OPI’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann on nail shades, style & her colourful career…

By Helena Biggs | 01 February 2021 | Movers & Shakers, News

Suzi Weiss Fischmann

OPI celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2021 – and Scratch commemorated the occasion by inviting the nail brand’s co-founder to guest edit its February edition.

Affectionally known as ‘The First Lady of Nails’, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann grew up in Hungary during the communist era. She was 10 years old when her family fled from Hungary to Israel, where she experienced my first taste of freedom.

A few years later, Suzi and her family arrived in America, where opportunities unfolded. “In New York, my family owned its own manufacturing business. I was attracted to the idea of being in business for myself and of controlling my own destiny and attended Hunter College, working at a garment manufacturing company for my brother-in-law’s family,” she reveals. “During that time, I learned so much about manufacturing and was able to see how a business is run from the ground up.

“A chance presented itself to go into business with my brother-in-law in Los Angeles, so I took it and never looked back.”

Suzi’s brother-in-law, George Schaeffer, had bought a dental company, Odontorium Products Inc., in North Hollywood, California. He had noticed that nail technicians made up a large pool of his client base as they were buying dental acrylic for nail extensions. With Suzi’s input, he turned his attention to addressing their needs.

“We dropped off an ‘OPI rubber band special’ at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles,” Suzi continues. “This featured a jar of acrylic nail powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – which was so well received and became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System. It gave OPI its start in the professional nail industry.”

Suzi’s love of colour, fashion and design led to the idea for OPI Nail Lacquer, which launched in the late 80’s with 30 shades.

“When I first started exploring the world of nail colour, I felt that something was deeply amiss,” she reveals. “The nail category didn’t offer women anything personal or relevant to their lives, with basic colours and generic, one-size-fits-all names like ‘Red No. 4’ and ‘Pink No. 2.’”

In 1987, OPI presented its lacquers in a bottle with a distinctive shape. Two years later, OPI captured its audience even further by introducing lacquers with memorable names, such as ‘Coney Island Cotton Candy’, ‘Alpine Snow’ and the classic ‘OPI Red’.

“We set out to position OPI as offering a ‘message in a bottle’, Suzi continues. “With the launch of nail lacquer, we differentiated our brand through the colours we created, the feelings we evoked through the names and the excitement we created with the collections and collaborations.

“We made colour personal. We connected with women.”


What do you love about your role?

“I love the connections that I create. My job has introduced me to so many different kinds of people, and the relationships I’ve built that have been the most rewarding part of my work. I have relationships with nail techs, employees, distributors, editors, and of course consumers – I’ve been able to connect with millions of women through OPI and I feel so grateful.

“I always say, if I can inspire just one person, I’ve done good for the day. I also love creating new colours. Here I am thousands of colours later, and it never gets old!”

How do you wear your own nails?

“I like to wear a squoval shape and always OPI GelColor. The colours I wear most often are Malaga Wine and Cajun Shrimp. I wear different colours throughout the year – I just love colour on my nails.

“Lexi at Notox Nails in Beverly Hills does my nails and I always have OPI Nail & Cuticle Oil To Go and Protective Hand Nail & Cuticle Cream in my bag.”

What are your favourite things?

  • TV show: The Crown
  • Book: John le Carre spy books
  • Holiday destinations: Italy and Japan – as I love the food, scenery and flowers
  • Film: The Hunt for Red October, I love that movie!
  • Flower: Lily of the Valley
  • Colours: Black, navy and chocolate brown for my clothes because my nails are so colourful!
  • Hobby: Reading
  • Music: 70s
  • Food: Pasta

How would you describe your personal style?

Simple and classic with an edge. I collect Hermes scarves; they bring me a lot of joy!

What’s your superpower?

The act of helping others less fortunate is something I value greatly but in business, it’s important to think out of the box and
to make decisions. I consider making decisions my superpower and I believe we get one shot at life, and we should go at it with all we’ve got. At the end of the journey, you want to look back and feel great about taking risks that brought you a life of passion and fulfilment.