Thursday, 21 June 2012

Lynnderella Rockafeller - The Week That Polish Ate Itself

Hi Goddesses

When I originally started this blog, I thought it might be a mouthpiece for my opinions, thoughts and commentary on the wider world and loves of my life.  What I didn't expect was that one day I would be writing about how one of my passions has done its best to destroy itself, and the niche market it represents.   This has been one HELLUVA week in Nailsville :)

Ok, we're going to zoom out a little bit first of all.    Frankening and Indie Polish are relatively new terms.  When I became a Polishaholic a year ago, pretty much the only polish maker / frankener out there was a woman called Lynnderella who made insanely gorgeous and HTF glitterbombs.

Gradually, her success encouraged others to dabble, first privately, and then through other outlets - pre-ordering through Facebook, Etsy, BigCartel, their own websites.   So,  6 months ago, we had Lynnderella and maybe 5 or 6 other big name indie polish-makers, and that was it.  And then it all exploded.

At first it was in a good way.   A lady named Leah Ann Rowe agreed to stock Lynnderella on her website, and Lynns (as they were affectionately known) went from being a niche, highly sought after item, to something that was known to the masses, and clamoured for.  Oh, NEVER has there been so much clamour, but more on that later.

The abundance of demand over supply of Lynns led a trickle down explosion, and before you knew it, the other 5 or 6 great indie polish makers were wiped out of stock.  ENTIRELY.  Some of them so much so that it took them 2 months to rebuild their inventory!

So, what happened?  More trickle down.  A new crop of indies sprang up to fill the gap in the market.  But this time, there was a difference. For every great new indie brand, there was at least 1 if not 2 that were not in it for the passion, or the artistry.   To quote a dear friend, suddenly "Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrybody decided they were Lynnderella", and rushed to create their own Etsy stores with their own indie polishes, but without the imagination, textural brilliance, or magic.    Suddenly we had polishes that my daughter could have made - 2 or 3 types of glitter, shook up in a bottle, and then mixed with every type of coloured base under the sun.  THAT ladies, is not your own polish line; it's over-priced laziness you should be ashamed of.

So, let's skip back again.   Around the turn of the year, Leah Ann decides to stock Lynnderella. The crowds go wild.  Too wild.  Leah Ann can't cope, polishes are oversold and all sorts of diabolical hooha ensues.  Leah Ann, bless her, keeps trying different ways to get the demand met, each one meeting with disaster, and Lynnderella releases a NEW collection, pushing demand even higher.

It's at this point, that another polishmaker, Cover Band, release a polish called Sticks and Stones.  The polish is not a dead on dupe for Lynnderella's coveted Connect The Dots (CTD) but it's close.  It's also available, and deprived Polish-zillas gobble it up like it's going out of fashion.    Lynnderella is offended that anyone would try to copy her polish, ignoring both the fact that she has refused to increase supply, and that it happens to Deborah Lippmann at least twice a year.   Her response is to decry the act as not in the spirit of "Lovely Is As Lovely Does", the name of her new collection.   The fact that she is in BUSINESS escapes her.

She is also affronted that people are selling her polish for money on ebay.  They are converting a $15 purchase into $50 and upwards sales.  The artist in Lynn cannot fathom this.

So after the hooha dies down, more polishmakers expand their range to contain a CTD dupe, giving the Polish-zillas the supply we crave.   Leah Ann hits on a wishlist system, which although slow, satisfies the demand for Lynns, and takes it upon herself to protect Lynn by not selling her polishes to anyone that might want to resell them on ebay. She scrutinises bulk orders for clues that people might be profitting from Lynnderella, and that is her first mistake.   As a middleman, Leah Ann should not really care who she sells them to, and although it's sweet that she wants to get the product to genuine end-users, again it's not particularly commercial.  She's also fighting a battle that's not her own, and maybe only she understands the reasons she showed Lynnderella such fierce loyalty.

So, little interlude.  Crumpet, as you know, buys a HELLA lot of polishes.   Crumpet tends to go wild on a Sunday afternoon, and one Sunday in April I bought 6 polishes from one of the 100s of Etsy stores that now sell polish - Victoriana.  A couple of weeks later, I am told my polish should arrive mid-May, and when it's not here by the end of May (which is a LOT of patience for a Crumpet), I politely enquire where they are.   And get no response.   I won't get a response to 5 other emails either, and this week, one of Victoriana's stockists publicly pulled the plug on her, for the same reasons I am mentioning her now - unfilled orders and promises.

So why share this particular story with you ?  Well, the indie industry is like any other - you get stars, and you get shite. You get people who make great product and pride themselves on customer service.  And you get others who only want to make a quick buck. You get some who are so passionate about quality control they will replace your polish almost before you ask, and others who couldn't care less.  Be careful.  Know who you're dealing with.  Don't fall for the hype.

And then we get to this week.  A week when a lot of us were excited because Lynnderella would be releasing a new collection, and Leah Ann would be taking wishlists for it.  And then the shit storm began.

For a while, a few of us have wondered who was selling the Lynns that go for up to $200 on ebay, especially as some of them were special LEs that never even got to Leah Ann.  One bored / frustrated / curious person did some digging, and discovered all sorts of internet crumbs which suggested they were being sold by none other than Lynnderella's brother.  That's right, the brother of the person who was offended by the earlier ebay profiteering.

Lynnderella releases a statement littered with phrases which suggest she thinks of herself as an unassailable Queen, and confesses that she gave the polishes to her brother TO SELL to help him out of financial dire straits.  She announces that she is a "not a frankener, (but an) artist and designer" and "that it took decades of self-work, research, training, study and paying attention to processing visual information to be able to create Lynnderella's lacquers".  Decades?  Really ?

It's a post that doesn't go down well with the polish community, or Nail World, as she refers to us.  We think it sounds pompous, a little up one's arse, and well ... wrong.   Don't say one thing, and then do another.    Some us also wonder about Leah Ann, a woman I have "known" for a year, who I have only the highest praise for (even though others may disagree) and who has done such an excellent job in making beautiful polish something that *everybody* can obtain ..... only to find herself bitten by the very person she was trying to protect.   Leah Ann has been policing ebay, weeding out resellers, when unbeknownst to her, the seller was getting them from Lynn all along.

So, next day, and more drama lol.   Traci TraceFace Philes, one of the nail world's biggest bloggers, and someone who helped build the demand for Lynns, announces she feels so sickened that she will never wear the product again and promptly holds a blog sale.  Others feel similarly, and have a bitter taste in their mouths.  At the time, I thought it was an over-reaction, until ....

Lynnderella blogs again.  Interestingly, she is starting to distance herself from Leah Ann.  The woman whom she once called a "genius" for her organisational ability, is now someone who is an "unlikely collaborator".  Leah Ann, who must feel like she's been planked over the head, announces she needs time to think.   

And then this morning, we awake to another blog post from Lynn.  In a masterpiece of mis-judgement, she posts her long-planned post about her new collection, even when the masses are turning from her and baying, if not for her blood, at least for an apology or some humility.   Without a care in the world or a thought about her audience, she details all her new polishes, with a curious new graphic -

And in one fell swoop, kills all goodwill anyone may still have left for her.   What this woman, the largest producer of indie polishes has just done, is lowered the bar, and decided that it is acceptable to sell a product with flaws - flaws that you, as the polish maker are aware of - just because you're Lynnderella.  Worse, a lot of indies will now see this as a mandate to produce sub-standard and shoddy products.  Some of them will stop replacing faulty bottles, because, you know, even Lynnderellas have those issues.  

 This term "Indie" is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I cringe every time I hear or see it. Of course Lynnderella is an independent producer. What else would she be? Certainly not dependent. Yes, I know the word is used to label people who have small businesses. Even though I am one of the first small producers, I am opting out of the Indie Group Label. For me, creating is a joyful opportunity to express a unique voice that has been incubating and developing for a very long time. That's part of why I prefer to be left out of any category, label, list or "directory" of producers with whom I may have nothing in common.
Lynnderella 18 June 2012

And yet the woman who does not want to be part of this indie industry has suddenly, witlessly and unknowingly maybe, spoken for them all, and given them all license to drop their testing standards.   Don't get me wrong.  There are still MANY indie polish makers who should be respected and who will not reduce their standards one bit - and those are the very women who I will be supporting going forward.

Another thing I realized today is that I do not feel bad, sad, afraid, depressed, hurt or angry. There has been a bit of extra adrenalin over the past few days, but my conscience is clear.
Lynderella 20 June 2012

Last night Lynnderella opened an ebay shop.  And quoted the imperious and genuinely iconic Kate Moss - Never complain.  Never explain.   Ironically, Lynnderella keeps doing both.

As I got home tonight, I found out Leah Ann had dropped Lynnderella as a product line.   Lynnderella is suprised but uses it as an opportunity to pimp her ebay shop - where she is selling polishes for more than Leah Ann did.  My oh my.  How our morals and snobbery have fallen.

I am proud of Leah Ann for dropping Lynnderella.  No one person is ever THAT big, and let's face it, Lynnderella is also her own worst enemy AND the world's worst PR.   I also feel really sorry for Leah Ann.  In my eyes, I think she has only ever done the right thing, and now, I just feel she has been totally used to create MORE demand, so that someone can sell the "several thousand" bottles she has just made for $20 a pop.  

It may or may not be relevant here, but I would appeal to Rhonni and anybody who is thinking enterprising thoughts - DON'T get sucked into this game.  If Lynnderella is half as special as she thinks she is, the Universe will deliver her an answer.  Personally, I think that answer might be able to be counted on 2 fingers, but hey ......

One final thought.   I only recently got my first Lynns.  This weekend, when Leah Ann made more stock available, I bought 6 more, knowing full well that if I did so, I wouldn't be doing a grocery shop this week.  Yup, I put polish before food, that's the kind of Polishaholic I am.

 Now, sitting here, writing this, I feel sick at the thought of wearing them.  I feel sick that someone who we championed and who we put on a pedestal should be proven to have feet of clay and the integrity of a mongoose.   I am not sure I will ever want to wear them, as to me they now represent the hypocrisy, the ego and the self-aggrandisement of a brand gone bad.  Interestingly, in the last 2 days, all chatter of wanting to buy and wear Lynnderellas has died.

If we're not careful, and if we're not saved by some indiemakers with integrity, this could be The End of the indie bubble.  How ironic, if it should end up being popped by the woman who created it.

And that, goddesses, is the week that polish ate itself.

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