little - or more often than not, no pay - but it was great experience and fuelled her passion even more. She worked at London Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and on various photo shoots and advertising campaigns. As time went on, Marie-Louise began to gain her own work and was able to start building a portfolio. It was hard because there was usually no pay, so it was costing her to do the job and she had to turn a lot of work down; there was a constant fear that she would say no once too often and never be asked again.
When Beatrice started nursery and then pre-school, Marie-Louise increased her working hours. The business had not seen a dramatic drop in takings and was more profitable in fact because the focus was very much on the high-ticket treatments. The session work started to increase too, and Marie-Louise was no longer assisting, she was just doing her own work. She was repeatedly Lead Manicurist at various shows in London, she achieved an ambition of being Lead Manicurist for several shows at Milan Fashion Week, she got to work for Victoria Beckham, Gucci, Burberry, Hermes, her nails were in Vogue...the list went on.
Everything was great. Then in 2020 the pandemic hit. Suddenly it felt like everything she had worked for was disappearing and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
It was really hard for her, as it was for everyone, but always keen to turn a negative into a positive Marie-Louise focused her time on refreshing her skills, learning new things and spending lots of time with her daughter and husband. How lucky were they to get all of this extra time together before Beatrice started school?
Life returned to a bit of normality that summer but it was like starting a business all over again, clients were different, the world was different and everyone was learning. Beatrice started school and Marie-Louise was offered an amazing job for a designer she had always wanted to work with, doing the nails for his digital show for fashion week. It was three days' work...there was no pay! Something in her snapped. How much longer did she have to keep working for nothing? She was insulted, she was angry and she was fired up!
She had done a lot of surplus work for one agency in particular for some years, and had always hoped they would sign her eventually, then she discovered they had signed someone else. After emailing the agency's Director to ask what else she could have done, she received the news that the agency was keen to sign her too. She could have cried, she says.
The next lockdown followed, followed by another lockdown, but even through this past year, Marie-Louise has had some amazing jobs at London Fashion Week for Edward Crutchley, who she has worked with for seven seasons, and Emilia Wickstead. Her work has been featured in
Harper's Bazaar and
Vogue magazines around the world, she has worked on two advertising campaigns for Burberry, on an advertising campaign for Pharrell Williams' skincare brand, with the Spencer Twins, many actresses and on the Debenhams Christmas and autumn TV adverts.
Now in 2022, Marie-Louise believes her business will grow and there will be more high-profile session work. Marie-Louise says: “It has to work, and it will all be successful, there is just no other option”. It is this positivity and determination that has seen her through many ups and downs and something she says everyone must develop - only focus on the good.