This interview is part of our content series, Characters of Coldharbour Lane, in which we pay tribute to the people behind the street that inspired Coldharbour Lager. Photographs by local legend Amari James, (Greaterbythehour).
AMA QUASHIE is one of the fashion industry’s most prominent nail artists. Rarely does a week go by when she’s not visiting somewhere far flung to paint nails for a high end photoshoot or runway show. Yet when deciding where to open their nail salon, Ama and fellow entrepreneur LATOYAH LOVATT both agreed that it had to be Brixton. Not long later, they opened AMA Salon, specialising in natural nails, at 340 Coldharbour Lane.
Q: Why did you chose to open AMA Salon in Brixton?
A: We set this place up nearly two years ago in November and it’s neither of our full-time jobs. I [Ama] do nails for advertising shoots, fashion shows, editorials. Latoya’s a florist and has her own bar [Ground & Grapes, Honour Oak]. But neither of us like not being busy. We went to school together nearby, and Brixton was really focal to our growing up, so we wanted to open a business together here.
Plus places like Shoreditch, and West London, they’re so saturated. South London has been lagging behind slightly, but we’re bringing up the rear. South’s the place to be now.
At the time when we were looking for a space Brixton was kind of on fire. We honestly didn’t think we’d be able to afford it. But when this place came up on Coldharbour Lane, it was a bit smaller than we wanted, but we thought we would be able to make it work.
It’s funny because back in our secondary school days, Coldharbour Lane was rough as hell. We were never allowed to walk down here. But it’s completely different now.
Q: How do you feel about the changes that have taken place in Brixton since you grew up here?
Gentrification is complicated. Change can be a great thing, but everyone needs to take responsibility for making sure that it has a positive impact on as many people as possible, rather than alienating people that have been here for decades.
There are a lot of ‘old Brixton’ people who wouldn’t even attempt to go to some of the new places here, because they don’t seem like they’re for them.
Q: What are you doing to ensure that your business has a positive impact?
It has always been important to us to provide a space that’s inclusive. In terms of our imagery and how we communicate the brand, we wanted it to be something that people felt welcomed by. We want people to walk past the window and see all kinds of people inside. It seems to be working, we have customers who live in Herne Hill, in nice big houses, as well as people from the estate coming in- all ages, all demographics and sexes.
We really wanted to offer the salon as a community space but eventually we realised it’s just too small-. But we’re planning to go back to our old school to do some talks and mentoring sessions with the kids there. We want to expose them to options that are less mainstream.
When I [Ama] graduated, all my A-levels, my degree, and all my early work experience were in media. So I got a job in advertising but I hated it. I trained in nails, just to spend time doing something I was interested in, and then everything spiralled organically. We don’t want to tell these kids; be a florist, or be a manicurist, it’s how you expand out of that. If you love something you make it happen.
Portraits from our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series will be on display at the Brixton Brewery Tap Room from 23rd September or you can see them as they drop on Instagram @brixtonbrewery. Look for Coldharbour Lager at bars and bottle shops throughout London and beyond (or shop via our website here). Grab one and take refuge from thirst.