L’Oreal’s plans for newest recruit Essie

Following nail colour expert Essie’s $28 million buyout by L'Oreal last year, founder Essie Weingarten talks ELLE through the success of what L’Oreal saw as ‘a diamond in the rough that needed polishing up' and why you’re not properly dressed without polish.


We’re in a central London Penthouse apartment to talk about Essie's imminent arrival into Boots and Superdrug stores nationwide. A new collection of 70 Essie colours (including four annual trends of six limited edition shades, as well as cult classics like Mademoiselle, Fishnet Stockings and Wicked) will be hitting stores from May. Until now Essie polishes were only available in a few specialist retailers and spas so it's a welcome mainstream push for the brand favoured by Jennifer Lopez, Madonna and Eva Mendes.


'My dream was that one day every woman in the world could wear Essie' Weingarten tells us and she began following her dream in the 80s. ‘Way back then nail polish shades were limited, most cosmetic companies in 1981 were focusing on eyes, lips and foundation. So I went looking for a chemist for a formula that would go on like silk, was long wearing and chip resistant’ said Weingarten. She created a small line of 12 shades, along with some care products and dropped them off at spas in the Vegas casinos with her business card, ‘because I thought women in Vegas had more disposable income than anywhere else’. By the time she had landed back home in New York she had numerous voicemail messages from women who had tried the polish and wanted to let their local salons know about the products; the rest as they say is history.


The brand today is known for its trend setting shades in humorous names like Big Spender, My Place or Yours and Show Me the Ring; Weingarten keeps a notepad with her at all times for when inspiration hits. 'You never know why someone falls in love with a colour, sometimes it can be the shade, other times it's the name that gets them. But as I always say if the colour fits, wear it'.

What shade does Weingarten wear? 'I'm all about sheers on hands but I never wear one, I wear a combo so I have one layer of Mademoiselle with Sugar Daddy or Sugar Daddy with Marshmallow underneath or like today My Way and Sugar Daddy. It's always two sheers.' And where does she test out all her new polishes? 'On my toes. I have to make sure I love each polish as much on, as I think I love it when I first come up with the idea.'

So what are Essie's nail rules? ‘All women should use a cuticle oil to push back the cuticles (leave cutting them to the professionals). Express yourself with colour - with our polishes you can do ombre, you can do flowers - whatever you want, have fun. People look at your eyes, hair and nails and the Devil is in the detail, if your nails aren't done, you're not dressed. And, of course, there is only one make-up you can enjoy without looking in the mirror and that's nail varnish. It's for you as well.'
'Don't use your nail as tools, nails are jewels; so treat them like fine jewellery. Don't use your nails as a screwdriver or to open a can of pop. File in one direction, don't saw. Always use a cream or oil to massage your cuticles and nails so they don't dry out otherwise you'll get hang nails. If you do get a hang nail, use a clear varnish to polish them down and let them grow out.'

70 Essie Shades and six care products will be available in Boots and Superdrug stores nationwide from May at £6.99 each.

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