The Truth About How Nail Polishes Get Named

September 12, 2014 by Sara Alderman
shefinds | beauty

If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably always wondered how nail polishes get named. Maybe you’ve even found yourself wishing this was your job. I know I have. It would be pretty awesome to take credit for names of cult polishes; ones that people request at the salon on a weekly basis, like “Russian Navy” or “Ballet Slippers.” Which brings us to the question: who does this for a living? If this thought has ever crossed your mind (say, at 4pm on a Friday), you’re in luck. We spoke to the very individuals responsible for naming the colors of your favorite polish brands, like Katie Jane Hughes of butter LONDON.

Where it starts

While each company has its own niche when it comes to WHAT the names are, the process all begins in the same place: naming a collection. For OPI, the seasonal collections are destination-based. The location is selected by Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, Executive VP/Artistic Director and the “First Lady of Nails.” She draws from her travels for inspiration, but events, like this year’s World Cup in Brazil, also influence which country or city is chosen.

Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie, completely runs the show. Her names come from something that inspires her, whether it’s Hollywood actresses (“Leading Lady”) or childhood games (“Hide & Go Chic”). No matter what, it has to be memorable and resonate with what woman want. Every collection name is also the name of one polish in the line–but more on that later.

How collections influence colors

Once a collection has a theme and/or a name, the brand moves on to naming the individual colors within that line. Katie Jane Hughes, butter LONDON Global Colour Ambassador, explains that the Brick Lane Collection ($45) got it’s name because of the colors: deep purples, yellows and reds. They reminded the team of an area in London that’s all about Indian culture, Brick Lane. The specific polish names each have to do with aspects of Brick Lane. For example, “Cor Blimey” was chosen because of the Indian spice Coriander and British slang term “Blimey.”

This formula pretty much applies to all other brands. For OPI, “You Don’t Know Jacques” comes from the La Collection De France, while Essie’s “Recessionista” is part of the Stylenomics collection.

Who comes up with the name

Again, this depends on the company. Essie Weingarten is responsible for every single Essie polish name, while butter LONDON goes with a more collaborative approach. The marketing team, product development team and Katie Jane Hughes herself all take part in the naming process.

At OPI, Suzi and a group of five people brainstorm what is unique or noteworthy from the country or city to come up with individual polish names. It can take anywhere from six to eight hours, which if you ask me, doesn’t seem that long to think of some pretty witty names, like “Wooden Shoe Like To Know?” and “Lincoln Park After Dark.” Props to them!

What’s the job

Basically, there is no “Polish Namer” job. So, sorry to crush your hopes and dreams. I know, I was devastated too. But if you think about it, doesn’t it make sense that people in marketing and development would be in charge of naming? They are, after all, supposed to be good with words and have an understanding of what the people want.

However, if you have a crazy good name that you think can become the next “Cajun Shrimp,” there are certain brands open to ideas. Katie Jane Hughes says, “If anyone wants to join in and throw some cheeky names at us, we would definitely take suggestions.” Those holiday collections are probably in the works, so you better get on that to secure your nail polish name fame!

For more beauty, check out: D.I.Y. face treatments, the nail polish Beyonce wore to the VMAs and the NARS vault beauty box

[Photo: Essie for Yigal Azrouel SS’15]



Sara Alderman has covered topics from fashion to beauty and beyond.

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