Nail Trends

Old School, Take 3

This month, three more manufacturers give us their take on how the industry has changed and where it is headed.

In our continuing series looking at manufacturers who have gone the distance, we take a look at the people behind Jessica Cosmetics, American International Industries, and Snails Italian Jewelry. You know a little more about the faces behind Creative, The Nailco Group, and Essie Cosmetics (See “Old School,” May 2003), and last month you learned more about OPI, Star, and Orly (See “Old School Take 2,” June 2003).

Did you also know that A.I.I. president Zvi Ryzman studied to be a rabbi? That Jessica Vartoughian, founder of Jessica Cosmetics, spoke no English when she entered beauty school at the age of 17? Or that Snails Italian Jewelry’s Marlene Sortino drove from salon to salon to sell her 14K gold nail charms?

Now it’s time to see what these three company heads think about the state of the industry today and how they have contributed to it. Like the six we have already profiled Zvi, Jessica, and Marlene all have an extremely positive outlook for the nail industry. According to them, the opportunities for nail techs today and in the future are endless. Stay tuned for more chapters in the history of the nail industry. Next month, we will feature additional profiles of manufacturers and industry leaders.

Way back then ... Zvi Ryzman started AII wtih the flip of a coin and some false eyelashes. 
<p>Way back then ... Zvi Ryzman started AII wtih the flip of a coin and some false eyelashes.&nbsp;</p>

Zvi Ryzman, President, American International industries

NAILS: How did you get started?

Zvi Ryzman: During the Nixon administration, I got into partnership with an acquaintance in a closeout business. But once Nixon devalued the dollar, we couldn’t import enough merchandise and had to shut down. We were left with a lot of false eye-lashes—eyelashes that neither of us wanted. So we flipped a coin to see who was going to get stuck with them. I began successfully selling them to beauty supply stores and—if you can believe this—later bought three other eyelash companies. A.I.I. is now the largest distributor of faux eyelashes in the U.S.

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen over the last 20 years?

Twenty years ago, you had to go to the salon to get your hair cut and colored, to the beauty supply for your beauty products, then to the nail salon for a manicure Now, you see full-service salons that do hair, nails, and tanning while retailing beauty products all in one place.

How have you changed this industry?

I haven’t changed the industry, I’ve simply changed myself as the needs of the industry have changed. Our company has evolved into a one-stop shop for beauty supplies. Beauty professionals can get everything they need in one place at a fair price.

Today ... AII has turned into a one-stop beauty shop, carrying everythign from wax, nail treatments, hair care products, paraffin, and yes, lashes, too. 
<p>Today ... AII has turned into a one-stop beauty shop, carrying everythign from wax, nail treatments, hair care products, paraffin, and yes, lashes, too.&nbsp;</p>

I believe our extensive wax lines—GIGI, been + Easy, L’Orbette, One Touch, Surgi-Care, Andrea—have been our most significant product contributions to the beauty industry. In addition to manufacturing wax we’ve also become large manufactures of waxing accessories, Warmers, skin treatment products, education videos—all products centered on hair removal. Our faux lashes are another significant product contribution.

How has your company changed over the last 20 years?

We started with lashes and have broadened our horizons of branching out into different beauty categories—wax, nail treatments, lashes, hair care products, paraffin. Even with extensive growth, we’ve tried to maintain a small company mentality. I like to make sure everybody’s happy and that their needs are met. I continue to be hands-on and get to know the people who work at A.I.I. If somebody has a problem, they can come to me personally and I look forward to that.

Today…A.I.I. has turned into a one-stop beauty shop, carrying everything from wax, nail treatments hair care products, paraffin, and yes, lashes too.

What will you company be like when NAILS turns 40?

We’re continually expanding I’d venture to guess that we’ll have some additional acquisitions under our belt, and perhaps some new lines of our own in 20 years. I believe there will be a greater shift from over-the-counter establishments to full-service beauty supplies that retail beauty products and offer beauty services in the future.

What are the moments you’d like to forget?

There’s really nothing I’d like to forget. I’ve learned some valuable lesions from even the worst experiences. I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning from those situations.

What other companies do you think have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry?

Truthfully? I think all of the companies in the beauty industry large and small—have contributed to the growth of our industry. Even those that didn’t make it contributed in one way or another a great example of a company making a significant contribution to the beauty business is Sally Beauty Supply. When A. I.I. started out, there were only seven Sally locations. Now there are in a thousand!

What is the biggest industry issue facing you today?

Brand recognition is such an important factor. I didn’t realize it until I came to the United States. Now I realize the benefits you can reap when consumers know who you are and trust your reputation. You can’t put a price on brand recognition.

Tell us one thing about you or your company that we might not already know.

I studied to be a rabbi and I have a theological degree. I also received degrees in political science and economics. That learning had helped me as it relates to running a business today I find myself using my educational background all the time in business dealings.

Way back then ... As a young girl from Romania, Jessica Vartoughian (center) entered beauty scshool in the U.S. before she even spoke English. While there, she realized her love for natural nail care. 
<p>Way back then ... As a young girl from Romania, Jessica Vartoughian (center) entered beauty scshool in the U.S. before she even spoke English. While there, she realized her love for natural nail care.&nbsp;</p>

Jessica Vartoughian, Founder/ECO Jessica Cosmetics

Way back then… As a young girl from Romania, Jessica Vartoughian entered beauty school in the United States before she even spoke English. While there, she realized her love for natural nail care.

NAILS: How did you get started?

I came to the United States from Romania after I graduated from high school and I was very young, just 17. I wanted to go to college, but my father said I had to earn money. So I went to beauty school. And I did not speak any English.

Being European, I was very meticulous and I found out that I was very talented at doing nails, even though I failed the exam twice. My first job was at a small shop on the Sunset Strip.

Lenny Bruce’s father-in-law owned the shop and all the movie stars were going there. After a year there, I went to another shop in Beverly Hills with exclusive customers.

After about three years I developed a system called Nail Cultivation in 1969, with the success that I had by starting my own system, I opened the first salon in the world dedicated only to natural nails. And I never changed that.

Today. More than 30 years after launchign her first line and opening her Hollywood salon, Vartoughian is still involved with every aspect of running her thriving natural nail care company.
<p>Today. More than 30 years after launchign her first line and opening her Hollywood salon, Vartoughian is still involved with every aspect of running her thriving natural nail care company.</p>

What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry over the last 20 years?

Manicurists’ interest in natural nail care has steadily increased. Well-groomed hands are important to women today, but not necessarily long nails.

How have you changed the industry?

I think I was one of the first to go with a distributor in 1986. There was a revolution for them to have a nail care division. But natural nails were difficult to sell.

I was also one of the first to do telemarketing and direct sales to salons. I understood that the sales rep could not talk about natural nail care so I decided to do direct sales and slowly to get out of distribution. There was no way they could focus on natural nail care.

In 1985, I also began expanding my business into Japan. We were one of the first companies to go big internationally. In 1990, we entered Europe and really began building our business over there.

How has your company changed over the last 20 years?

We have products available for every type of problem nail. Everything that we offer was developed in the salon. We never rest on our laurels. We have a brand name that is known all over the world. Everybody knows the name Jessica and the quality associated with that name.

What will your company be like when NAILS turns 40?

I hope my children will follow in my footsteps. I hope every consumer in this world will know about Jessica products. I would like to see the company keep the Jessica brand name. I would like to be able to teach manicurists all over about all of our natural nail systems.

What are the moments you would like to forget?

I developed a line called Pro-Line and the idea was to dry the nails quickly. But we ended up with a lot of bubbles and a lot of troubles. It dried too fast and evaporated too quickly.

What other companies do you think have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry?

OPI. I have a lot of respect for president and CEO George Schaeffer. I also have a lot of respect for Creative’s education philosophy.

What would you say to techs coming out of school today?

School doesn’t mean much. It’s sad. But at most schools, they can’t really afford to have an experienced nail teacher. I urge nail technicians to take more classes once they are out of school. They need to really understand the natural nail and it will make their lives so much easier.

Tell us one thing about you or your company that we might not already know.

When I develop a product, I like to have my creativity with the company. We all make decisions together—from the marketing person to the bookkeeper. Everyone is involved with product development, even overseas people. I want to know what everyone thinks.

Way back then ... Snails president Marlene Sortino (center) wanted a 14K gold nail charm for her own nails, but none existed, so she had one made for herself. This is Marlene (center) at her very first tradeshow in Long Beach.
<p>Way back then ... Snails president Marlene Sortino (center) wanted a 14K gold nail charm for her own nails, but none existed, so she had one made for herself. This is Marlene (center) at her very first tradeshow in Long Beach.</p>

Marlene Sortino, President, Snails Italian Jewelry

Way back then……Snails president Marlene Sortino (center) wanted a 14K gold nail charm for her own nails, but none existed, so she had one made for herself. This is Marlene at her very first trade show in Long Beach.

Today… You will still see Sortino working her booth at trade shows, but now the company offers a large variety of 14k nail jewelry, toe rings, and nail art.

NAILS: How did you get started?

Snails actually began from a personal need. Twenty-three years ago I had my first set of acrylic nails put on and wanted to have a 14K gold nail charm to apply to my new nails. I had seen decals but I wanted something I could drill through my nail that would be more permanent. I grew up in the jewelry business and decided to have one of these charms made I went down to the Los Angeles jewelry distinct and with the help of an experienced jeweler we came up with our first gold nail charm.

A lot of people stated admiring this tiny charm so I though there could be a market for it. I had a whole set of initials made up and began peddling them around to nail shops in the Los Angeles area. I drove from salon to salon visiting about seven to 10 per day I would take their orders and then go back downtown to have them made I would then bring them back their orders the next day I would drive as far south as San Diego and as far north as San Francisco. My first beauty show was in Long Beach. We had no catalogs, just printed copies of the few styles we had. As we made more money we expanded the line and printed color catalogs. As the years went on we became more recognizable in the nail business.

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry over the last 20 years?

There have been so many changes in the last 20 years it is unbelievable to me. Nail products seem to have been so primitive back then as compared to today. Probably the most significant change would have to be the education available today. It used to be you would buy a product, read the directions, or see a demo at a trade show and that was it.

How have you changed the industry?

I don’t know about changing the industry, but one thing for sure we definitely opened up a lot of minds to new and exciting ways to dress up nails. Twenty-three years is a long time to endure, so we must be doing something right.

What will your company be like when NAILS turns 40?

When NAILS turns 40, Snails will continue to grow and expand its line of fine 14K gold nail jewelry and nail art. We will continue to build our national and international distribution so it will be easier to obtain product and hands-on education. Products, views, and nail technicians will be so advanced and so much stronger in the beauty and fashion industry.

What are the moments you’d like to forget?

I did one of my first trade shows in New Mexico some 20 years ago. I did not realize that when we booked our booth we were the only nail company at this hair show. As it turned out, they had stage shows every 15 minutes and they would turn out all the lights. I literally stood in the dark all day. After five hours of this we packed up our boxes and left during one of the blackouts.

What other companies do you think have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry?

I think everyone involved in the nail industry has contributed somehow or someway. I have seen many companies come and go and every one of them has left something helpful behind.

What is the biggest industry issue facing you today?

Retail There is so much money to be made in retailing. It’s been difficult to get that point across. There is as much money to be made in the sale as doing a set of nails, and in a quarter of the time.

What would you say to techs coming out of school today?

Be the best you can be. Continue your education even when you are out of school. There are so many new products on the market and there is so much to learn. Don’t limit yourself, be open-minded, and expand your possibilities!

Tell us one thing about you or your company that we might not already know.

We still communicate and do business with our very first mail-order customer. She is still in the same salon and still using Snails products after 23 years. Talk about a die-hard fan!

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