Sandy Lerner has a passion for purple - and not just because it is sometimes the colour of her waist-length hair. At 40, the computer nerd who made a mint ($200m actually) out of her Silicon Valley company Cisco Systems is the kind of woman who enjoys the odd bout of mediaeval jousting and riding a Harley. But then she discovered that the world had a purple problem.
"I got my horse trainer Pat turned on to alternative dressing. Pat's a purple person, so if she was going to be alternative, she was going to need purple nails. But we couldn't find the right shade," says Lerner. "Why are there 500 pinks and no greens or purples? There are a lot of people out there."
Thus was born Urban Decay - Lerner's alternative make-up company that is about "seeing and appreciating the beauty in the urban world around us." Its slogan is "Does Pink Make You Puke?"
Colours include Uzi (dark grey), Roach (dark brown), Frostbite (blue- black) and Pigeon (no description needed). Smog is not only beautiful, it is to die for, as is Rust, Oil Slick and Road Stripe. For purple there is Bruise, Asphyxia, Plague, Gangrene or Pallor. New colours include Gash and Shattered ("the colour of a smashed-in windshield").
"Bruise used to be our best seller. Now it's Shattered," says Sandi Langman of the Future store in Portland, Oregon, whose Mildew nails are set off by a tartan skirt and cowboy boots. Langman figures Chanel started it all with Vamp - probably the only fingernail polish ever to make the news on CNN. It was Uma's fingerprint in Pulp Fiction, and unit for unit it is Chanel's best-selling product ever. It was sold here, or more accurately, sold out, as Rouge Noir. But this autumn Britain gets to sample Metallic Vamp and Very Vamp.
Urban Decay wants to rattle the very idea of what is beautiful, and perhaps it's on to something here. Paint companies could use a brush with reality too. Who would want Primrose Yellow in the kitchen if you could buy Chip Grease? What about Rising Damp, Mouse Droppings or Water Stain? Imagine the colourways to explore with the likes of Migraine or Compost or Slug Trail. Cushion covers will never be the same. Forget truth in advertising, prepare for the brutal truth. Don't-miss colours for cars could include Asthma, Lead or Fatal Attraction.
But back to make-up. Sandy Lerner hates the Barbie Syndrome (the Urban Decay website is collecting Barbie Horror Stories) and believes she is doing something about it. "There are a lot of women frustrated with what the make-up companies want them to look like. Imagine wearing a business suit with Uzi fingernails. You can conform and have your little tantrum at the same time. A lot of investment bankers I know would lower their blood pressure 20 to 30 points if they had Smog fingernails."
The Future is not Orange. The Future is Rust.
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