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5 Minutes with Jeff Pink, founder of Orly

By Donna Duggan

5 Minutes with Jeff Pink, founder of Orly
Jeff Pink talks about why he invented the French manicure and how he founded the company Orly.

38 years ago Jeff Pink was working as a make-up artist on film sets in California. He decided that he wanted a career change so he went to the owner of the largest beauty supply store in California, Jack Sperling, with a unique offer. Pink said to Sperling, “Jack I would like to work for you for 90 days and I’m willing to pay you to teach me all there is to know about the business so I can walk away and open my own store.” A couple of days later Sperling agreed. Pink was to pay Sperling $2500 up front, work for 90 days and then Pink could walk away. After a month Pink said to his wife, Orly, “it’s not for me”. Pink told Sperling, but Sperling challenged him to stay, saying if he still felt the same way in 90 days he could walk away with all his money.

After 90 days, Pink did start to enjoy the industry and opened up his first store. “It was nice being around beautiful women,” Pink says with a laugh. “In the 70s it was all about acrylic nails and all that was on offer was nail colour, base coat and top coats”. Pink founded Orly in 1975 [named after his wife] and his mission was to create natural nail care. The first thing Pink set about doing was developing a nail strengthener. In the same year Pink launched Romeo, a nail strengthener that could be applied like nail polish. He sent it all over the US for people to trial and it was an instant hit.

The following year an old colleague from the film industry contacted Pink and said “Jeff I need your help”. At the time the fashion was to match your nail colour with your dress colour and the studio found that an actress had to have her nails repainted three or four times a day. At that time it took an hour for the nail colour to dry so it was costing the studio a lot of time and money. Pink returned to the office to think of a solution and he thought about the white pencils that were used to colour under the nails.

“I rang a company that made nail polish and requested one bottle of white nail polish”. The company thought Pink was crazy but sent it over anyway. “I applied it to the tip of the nails and then went to the studio” says Pink. “The director said to me Jeff, you have just created history.” Pink decided that if it was good for the studio, it would be good for the consumer, so he started to produce The Natural Nail Kit. He then flew to Paris to introduce the concept to the models on the catwalk. It was a hit and on the flight back from Paris, Pink decided to change the name to the French Manicure. “It took almost four years for the trend to take off in America,” says Pink. “People started seeing it in movies but one night the US talk show host Johnny Carson had Barbra Streisand on as a guest. She had really long nails with the French Manicure. Carson asked her about her nails and the rest is history”.

Today, Orly produce numerous nail products, from base coats toughened with rubber to the new Surreal nail colour range. Improving the health of the nail as well as making them look gorgeous is still Pink’s passion. “I never liked acrylic nails as they are not good for your own nails. If you remove acrylic it can take up to six-months for the nails to recover. If you massage Orly’s cuticle oil into the cuticles for 10 days you promote nail growth.”

Even after nearly four decades in the business, Pink is still heavily involved in the company and continues to develop new products. He is very excited about the soon to be launched Megapixel nail polish; “It is made by grinding glass into the polish which makes it highly reflective”.

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