LOOKBOOKS contributor Stacy Cunningham interviews Essie Weingarten, creator of one of the world’s most famous nail polish brands. Learn all about her business below.
Which nail polish has been the only to grace the Queen of England’s royal fingers? Essie’s Ballet Slipper, of course. And she’s not the only royal wearing Essie; Kate Middleton wore the color Allure on her wedding day. Essie is a name recognized by women worldwide as the bottle in their favorite salons with the most beautiful array of colors. As nail art is trending hard this season, we got to speak with the woman behind the whole movement she started more than three decades ago, Essie Weingarten. She’s been addicted to manicures since age 12 and launched her obsession into a hugely successful business starting with just a dozen colors.
Why did you debut your first collection in Las Vegas?
It was 1981, and there were not many women with disposable incomes in the country. Between cocktail waitresses and dancing showgirls, I figured in Vegas I could get better bang for my buck than anywhere else in the United States. I left samples at every hotel. There were 12 colors, and I said ‘try it, if you like it call me.’ By the time I got home, I had a ton of calls. If you try it you get hooked, and it’s the best addiction around! It makes us feel like we’re wearing a whole new outfit. It was a great addiction in the 80’s.
We got calls from all around the country. It was really grass roots, one salon at a time. I had to use the yellow pages to find people. I believe I can mentor women today because if I could do it back then, anyone can do it! I’m the American Dream.
As a woman in business, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There were huge obstacles everywhere I went. The bottle manufacturers made me pay everything up front, which is unusual. They said, ‘we had another woman come here that was really good looking, and she never paid.’
I had a nest egg I could exist on for one year. No one would give me a loan, so there was no finance from banks. There were plenty of salons that said ‘bye, don’t even leave samples.’ But persistence is very important, so I would always go back and try again. The word ‘no’ doesn’t exist to me. If you have a product you love and you know it is the best, the rest of the world will get hooked. Service and follow-through are extremely important.
My company had to move at least 2-million bottles for two years in a row before the manufacturer would consider making me a private mold. In 1999, we met the mark and the bottle got a facelift by getting the name in the glass. Before that, it was the label-less bottle with a white cap in salons. But the color speaks for itself in the bottle. It’s a connection with women, they fall in love with what they see.
The dark color the girls’ used on their nails for the Chloe Comme Parris runway show was a huge hit when everyone was bored of pastels. What’s the next big thing?
The color is ‘Wicked.’ It’s very dark, as dark as you can go in the black-red family, and it definitely changed the way women thought of nail color. It’s been a classic since 1984. I name all of the colors, each one is like a child to me. ‘Wicked’ was a huge hit when everyone was wearing pastels on their nails.
What’s new now for nails and for you?
There are a lot of very exciting new things coming out like a beautiful bridal line that’s not sheer. For summer, we have fresh colors that look like a garden party. Nail art is big on the cocktail ring. Nails are like a canvas, so take out the brush and paint away! I believe I made women think differently about how they view their hands. How nice and luxurious is it when you’re in a meeting to look down at a perfect, beautiful manicure. And pedicures are just as important.
Essie is part of L’Oreal USA. See the original post at LOOKBOOKS.com.