From keeping A-lister’s nails red carpet ready to managing a successful nail polish line, Deborah Lippmann is the go-to polish queen. But how does she manage it all?! We caught up with Lippmann for a couple minutes to discuss everything from her career to her latest polish innovations.
Check out our exclusive interview with Lippmann for our #womenweadmire column:
How did you get your foot in the beauty industry?
When I was working at Frederic Fekkai, Martha Stewart sat in my chair and had a manicure with me. She told me that I was extremely talented and I was flabbergasted — it was a big deal to me that she was even in my salon chair! A little while after that, Allure sent a reporter in undercover and called the salon afterward to let them know I was going to be included in “The Directory,” a section of the nation’s top industry spa/salon/stylist pros. It all happened within a year — I was blown away!
After that, an agent called and said that they wanted to represent me as a manicurist. I eventually had to make a decision to leave my day job and dedicate my time entirely to freelance, which was a really big deal because I didn’t know when my next job was coming or when I’d get paid. But I haven’t looked back since!
What inspired you to launch your own nail polish line?
I have always loved nails but I actually started out as a jazz singer. When I moved to New York to pursue jazz (which I still do today) I needed to do something to pay the bills, so I pursued my second love of the beauty industry and went to cosmetology school. While there, I decided to specialize in nails, which was smart because I could sit during the day and stand at night in heels, singing, so that was how it all started. I started working at Frédéric Fekkai at Bergdorf Goodman, and I noticed a hole in the marketplace. If you were a luxury shopper, you couldn’t find everything you wanted for nail care from one brand. Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent had nail shades, but not everything you needed for nails from a base coat and top coat, to cuticle oil and color. It just didn’t exist in the luxury sector. When working in the salon with fancy ladies, they knew about hair and skin, but when it came to their hands, they didn’t know about nail care. People had so many questions about their nails and it was exciting for me to educate women.
Loved getting to celebrate the talented & wonderful @brandonmaxwell with you @ladygaga xoxo DL A photo posted by deborah lippmann (@deborahlippmann) on
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
There have been so many triumphs and moments that have taken my breath away since starting my own business. Looking back, I am so amazed and humbled to have my husband and brother working alongside me for the last 15 years. We are still friends and love each other, which is very special.
As a manicurist, I loved (and still do!) the idea of sitting across the table from someone and holding hands with them; giving a manicure can be a very intimate service. In 30 minutes I have the power to make a woman feel more confident and beautiful. I have also been blessed to hold hands with at least six women (and one man!) on the day they won their Oscar. I consider award shows to be like a wedding day for these actresses, it is such huge moment for everyone who is a part of it and it is their sacred space.
What is the most inspirational piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Stay true to your own vision…
Even though my vision has changed as my brand has grown, it’s been in little steps. You grow a company and people work with you and everyone has value. We see it as a family business and everyone who joins it is our family. There are times that your family makes incredible suggestions to you that are fantastically great for your brand and there are times when they aren’t. My husband runs the company now and sometimes has a vision for things that we disagree on. It’s my name on the bottle though and it’s a lot of pressure because I have to believe in every product I put out and its formula.
Did you ever want to give up?
When I decided to launch my brand, I realized it was going to be a very long and gradual process but I needed to just bite the bullet and go for it! I feel very blessed with our success. We launched in the very early days of the Internet so I was constantly on the phone cold calling different buyers and editors to get in person meetings. Thankfully, I had already been doing a lot of editorial and celebrity work, so early on InStyle and Marie Claire did features on me and my brand, which helped to get my foot in the door and the word out to customers.
We were one of the first brands to straddle the luxury retail and spa spaces. Within the first year, Nordstrom and various apothecary stores began to carry my lacquers and treatments. We gave women luxury options for their hand, foot, and nail care, just as they readily had for skincare, cosmetics and hair.
Favorite polish shade?
Picking any “favorite” polish is like ‘Sophie’s Choice’ — my favorites are always ever changing! That said, I would say My Old Flame, a classic red that can be worn year round and looks good on every skin tone. Fashion, which is not your typical taupe, I created out of doing so many fashion shoots where the editors and photographers were looking for a color that extended your skin tone and had a bit of coverage. Finally, Happy Birthday — it was the glitter that revolutionized glitter nail polish.
What’s in store for spring?
My new Spring 2016 Collection, Afternoon Delight, features 4 brand new colors formulated for the first time with my innovative Gel Lab Pro technology for increased health, wear, and shine. I think consumers will take a greater interest in natural ingredients and using products that deliver nourishing benefits for nails. Our brand strives to create lacquers and treatments that not only work to strengthen and protect nails, but also provide that long wear and high shine we all want.
xx, The FabFitFun Team