Hard Candy Creator Dineh Mohajer on Reviving the '90s Brand and What's Next for Her New Line
Any '90s girl worth her flannel shirt and choker remembers Hard Candy nail polish—in particular the color Sky, a dusty pastel blue. This was before any colors outside of the ordinary shades of pink, purple, and red were even remotely mainstream for nails. Women everywhere embraced it, and a new nail polish trend was born. Now 20 years later (!), the company is re-releasing the pretty little bottles bedecked with rings, and at the same time, founder Dineh Mohajer has a new line that is very 2015. Smith & Cult lacquers ($18 each; smithandcult.com) come in gorgeous bottles and have irreverent names like Gay Ponies Dancing in the Snow, and Teen Cage Riot. We asked Mohajer how she felt then about the wild success of Hard Candy, and what she predicts will be the next big thing in manicures now.
Some people might not know that Smith & Cult is the second major nail breakthrough you're responsible for. Tell us how this experience has been different than Hard Candy.Although Smith & Cult’s roots are also firmly planted in innovation, it stands apart from Hard Candy, as well as other beauty brands, in that its inception was inspired by my experiences and addiction to beauty. Every aspect of the brand is derived from the Diary of a Beauty Junkie (basically me). People can’t help but identify with her (my) emotional connection to beauty and the dualities we all inhabit throughout our lives, from triumph to tears, bliss to heartbreak, elegance to absurdity, and everything in between. Duality is woven throughout every facet of the brand: the nail shades, packaging, campaigns, responsible formulas, bold branding, names, and the diary itself.
When Hard Candy came out with pastel blue nail polish it was totally radical—my friends and I practically bathed in it. Were you surprised by the mega success?The mega success of Hard Candy was shockingly unexpected. The baby blue nail lacquer, Sky, that essentially launched my career and drastically changed the course of my life, was the result of a random urge to mix shades to match my nails with a pair of Marc Jacobs sandals. At the time, I was a biochemistry (pre-med) student drowning in books and research. Women were constantly stopping me to ask where they could buy the same shade. Fast-forward to millions of bottles and retailers later—I never quite lost the sense of shock over the success of the brand, but also never failed to forget how lucky I was to be a part of something so monumental in the world of beauty.
Since you obviously have a finger on the pulse of all things nails, what do you think is next for manicures?The negative space nail trend has been spotted on runways and style mavens alike, and I think we are going to start seeing more of it. It’s a sexy (without trying too hard) way to experiment with nail lacquer, especially for those seeking an understated, refined form of expression. Some of my favorite fine art pieces have negative or blank space that I think contribute to the overall balance of the piece. Allowing a portion of the unpolished, bare nail to peak through achieves a similar, beautifully minimalist aesthetic.
What '90s trend do you hope comes back? Which should stay in our rearview?The '90s pop culture and fashion resurgence makes me wax nostalgic for the days I obsessed over House of Style, dial-up Internet, Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, and an infamous '90s supermodel who wouldn’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day. I am loving the revival of chokers (I have my eye on the Infinite Tusk Choker by Gabriela Artigas), flannel shirts (hello, Angela Chase), and deep berry-hued nails (Smith & Cult’s Dark Like Me, an aubergine shade, is my go-to these days). May pencil-thin eyebrows, JNCO jeans, and mini butterfly clips forever remain in the '90s vault of shame.