When Jenna Hipp and Vanessa Gualy thought celebrity manicurists were getting short shrift, they started an agency, Nailing Hollywood, dedicated to building their careers. Three years later, when they detected a gap in the mass market for a polish brand from in-the-know nail experts, they decided to extend that agency’s reach beyond sets, red carpets and editorial shoots into retail.
The brand Nailing Hollywood is launching this month with nearly 120 products priced from $4.99 to $19.99, including over 100 nail lacquer shades and six nail-care products, at Bed Bath & Beyond, Harmon and beauty.com. Industry sources estimate it will generate $5 million in sales during its first year in business.
“Our desire is and was to elevate nails, and there wasn’t a powerhouse brand setting the trends,” said Gualy. “We had to put together things from every brand — trying to find this color and that color — for professional kits. We want to make something that is available to everyone, but has the coverage and the quality that we feel is the best, so we can be confident about using it on set and with our clients who demand the best.”
Nailing Hollywood’s polishes wouldn’t have passed muster if they didn’t meet the approval of the agency’s roster of eight artists. They feature square bottles, thin brushes easy to manipulate for nail art and rich color achievable in two coats. “The opacity of the polish is such that it’s not too thick, but you can get a supershiny look, which is typically what we do on set,” said Stephanie Stone, Nailing Hollywood’s 26-year-old creative director and a manicurist who has quickly become a favorite of the likes of Miley Cyrus, Shay Mitchell and Selena Gomez.
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Nailing Hollywood divides its extensive polish selection into 10 categories. Among the categories are reds, nudes, brights and street style. Asked about shade highlights in the initial lineup, Stone pointed to the teal Tidepool and The Roosevelt, a deep burgundy. “We’ve got to be hands-on in picking all of the colors. We know there are staple colors that we absolutely need in our kits, but we also looked for colors that are missing, and that we get requests for and end up mixing together colors to make,” she said.
Although it’s unusual for an agency to develop its own brand, in the age of social media it makes sense to collectively harness the audiences of its talent to promote products under the Nailing Hollywood umbrella — and to further enlarge their audiences. Stone’s presence on social media — she has 280,000 Instagram followers — will be leveraged, as will Hipp’s, whose Instagram feed is cluttered with images of recognizable faces — Jennifer Lawrence, Justin Timberlake, Lea Michele and Megan Fox have made recent appearances — has attracted more than 45,000 fans. The agency Nailing Hollywood has almost 70,000 followers on Instagram.
“Whitney [Gibson] is going to have a fan base completely different from the fan base Debbie [Leavitt] has, and they’re both completely different from Stephanie’s,” said Gualy, referring to manicurists represented by Nailing Hollywood. “Different people are going to be able to relate to the different artists we have and be able to create relationships with them through social media. What [other] brand is going to respond to [customers] on social media? This is the first time people are going to have access to the artist behind the brand. Artists are the actual celebrities now, and everyone wants to know what they do.”
If there’s a potential downside to an agency introducing a brand, it’s that it could distract the agency from its core mission. Gualy, Hipp and Stone shrugged off any concern. “We live, breath and eat nails. This is our focus, so this [brand] is hand in hand with what we’re already doing,” said Gualy. Added Stone, “Having the line makes all our jobs as artists easier. We have everything how we want it and exactly how we need it. We don’t have to go out to search for our favorite products.”
Declines in the nail segment — research firm Euromonitor International reports nail polish sales dipped 8 percent in 2014 and 1 percent in 2013 after surging 29 percent in 2012 — don’t faze them either. “Nails haven’t gone anywhere. The awareness has been growing. If you read a magazine in five years, they’re going to be talking about nails. Before, you could read a whole magazine, and nails would only be in the advertisements,” said Hipp. “Now, no one would ever dream of taking a picture of someone for a magazine without their nails done. It’s just a given.”