What do you get when you mix two art students, a passion for nail polish, and a penchant for color? After many sleepless nights, California College of the Arts grads Aretha Sack and Janine Lee finally launched Floss Gloss in 2009, an indie nail line that wholeheartedly claims to ‘Floss and Gloss like a Boss.’ The San Francisco-based brand is still in its infancy, but the one-coat formula is already taking over our fingertips and the design of the bottle is as brilliant as the lacquer itself—a small bottle size with a brush that’s flush with the base so you use every last drop.
With an intriguing mix of sunny neutrals, neons, and pastels, we were most intrigued by the shade BritBrit2000, a peach-nude glitter that’s—you guessed it—inspired by Miss Spears' infamous VMA “naked glitter mesh magic.” Aretha’s master color-mixing skills are on point for pop culture.
Working day jobs to support their goals, these creative soul-mates are the personification of "make it work" in the beauty world, and that 24-7 attitude has definitely paid off. We tracked down the Bay Area residents for a little conversation on creating Floss Gloss—a brand to watch.
B: As art students, what made you both so attracted to nail color?
ARETHA: I have a degree in painting/drawing. Color is the greatest accessory. I've been mixing nail polish since the '90s because I could never find the colors I wanted available. JANINE: I have a background in fine arts with a BFA in fashion design. I’ve always loved painting my nails as an extension of my personality—much like fashion. It’s a creative outlet for me. Color was a huge deal for Aretha and I. She would mix up a couple new colors, pop over to our apartment, and we’d have an exclusive, not-sold-in-stores manicure to sport at art school. I was attracted to the exclusiveness, the originality, and to the chic colors.
B: With nail art at its all-time peak, how do you feel Floss Gloss is different than anything currently on the market?
ARETHA: Floss Gloss is nail polish with a focus on innovation—everything from color to size to design has been updated. It’s between a mini and a full—which apparently I'm the only one who ever finishes anyways. The brush is flush with the bottom unlike the bigger polishes, so all the paint can be used. JANINE: Even though there were new indie brands of nail lacquer emerging in late 2010, we were still seeing the same tired pairing of black cap/huge bottle. We started mixing our own colors because either the shades that were available to us were dated, or the quality was poor. We never found a polish that really filled our voids. Floss Gloss is produced by top of the line, professional-grade manufactures here in California. Essentially, we wanted to close the disconnect between designer and consumer. As avid personal polish hoarders, we wanted our consumers to know exactly who was designing the colors and where the inspiration was coming from.
B: Tell us about your color range—we notice a shift towards brighter shades.
ARETHA: The first collection was themed around a very warm 1970's Miami look. Orange and Brown were essentials.
B: The gold caps are super luxe and cute! Since you come from an art background, how did you design the logo and packaging to match the brand?
ARETHA: Thank you! We are both extremely into visuals, and personally, I own about 400+ bottles of nail polish—none of which look even remotely ‘cute’ or worthy of display. JANINE: We were playing with a lot of different ideas for logos and graphics, but we always envisioned a gold-ribbed cap from the beginning.
B: When indie brands are scarce in the Bay Area, how does it feel to be a small company in San Francisco?
ARETHA: Scary. JANINE: We’re small. Which can feel overwhelming and empty without a big community of nail artists or other polish lines, but we are happy being solo. Less polish competition in the Bay means more opportunity for us.
B: Why the decision to formulate a one-coat nail color?
ARETHA: I don't have time to sit around waiting for my three plus coats of nail polish to dry; I'm a young whipper-snapper. JANINE: The decision was easy. True to bottle color.
B: Pros and cons of starting a nail polish line? Where do you guys see yourself in five years?
ARETHA: Pros—being our own bosses. Cons—not being able to pay ourselves yet and still work in food service to pay rent. It gets stressful. In five years I'd like to be expanding the brand, coming up with next-level colors, and not waiting tables anymore. JANINE: Pros—being my own boss. Making my own decisions and agenda. Cons—still having to work multiple day jobs. San Francisco is a pricey place to live! But in the end, Aretha and I are still extremely happy and impressed to be running our own business, selling our product, and using it every day. Get ready, don’t say we didn’t warn you.