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Deborah Lippmann, Lippmann Collection and ‘Nightingale’ CD
She has her own nail care line, a group of Nordstrom-based manicure bars and half of Hollywood’s elite on speed dial, but manicurist Deborah Lippmann’s first love is far from the nail bar.
Lippmann, an accomplished jazz singer who has sung professionally since the age of 17, actually began doing nails as a sideline shortly after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music. “I was getting a manicure for my college graduation ceremony,” she says, “and all of a sudden, it hit me: I was planning to move to New York to pursue the singing, and needed a way to support myself. I mentioned it to my manicurist, and she said, ‘You can do this anywhere, and you won’t be on your feet waitressing, the way everyone else will be.'” Although that didn’t make breaking the news to her mom any easier: “When I told her I was going to beauty school, she literally said, ‘Over my dead body!'”
Lippmann quickly built up an impressive roster of clients, and sang at New York clubs, fashion-industry parties and New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns games on the side. Clients such as Martha Stewart, who hired her to sing at parties and produce the music for one of her first TV specials, and Donald Trump, who hired her to sing at wedding number two, helped her keep her hand in music. Doing a CD was always a hip-pocket dream, an “I’ll-do-it-sometime” project. In the meantime, she launched Lippmann Collection in 1999, and slaked her love for music by dubbing nearly all of her nail colors with song-title names such as Lady Is a Tramp and Summer Wind.
But despite encouragement from her family and friends, Lippmann demurred on the CD project until one famous client reminded her of something that everyone else had been trying to tell her for years.
On a magazine shoot, Renée Zellweger, with whom Lippmann created one of her best-selling nail shades, Just Walk Away Renée, were talking about what a success Lippmann’s nail products had become. “And then Renée looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Isn’t it amazing how far out of our way we will go not to do what we’re meant to be doing?’ I was finally ready to hear that, and it made me ready to finally do the CD.”
This story first appeared in the August 12, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Soon after, she began work on her first CD, “Nightingale,” which pays homage to Lippmann’s musical idols, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.
The 13-track collection of classics, modern covers and originals includes such tunes as “Too Darn Hot” and “Since I Fell For You,” backed with instrumentals from the likes of drummer Lewis Nash and arranger-pianist Carlton Holmes—not to mention a fairly unique backbeat from tap dancer Savion Glover, whose tapping can clearly be heard in Lippmann’s covers of “Evil Ways” and “I Hope You Dance.” Lippmann even cowrote a song, “I Dreamed You,” along with Shelley Berg, dean of the jazz music department at the University of Southern California.
The album is available at Sephora, iTunes.com, Amazon.com, select Tower Records and Nordstrom locations as well as deborahlippmann.com. Next up on Lippmann’s wish list is a Christmas album. “In a way, what made me finally able to stop tweaking and perfecting this one was knowing that I’d be doing other CDs,” she says.
And could a CD based on the tunes she’s chosen for her ubersuccessful nail line be next? “I wish I could say I were that brilliant of a cross-marketer.”
David Niskanen, CityLife Barbers and the New York Police Department
Beauty … and a cop’s beat? The two don’t necessarily go together like peanut butter and jelly, although David Niskanen, a partner in CityLife Barbers and a five-year-plus veteran of the New York Police Department, easily juggles running a business with chasing down perps.
Niskanen opened CityLife with his girlfriend, Autumn Hawk, and his longtime barber (and former neighbor), Edwin Madera, in August 2004 at 201 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea. Opening a business always had been a goal, he says, and “barbering is a business in which you can still make a profit. In a lot of different fields, you’re competing with the Internet for sales. A barbershop is still mainly a cash business, and it’s something that most men visit—so it was logical.”
Niskanen says his fellow cops in the 32nd Precinct are among his most loyal customers. “The department’s been very supportive, as has my precinct,” he says.
While Niskanen admits that his prior beauty industry experience mainly had been limited to visiting the barbershop, his partners had solid street cred. Hawk is a makeup artist who does freelance work for MAC Cosmetics. Madera has been a barber for more than 15 years and owned a Bronx barbershop before selling it in July 2004. And some guys might hesitate about going into business with their girlfriends, but Niskanen isn’t one of them. “Autumn and Edwin and I might all have different points of view — and we don’t always agree — but in the end, that makes a stronger product because we’ve looked at all the angles,” he says. Speaking of products, the crew is now readying a men’s grooming line.
Make no mistake, this is no girly-girl salon. The clientele is 99.9 percent men, Niskanen notes, and that’s evident in the amenities offered: Such he-man staples as plasma-screen TVs, a surround-sound entertainment system and products with names such as Clubman and Lucky Tiger populate the 800-square-foot space, and a patron is more likely to have a shave and a shoeshine than a facial. “Our aim was to make this a really different, cool space,” says Niskanen. “We wanted a place where if a guy had to wait for an hour, he wouldn’t care because he’d have lots to keep him busy.” A Web site, citylifebarbers.com, joined the mix this past spring.
The one thing Niskanen doesn’t get a lot of is sleep: “I work nights with the NYPD, and days with the shop — I think I’m averaging about two hours [of sleep] a night right now,” he says. Not that you’ll hear him complaining any time soon: “It’s kind of relaxing going to the shop — it’s a break from my normal thing. We get so many different customers here — you meet tons of people, and they all have a different story.” And he gets to see his girlfriend at work.
Jeanine Lobell, Stila Cosmetics and Enchanted
Celebrity makeup artist and Stila founder Jeanine Lobell is best known for her girly, sassy color cosmetics and the polished looks she gives the Hollywood crowd — but in her off hours, she’s casting a spell on New York’s children.
Lobell, a mother of four and a devoted proponent of the Steiner Waldorf system of education, founded Enchanted, an Upper East Side toy store at 1045 Madison Avenue, last fall. “After four kids,” she says with a laugh, “I get what kids like. I don’t like video games, but I can’t simply tell my kids, ‘Don’t play with a video game.’ You have to give them something that encourages their creativity, and then their play comes from their imagination, not from what some outside force is telling them to think.”
The Steiner Waldorf educational philosophy is dedicated to instilling a love of learning in children and balances academics with artistic and practical pursuits, and as such, the store’s assortment is devoid of plastic, premolded toys. “My pet peeve is those Bratz dolls,” she says. “They have these bored, entitled, jaded looks on their faces. Why would I want my daughters — or my son, for that matter — to think that’s good?”
Instead, toys that encourage children’s creativity — such as play food handcrafted from wood, mermaid and fairy dolls and magic wands made of tree branches and glitter — stock the Madison Avenue shop’s shelves. The staffers, including Lobell, are all volunteers from the Steiner school that Lobell’s children attend.
Many of the toys are produced by women-owned co-ops in underprivileged countries. Mobiles on one shelf are made in Vietnam and a slew of dolls are made in India and Brazil. Long-term, one of Lobell’s goals with the store is to amp up the creation of businesses for the less fortunate: “For instance, the money we spend on the mobiles from Vietnam enables their creators to go to school,” says Lobell. “I’ve really been blessed in my life. I’m not doing this for the money — if I want to make more money, I’ll go do more with my makeup career.”
And if all that wasn’t enough to convince one of Lobell’s altruism, all profits from the store are donated to a scholarship fund at her children’s school. “We’re raising money for scholarships, but also for the other things that make kids feel accepted — the cool pair of sneakers, the birthday party. Kids who don’t have money get it early enough that they’re different. I want to take some of that away.” Speaking of the parties, they’re another piece of the pie that Lobell has put together. “There are so many places in New York where you can go to have parties, and so many of them are expensive and fake-enthusiastic to the kids,” she says, adding that’s why she decided to offer private parties in the toy store space. “I don’t want to pay to have my kids go glue plastic things together under the direction of someone who talks down to them. At our parties, we make magic wands out of tree branches; things are very tactile.”
Lobell also hopes to take the business to the Internet, and eventually create other brick-and-mortar stores in other cities. “I’d like to create an Enchanted empire,” she says. “Makeup is important to me, but my family is more so. This goes to the heart of my beliefs.”