We All Shine On

For OPI founder Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, the mission is to spread happiness one bottle at a time

Illustration: Andy Friedman

During the country’s financial downturn in 2000, sales of a certain cosmetic spiked, a phenomenon dubbed the “lipstick index.” This time around we’re improving our moods with our fingers and toes, and the new “nail polish index” has given one local company more than a brush with success.

“You might not be able to afford a new shirt, but you can easily change your look with affordable accessories like nail polish,” says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president and artistic director of OPI, which fills 1.5 million bottles of nail polish a day at its North Hollywood factory.

The industry pioneer—it was the first to release seasonal shades and invented crackle polish and gel manicures—came from humble beginnings. Weiss-Fischmann started the business by going door to door at nail salons along Ventura Boulevard. The Hungary native had moved to the San Fernando Valley with her family in the early ’80s and joined her brother-in-law in the dental supply business. “Back then Ventura was lined with nail salons doing acrylic tips,” she says. “I realized that the same chemistry used to make the nails was used to make dentures. I saw an opportunity, and I seized it.” In 1989, OPI debuted with 30 shades. Today the product—available in more than 200 colors—has a massive international following, thanks to such innovations as chip resistance, longevity, and punny names like “You Don’t Know Jacques!” and “Tickle My France-y.” It takes six “crazy advertising and marketing people to come up with the names,” she says. “We lock the door of the boardroom and brainstorm.”

A one-woman focus group, Weiss-Fischmann creates every shade, citing the average woman as her muse (famous fans include Rihanna and Reba).“Of course I can’t help but be inspired by Los Angeles,” she says. “One of our all-time best-sellers is called ‘I’m Not Really a Waitress.’ How many times have you heard that in this town?”