Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Deanna of Black Dahlia Lacquer. A relatively new brand, Black Dahlia Lacquer was immediately very popular starting with their very first launch and releases polishes in a variety of finishes. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
I started making my own polish because my nail polish spending was out of hand and I thought it would be a good way to curb spending. (It wasn’t.) I also wanted to switch fields. I’d worked as a newspaper and magazine writer for the 20 years immediately prior and was looking for a major career change.
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
I wanted to continue to do something creative, but in a new field. The timing just happened to be right for starting my own brand.
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
Dahlias and sunflowers are my favorite flowers. I have dahlias tattooed across my back and shoulder. The large black dahlia on back was always my favorite. There really wasn’t a period of deciding on a brand name. As soon as I determined that I would sell polish, I decided that’s what it would be called.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
It would be a toss up between our 2014 Halloween duo and the Capital Collection. I tend to favor darker, brighter colors, especially cremes, shimmers and scattered holos, and the fall and winter seasons are ripe for such colors.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
Queen of the Night, one half of our limited edition 2014 Halloween Collection, has been my favorite. It’s a color I like to wear year round. Queen of the Night is a gray-leaning black with flakies and a scattered holo finish. It doesn’t hurt that I tend to receive compliments when I wear it.
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
My favorite is winter when dark, bold colors are en vogue.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
I often draw inspiration from flowers, thinking of recreating them in a liquid form. More often though, I simply have a thought or idea that I try to recreate. Sometimes I just sit down and create whatever I feel like making so there’s not always a grand inspiration behind all of them.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
I make whatever all year round, though I do tend to release them as appropriate for the season. Many polishes can fit for more than one season though so it’s not much of a burden to keep to a seasonal release schedule.
You were involved in polish groups and active on your brand’s social media for quite a long time before you launched. Do you think taking the time to do that and build relationships with future customers helped out for your first launch?
I’d like to think so, but it’s tough to know for sure. Some of the individuals who helped test our polishes months before we opened still purchase from us so I look at that as a positive sign that it may have been beneficial.
You’re a mother-daughter team- has this presented any unique challenges?
Of course. We’re not always on the same page and can have different ideas about collections and polishes to release. But on the flipside we each favor different colors and polish finishes, which I think works to our advantage.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
I love Zoya Pixie Dust polishes. I would rather buy them than try to make my own version. We have made textured polish, though nothing similar to the Pixie Dust line.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
I’ve never actually counted. My guess would be around 2,000 bottles.
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
It would be a toss up between Zoya and Julep. My indie collection is pretty spread out with no clear victor.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
I make polish full time. I stopped writing and went with a sink or swim philosophy.
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
That would definitely be creating red polishes. Aubrey creates all the reds and I do the blues. Having different preferences definitely helps us in this department.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
My favorite is making new prototypes since you can be creative and mix whatever you feel like. (My least favorite is definitely anything to do with Web design.)
We all know glitter can be really messy and stick to everything- how do you keep all of your glitter, pigments and mixing tools organized?
The polish loft has shelves and tables over almost every square inch. Pigments, shimmer and glitter are stored in clear plastic containers and organized by color. Liquid pigments are stored by brand. Everything has its own place, even the back up glitter.
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
It’s different every time. On an average day I’ll pull out way too many types of glitter, flakies, shimmer and pigments. I usually have a vague idea in mind — perhaps that I’d like to make a sparkly blue polish. I always start with the base color. Once I’m satisfied with the shade, I move on to adding accents such as glitter, flakes or shimmer. In some cases I may remake a nearly identical polish with small changes — such as taking a pink prototype with silver glitter and remaking the same color with gold glitter.
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
There are probably 10 to 20 prototypes for each polish that is released. I often make polish without a clear finished product in mind. Then I go back through and pick tentative collections. Then I might remake a couple of those with minor changes such as brighter color, more glitter, etc.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world.
How do you decide which bloggers to work with? I start with reviewing their photos and examining their lighting and pose while looking for neat and well-groomed cuticles and nails. Nail shape, followers and how often they interact also play a role. Part of it is also simply a gut feeling. I don’t mind working with new bloggers with few followers, however, ungroomed cuticles or a sloppy clean up job is an instant deal breaker.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
Zoya Godiva is my current favorite, though I tend to cycle through a number of favorites.
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
For one, I’d like to think that we provide stellar customer service. I don’t like to make mistakes with orders, but when they happen, I apologize and make it right — usually by including a bonus polish. I also think a niche for us has been producing beautiful polishes, including holos, that are opaque in one coat. I favor opaque polishes myself and feel like strong one-coaters help set us apart.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
I don’t really have many hobbies. I collect Starbucks Christmas ornaments. I have quite the affinity for chai tea lattes. I’m an online news junkie and can spend hours online reading about international politics, a holdover from my writing days.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
I have six cats. Most of them were formerly homeless cats that we rescued. Two of them are special needs cats with cerebellar hypoplasia, a neurological condition in which they appear very clumsy and uncoordinated.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
I don’t really care for wearing holos or jellies.
What’s your favorite kind of food?
I’m pretty versatile, though Vietnamese would probably come out on top. I’ve been vegetarian for 25 years and there are plenty of options for herbivores in Asian meals. Thai might be a close second.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Deana! Talk to me in the comments and let me know what you think of this brand- have you tried them out before? What other brands would you like to see interviewed in the future? Let me know!
If you liked this interview, make sure to check out the other ones in the indie insight tag!