Floss Gloss founders talk about running a nail polish empire, creating cruelty-free products and how beauty and art aren't so different
In the past several years, nail polish companies have blown up due to the nail art trend and the accessibility of social media. Indie polish brand Floss Gloss has stood out as a unique and important player in the vast nail scene. Not only were they one of the first brands to focus on cruelty-free and toxin-free formulas before any of the more mainstream brands did, but anytime one of their vibrant shades is released, it is accompanied by a creative, artistic, and oftentimes hilarious campaign.
It’s no surprise that Floss Gloss manages to highlight the commonalities between the world of beauty and visual art. In fact, it was a deep knowledge of painting, color theory, and the visual art world in general that inspired the founders of Floss Gloss.
Floss Gloss co-founders Aretha Sack and Janine Lee first got the idea to start their own eco-friendly nail polish line after meeting in college where they discovered a shared love for color and the ritual of doing nails.
We were lucky enough to chat with them about everything from their beginnings as a brand, nail polish being a fashion accessory, and their process of creating new lacquer hues.
HelloGiggles: When did you first feel inspired to start your own line of nail polish?
Aretha Sack: We started working on the actual brand concept in 2011 and Janine and I officially launched in 2012. We met in college where I had been doing nails with and selling Janine a custom color I had been mixing since I was 10.
Janine Lee: I think the first time I started thinking we should start a real line was in college after Aretha and my roommates and I would hang and paint nails in all of Aretha’s “Ri-mixes.” That was in 2008 to 2010. We used to live one block from each other in SF and we would always hang and paint nails. We both used to buy tons of polish and just had lots of unsatisfactory purchases and just wanted to put something better out there. I saw a void in the market and I believed we could turn it out. We were only in our very early twenties.
HG: Do both of you have different roles in the company?
AS: Yes we do. I deal more with the creative/color end.
JL: Yes, we both have different roles, even though we do a lot of the same work. I am more back office, operations, and sales. Although, because until very recently it was just the two of us, we really both wear a lot of hats.
HG: What’s your process for creating the colors?
AS: Mix a sample to be matched by our manufacturer, they match and we either approve or keep trying and have the color produced for us in quantity.
JL: Omg the process. It’s a lot of back and forth. Aretha mixes up what we’re feeling and what we want. We edit, then we send it to the factory to be sampled and tweaked until its what we envision. It’s a lot of subjectivity because everyone sees color a little differently.
What are both of your current favorite shades?
AS: My current fave color is Palazzo Pleasures. I wore it for three weeks straight!
HG: I love looking at all the nail art you feature on your Instagram! Do you think there’s a difference between casual nail polish and nail polish as a wearable art form?
AS: No, it’s all just wearable paint color. It’s truly the smallest accessory, even just a chipped black [nail] is wearable art in my opinion.
JL: Thank you! I don’t think there is a difference in the two. I think it depends on the person wearing it and it really depends on what you want to put out there. I think it’s all wearable art, to be honest. It’s all wearable color. Like, you could just have a couple dots on each bare nail and its totally minimalist art. And that’s super casual!
HG: I read that you both met in art school. What were you both focusing on and how does that inform your approach to Floss Gloss?
AS: I was in the painting and drawing department. Now I mix and sell paint for a living.
JL: I was in the fashion program and have a BFA in design. Although, I am not making garments, the whole design process definitely informs how I approach making Floss Gloss in product and marketing. Because nail polish is now, more than ever, in the beauty-as-an-accessory category, its essentially just like designing a fashion collection. We conceptualize on mood and aesthetic, color and product, and then shoot an editorial (and sometimes conceptual) photoshoot campaign to connect our buyers and retailers to that color visually.
HG: Have you found it more challenging making nail polish formula that is vegan and cruelty free? Do you hope to influence other brands to be more ethical?
AS: Yes it’s harder, but we wouldn’t have it any other way since we are our own market. We wouldn’t sell something that we wouldn’t use personally. I always hope to see less awful ingredients in everything really, from cosmetics to food.
JL: No, it was not more challenging, it was a no-brainer. Consumers are shopping so much more consciously going forward and it was like duh, if I don’t want those yuck chemicals on my nails, why would other babes? We were like, “This has to be at least free of harmful toxic chemicals and not tested on animals or use any animal by-products.” We had to make sure our manufacturers also upheld those brand values. (We were founded in the Bay Area! — can’t not be aware of eco-conscious norms!)