By Jill Adams
Photography courtesy of OPI
Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, the executive vice-president and artistic director of OPI, has a saying inspired by a shade of OPI nail lacquer: “Up the Amazon without a paddle.”
She says that, as a businesswoman, she feels like swimming upstream and looking for her paddle. It’s a modest comment from a woman largely responsible for creating all of OPI’s and Nicole by OPI’s shades, designs and names.
In this issue, Weiss-Fischmann shares details about her career, the creative process and her personal nail preferences. She also gives tips on nail care during winter, this season’s shades and nail art trends.
JILL ADAMS: What initially attracted you to a career in the beauty industry?
SUZI WEISS-FISCHMANN: I’m one of the founders of OPI. I think the beauty industry is just a great industry to be in: it gives me a lot of challenges and allows me to be creative.
I’ve seen the growth and the change in the nail industry; I certainly would have never imagined it to be where it is today. I just read a survey that the average woman in the States has around 100 bottles of nail lacquer at home. It’s really unbelievable, it’s just booming.
What can customers expect from Nicole by OPI’s new Selena Gomez gift set?
First of all, it’s a great gift for any age. It has some beautiful shades and glitter, so you can get ready for the holidays. It can really take you from day to night. It never fails, it’s just one of those things that puts a big smile on anybody’s face. And when it’s put into a nice little holiday gift pack, it’s a no-brainer.
What was the inspiration behind the collection?
Well, Selena herself — she’s young, hip, fashionable and very popular. Women are much more apt to try different things. Colour is in; you can go to any board meeting where women are wearing yellow, green, bright shades or blues. With some of the Selena colours, you can do nail art or accent fingers, which is very popular. [For example, if] you’re going to a party tomorrow night and you’ve got a cream colour on, you can put glitter on one finger and it’s like adding a piece of jewelry that you don’t have to think about.
Can you tell us a little more about your career background?
OPI is a family business. We were in the dental industry and then we started OPI. We used a very similar chemistry in making dentures as the acrylic nails, which were very popular in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Acrylics are those long talon nails. That’s how we started.
And then we wanted to get to the consumer because the company was growing, but only in the professional segment of the business. In 1989, we got into nail colour with OPI nail lacquer and that really took the company to the consumer’s eye. We rebranded the category. People said, ‘what did you do?’ and I said, ‘I made nail colour relevant to women.’ I’m very proud of that.
Then we wanted the American woman or the Canadian woman to find the OPI brand wherever she shops, because not everybody goes to salons to have their nails done. So we decided to come up with Nicole by OPI — who happens to be my niece actually. Like I said, it’s a family business.
What is your all-time favourite colour of nail lacquer?
My all-time favourite is red. I think it is so Hollywood-sexy. Red nails are just special, although I put on every colour possible — I never thought I would — but red is my sort of go-to colour. I wear a lot of blue, or something from grey to blue. It has amazed me what a staying power blue has had for the past five years.
How long does it take to create new shades for each season?
It takes me about six months. I mix colours in the lab. I have someone next to me who helps me add them, and I say ‘no, make it [more blue] or make it more yellow.’ We add different glitters and different glitter amounts. Sometimes, I make 10 versions of a colour until I like that tone, sometimes it takes only two. But that’s basically it, and once I have created [enough] shades for the season, we start thinking of their names.
So how do you come up with the names behind each shade?
There are a few of us at OPI, kind of crazy people [who brainstorm names together]. If it’s related to a celebrity, of course, we tie the names to the celebrity, to their song titles and lyrics. Or to things that they love.
As someone who is constantly creating new shades of nail lacquer, have you ever felt that there will be a point where you run out of colours?
I create each collection as if I have not done one before. I think there are endless tones of colours that I can work with.
Is there a ‘dream celebrity’ or anyone that you’d really hope to work with in the future?
My dream would be Adele. Her nails are great and I love her songs, I love her music, I love everything about Adele. I think she is such a real person — but I think she is busy being a mommy. Maybe one day.
Why do you think more attention is being paid to nails in recent years?
I think fashion embraced nails. I mean, years before you never saw models wearing any nail colour. Now, we collaborate with so many designers and they’re actively collaborating with choosing colours and making nail designs for their shows. That was a big jump.
In the downturn economy in 2008, it became the affordable luxury. Innovation has been constant in nail colour, as opposed to lipstick, for example. Lipstick took a backseat and now lipstick is making a comeback. But you can do so much more with nail colours, and when I put on lipstick I have to go to the mirror to put it on or to see how it looks; with my nails, I look at them all day.
Going into the winter season, do you have any nailcare tips?
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. You can always tell a woman’s age by her hands. In the Nicole by OPI line, we have a cuticle oil; use it twice a day. At least, moisturize your cuticles. There is nothing more unattractive than those dry cuticles. Also, use a good hand lotion. I recommend putting a topcoat on every other day, because it helps keep the shine and it keeps the nail lacquer on for longer.
What advice do you have for us on current nail trends?
Nail art is great. Doing a reverse moon, or what’s called the French manicure — we like to call it ‘two-toning.’ Don’t be afraid to try different things. Also, a great look is the monochromatic look where, let’s say, you take a red and a burgundy and two-tone those, or just do a simple line down the centre. And don’t be afraid: if you look on social media today, at what the consumer is doing and the tutorial videos, it’s amazing.
Do you have any recommendations when it comes to pairing nail colour with work outfits or evening wear?
There is nothing taboo today. I love just adding some glitter for the night, but otherwise you can wear any colour, any time of the day or night.
What is your favourite style of nail art at the moment?
I love the reverse moon. I love to paint my moon a darker colour, like a deep burgundy. I was wearing that the other day with red nails, it looked so good. It’s kind of retro. We always say, ‘oh the ’70s,’ or ‘oh the ’80s,’ but it’s with a modern twist.
Don’t be afraid to try things. Wear colour. For nail shape, I love shorter nails, even though the long stiletto nails are in — probably more for the runways — and dark colours look great on short nails, it’s very chic.