As an editor of a fashion and beauty website, I get to meet a lot of incredibly talented and glamorous people (yes, it's a perk). While the jitters before an interview never fully subside, I am often able to shake them quickly – but this time they were in overdrive.
On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, I sat anxiously in a small coffee shop around the corner from my next interview with the founder of essie, Essie Weingarten herself. I had done my research, learned the names of all 12 colors in her first collection, and brought with me a laundry list of questions to ask. As the elevator ascended towards her Upper East Side apartment, the nerves rose with me. Essie's husband Max opened the door at my knock, and I couldn't help but feel at home. Max quickly walked me into the kitchen where I met Essie preparing bagels, smoked salmon, fruit, yogurt, and orange juice, very similar to what I would find at my family's home. After taking my coffee order and allowing me to stand in awe of the incredible breakfast spread, Essie and I sat down for our interview.
An Interview With Essie:
Essie started her career in the hosiery department at Henri Bendel's. A natural saleswoman with an eye for style, she started to realize her real love was color. She wanted to develop a nail polish that "would go on like silk, but wear like iron." She set out to find this formula by hiring a chemist who could develop her vision, and in the end, he was able to give Essie exactly what she wanted. Her next step was to take on the glitz and glam of Las Vegas. Why Vegas? As Essie told me, "Vegas is full of glamour and wealth, not to mention showgirls, strippers, and dancers who need to look polished and put together. A manicure is a part of that persona and it made sense to sell where there was a need." Essie arrived in Vegas with two boxes of polish and hand painted color swatches.
Needless to say, the rest is history.
I couldn't wait to ask Essie how she names all the colors. When I had my chance, she told me, "I want to keep things fun and light, nothing too serious. I try and keep things cheeky and playful, like the colors: 'Size Matters' or 'Trophy Wife.' Women will often come up to me and say, "I'm wearing Mademoiselle, not pink, so clearly the name is just as important as the color." As I learned, there are plenty of color names that didn't make the cut, but it seemed like Essie had this naming business down to a science.
Essie also shared with me that she gets her nails done once a week. Suddenly, I looked down at my nails and realized that my two-week-old manicure was starting to chip. How could I have arrived at Essie's house, the founder of essie, without a new manicure? As I tried to hide them under my notebook, she suddenly remarked, "let me see those beautiful nails." To my horror, I reluctantly withdrew my hands. Instead of scolding me for a bad manicure, she told me I should take more time for myself and that they would "fix me right up" at her flagship salon. To Essie, a manicure says a lot about a woman. "I think a woman who has a fresh manicure shows she's put together and makes time to take care of herself."
A Tour of Essie's Closet:
After chatting for almost an hour, we ventured upstairs to her closet. It's hard to describe how perfect it was! From the precisely folded cashmere sweaters and pressed blazers on identical hangers, to the rows of shoes and handbags, it took me a moment to lift my jaw from the floor. After the initial shock, I quickly realized that Essie's closet, while expansive, was a mixture of modest pieces and high-end staples. She showed us her favorite Hermes Birkin Bag, robes for applying makeup and three drawers of scarves.
Visiting the essie Flagship Salon with Essie:
It was a beautiful day in New York City, rare for April, so when we headed to the flagship salon, we decided to walk. For a moment, I forgot that I was walking with a beauty icon and instead felt like I was walking with a friend. Essie's ability to make you feel special and comfortable is truly unique. After offering me her meatball recipe and a bedroom in her Hampton's home for the weekend, I felt like I could tell her anything. That warmth is clearly something that has helped Essie get where she is today.
When we walked into the salon, it was like walking into Buckingham Palace with the Queen. Essie knew everyone's name and made sure to say hello to every beautician and client. After taking me to the color wall, she picked out my color for me: "First Timer" – a vibrant emerald green. After all, it was my first time in her salon and she wanted me to try something different. I sat down with my manicurist and she started diligently working to prep my nails. After applying two coats of polish, my nails looked like they were photo shoot ready.
I ventured over to the drying station and as soon as I sat down, Essie was there to chat some more. After learning the best place to buy pots and pans, fresh bread, and the perfect candle, I could have stayed all day. Any nerves I may have started the day with were zapped by Essie's down-to-earth demeanor and genuine warmth.
Essie Weingarten is one of those women who has left their mark on history in a way that can't be explained. She created a brand that allows women to feel sexy, happy, playful, dark, and mysterious all with the change of a polish. For now, Essie continues to shape the company and play an integral role in the business. What started as one women's dream in the beauty salon has now turned into a growing empire chalk full of Essie's infectious personality.
Click through the gallery above to see my day with Essie.
By: Abby Silverman, StyleList