She Built Her Own Beauty Business Starting From Her College Dorm
It all started back in 1995 when Alicia Silverstone ‘accidentally’ helped launch the beauty career of Hard Candy founder Dineh Mohajer. David Letterman had asked the actress about the baby blue nail polish she was wearing during an appearance on his show, everything just snowballed from there.
Now, Hard Candy is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the brand is launching an anniversary throwback collection this month. Mohajer sold Hard Candy to LVMH in 1999 and has then since launched another nail polish like called Smith & Cult.
Mohajer tells Fashionista what it was like to start a beauty business while in her dorm room in college, in the days before everyone used the Internet.
How did you get started in this business? You were really young when you launched Hard Candy.
In the beginning, I just mixed two colors together. It wasn’t something that was deliberate or methodical. One afternoon I wanted baby blue nail polish and they didn’t have it at the store. And when I say the store, I meananywhere — Barneys, Saks, beauty supply stores. They didn’t have it, and I just had this fixation. I mixed blue and white and I got baby blue. Then I did it with the purple too and I was like, “Oh, this is exactly what I wanted!”
I was just wearing it and making it for my friends. And everyone wanted it. I was pre-med at USC, and I was really sick of studying hydrocarbon chains and sitting in the basement of a lab extracting DNA to get my name on a paper. I was ready to procrastinate by the fourth summer. The timing was perfect. So I started making it.
Were you just making it in your kitchen or something?
I was mixing Essie white with a bright metallic blue that I found at a cheapie beauty supply place. It was some horrifyingly tacky thing. I worked at Fred Segal for two months to cover my friend’s job while she was out of town. Sharon Segal, the owner’s daughter, was like, “Oh my god, I love this nail polish you have on, do you want to bring it in and sell it?” That’s when I figured out, oh, people might want this.
I found where to get that tacky blue and purple and I would buy a bunch of them. I also got these mixers, like traditional ketchup bottles that you see in diners. I would sit in front of the TV and dump every single blue bottle into the ketchup bottle. Then I would take Essie whites — I would buy them out from beauty supply stores. I’d get a deal because I’d buy every single one. I’d dump all that in, and then I’d sit there and shake it. Then I would go back to all the white bottles and fill them up with this new color that I’d mixed and I would stick a ring on them and that was it. I didn’t have a logo or anything. I started with baby blue, lavender, yellow, peach, mint green and baby pink. The little jelly ring that went on it came about because I was doing a birthday party, and we were at a party supply store called Party On. They had all these rings in one bin and they were all fluorescent, and they kind of matched the hues of my nail polish. I had grabbed them as a joke because we were going to make little bags as party favors. That ring fit over the nail polish perfectly.