The History of Essie: A Nail Polish Revolution

By Emily Walker

A Dream Born in Queens

The journey of Essie began in the vibrant borough of Queens, New York, with a young woman named Essie Weingarten. Born to a working-class family, Essie was fascinated by the world of beauty and fashion from an early age. In 1981, armed with passion, determination, and 12 original, unforgettable nail polish colors, she transformed this fascination into a business venture that would revolutionize the nail polish industry.

The Early Years: Making a Mark

  • 1981: Essie Weingarten and her business partner Max Sortino, with a unique vision and a mere $10,000 in their pockets, introduced Essie Cosmetics to the world. The initial collection was a groundbreaking mix of creme and shimmer finishes, with imaginative names that quickly became a signature of the brand.
  • 1983: Essie made a daring move by cold-calling Las Vegas casinos. Her audacity paid off, bringing the brand into the limelight and cementing its status as a salon-quality nail polish.
  • 1985: Essie nail polish was used in a fashion show for the first time, introducing the brand to the high-fashion world.

Essie’s Distinctive Approach: Quality and Creativity

Essie was always committed to quality and innovation. They formulated their products with a chip-resistant formula, a two-in-one base and color that was a major revolution in the industry. This commitment to quality was matched by their commitment to creativity, with Essie pioneering imaginative, memorable names for their shades, like "Ballet Slippers", "Wicked", and "Lady Like".

Going Global: Expansion Beyond Borders

In the late 80s and early 90s, Essie crossed the Atlantic to Europe, quickly becoming popular in salons across the continent. The brand continued its global expansion throughout the 90s and early 2000s, solidifying its position as a leading nail polish brand worldwide.

Year Milestone

1990 Introduced in the European market

1996 Expanded to South Africa

2000 Entered the Australian market

2002 Reached the Asian market

The L'Oreal Acquisition: A New Chapter

In 2010, Essie entered a new era when it was acquired by the beauty conglomerate L'Oreal. This marked a significant expansion in the brand's distribution, making Essie nail polish readily available in drugstores and retail outlets around the world. The acquisition by L'Oreal also amplified Essie's commitment to creating high-quality, cruelty-free products.

Today's Essie: A Household Name

Today, Essie stands as a behemoth in the nail polish industry, boasting over 1,000 shades in its catalogue. The brand continues to push the boundaries of quality, creativity, and eco-conscious beauty. Whether it's the unique, imaginative names that capture the essence of each shade, or the brand's commitment to cruelty-free practices, Essie remains a pioneering force, a brand synonymous with style, quality, and innovation.

Essie's history is not just a story of a nail polish brand; it is a testament to the power of dreams, determination, and creativity. It's the story of a young girl from Queens who dared to think differently and in doing so, revolutionized an entire industry. And as we look towards the future, it's clear that Essie will continue to leave its vibrant, glossy mark on the world of beauty.