Bastien Gonzalez, pedicurist to the rich and famous, is scrutinising my bare feet and I feel nervous. He declares that my nails are healthy, my toes are nicely straight and I have no bunions but I can’t help but think he is disappointed. This is a man who has said he finds beauty in hideous pieds.
Gonzalez was a ski instructor in his native France before an injury forced him into a career change. He trained as a podiatrist and ran a successful, exclusive practice in Paris before turning his hand, literally, to creating a unique form of pedicure at the age of 27. “Men like to work with hands and machines,” he says matter of factly when I meet him on one of his regular visits to Asia. “I put together a concept: combining the beauty, the medical knowledge, the wellbeing with a good technical massage.”
Overnight he shut down his practice (“everyone thought I was crazy”) and set up shop in the spa at the then uber fashionable Hotel Costes. The Bastien Gonzalez pedicure began as a treatment for models about to strut the Paris catwalks and is now in demand from celebrities, sports stars and the merely rich.
Uniquely, the pedicure is “dry” (feet are not soaked in water beforehand which apparently demands less skill and accuracy from the pedicurist) and nail varnish is not applied (it encourages the very yellowing of the nail that we’re attempting to hide). “If you stop people on the street and ask them what a pedicure is, most of them will say colour on the toenails. But we are curing the feet,” says Gonzalez.
Inspiration came from an unlikely quarter: “I saw my 92 year old grandmother buffing her fingernails. She told me, ‘It would be vulgar to paint my nails but I want them to look nice.’ What struck me was the health of her nails. The friction of the chammoix leather helped the blood circulate and made them a healthy pink.”
Gonzalez uses an exact replica of the horn handled buffer his grandmother had in his mani pedis – clients were so delighted with the pedicures that they asked for manicures too. “So we developed a dry manicure treatment to go with the pedicure.”
His method also involves the use of dentist drills and surgeon’s scalpels for polishing the nails and removing dead skin. But in Gonzalez and his team’s hands you won’t feel a thing. “I’m against pain,” says Gonzalez. “Strong pressure is important but not pain.” Each pedicure is finished with a firm foot and lower leg massage, the result of which makes you feel like you’re walking on air.
Gonzalez’s tricks of the trade
So popular has the Bastien Gonzalez treatment become that, unable to keep up with demand for his personal attention, he opened studios at luxury locations around the world with his own handpicked podiatrists in place. “I was working in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles and the Middle East. I didn’t even count the hours I worked, it became a passion.”
Bastien Gonzalez studios can be found in Hong Kong, Singapore, Danang in Vietnam and Tokyo. “I hire very good people and I share my vision with them. I want them to have the same energy as me, to go out and change the pedicure.”
In Asia, that includes Steve Desobeau (who was a professional footballer in France before injury too led him to retrain as a podiatrist) at the St Regis, Singapore and the equally engaging Albin Brion at the Landmark Oriental, Hong Kong.
Undoubtedly feet look beautifully neat and naturally healthy after a Bastien Gonzalez pedicure but there are times when you do want a burst of colour. “I’m not saying you should never wear nail polish but treat it as you would cosmetics on your face and take it off,” says the maestro. He also advocates always sprinkling talcum powder in your shoes: “When you have expensive footwear, it’s as much for the shoes as the feet,” he says.
Bastien’s Tips for Top Toes
If you wear nail polish remove it after three days and leave a 12 hour gap before reapplying.
Toenails should always be cut straight to avoid them growing inwards – don’t listen to any therapist who offers to cut them the latest “shape”.
A dusting of talcum powder in the shoe is essential in humid climates, acting as “invisible socks” to protect fee.
The Oriental Spa, the Landmark Oriental Hong Kong http://www.mandarinoriental.com/landmakr/luxury-spa/ Remede Spa, St Regis, Singapore http://www.remedespasingapore.com