Orly International is a success story straight from Hollywood — literally. From supplying Tinsel Town’s movie studios to developing nail products when the industry was in its infancy, Orly has a long history to be proud of.
Jeff Pink, Orly’s founder and CEO, explains how Orly started, how he steered his company (not always through calm waters), and where he sees Orly, and the entire nail industry, going in the future.
Q. How did you get into the beauty business, and how did Orly International come into being?
A Originally, I was in the beauty chemical business with my family, and I owned a beauty supply store in the Los Angeles area. I used to call on nail salons and I found that manicurists fell neglected by the dominant nail companies at the time. I heard for myself what the manicurist wore saying they needed.
We introduced our first products, Romeo and Ridgefiller nail strengthener with fibers, in 1974. The nail industry was in its infancy then, but I saw the potential for growth. It inspired me to search for new products.
Q Tell us the legend of the French manicure.
A A producer came to me with an interesting problem. He said, “When I have an actress in a red dress, she has to wear red polish. When she changes to a purple dress, she has to have her polish changed. Can you come up with something beautiful and natural that will go with any color dress? It takes an hour to change polish colors, and I can’t waste money paying a production crew to wait for an actress’s polish to dry.”
My people and I worked on the problem and came up with a solution. At the beauty supply store we sold a white pencil for the underside of the tip of the nail, but it washed off. So we used white polish on the tip, and flesh-colored polish over the nail bed. I wanted to give the style a classy name, so I called it the “French Manicure.”
The French manicure was available at that time, but only on a limited basis. In 1977, I started to put the products in a small pouch for manicurists to try. I traveled all over the country to introduce it, but the only distributors that responded were in New York and Los Angeles. It sold really well in those places, but the rest of the country sent the products back because they couldn’t sell it. I started to push it and advertise it, but it wasn’t until 1980 that it started to grow. Since 1981, it has been our best seller.
If you look closely at TV shows or movies, most actresses wear a French manicure for the same reason it was developed in 1977.
Q How has the industry changed in the last 20 years?
A Two things have changed. When the big companies dominated, there were only a few manufacturers; now there are 50 or 60 companies competing quite well.
I do believe that the biggest change in the coming years is that more companies, manicurists, and clients will switch back to natural nails and natural ways to make the natural nail grow longer and stronger. There is no question that there will be a place for artificial nails, but natural nails will be the new trend.
Q You named the company for your wife, Orly. What did she think of you using her name? How has she been involved with the company?
A When I first told my wife I was going to use her name she asked, “Why me?” and I told her simply that she has a nice name, and that she’s my wife. Besides contributing her name, during the years when we were developing new colors, she helped us come up with those beautiful, classic shades that gained us a foothold in the industry.
When I named the company, I didn’t register the name. At the time, I had a shortage of funds and was putting what I had into product development rather than legal matters. When I finally did go to register it, I found that a small company in New York had already registered it. After some negotiation, I acquired sole rights to the name.
Q How did Myriam Clifford become involved with Orly International, and how has she helped Orly’s progress and success?
A Myriam has been with Orly for 12 years. She came on as a sales administrator, and I promoted her to company president 1½ years ago. She is one of the few female presidents in the nail industry who earned her position through promotions. Myriam has done so much for Orly and for the nail industry; she has served on the Nail Manufacturers Council and she’s very involved with the American Beauty Association.
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