Jan Arnold’s father, Dr. Stuart S. Nordstrom, a dentist and a chemist, came up with the industry-changing concept that would later become Shellac when a patient commented on how her tooth filling compound smelled strangely similar to her nail salon.
That was 40 years ago, and this year the family-founded Creative Nail Design (CND) is celebrating the milestone in a major way. The brand partnered with California’s Oceanside Museum, located in the very town where CND was born, to create an exhibit that pays homage to nail art and artisans, a community the brand has closely aligned itself with since its start.
The multi-room exhibit Tiny Canvases: The Art of Nails takes a trip down memory lane. One room is plastered with black and white photos dedicated to the talented team of nail artists that represent CND; one’s walls are covered with a timeline that details the brand’s milestones; and one pays tribute to the thousands of nail designs created for photoshoots and fashion week shows. To say CND has an incredible past would be an understatement, but Arnold, who inherited the patent from her father when he passed, is only looking forward.
American Salon headed to the West Coast to check out the exhibit and catch up with Arnold in her hometown of San Diego, where we chatted about what the anniversary means to her, the beauty product that’s always with her and what she’s doing to ensure the brand’s legacy lives on.
Forty years is incredible. What does this anniversary mean to you? It’s a celebration of a company that touched an industry and touched lives in a really special way. It was never about profit or selling products—the goal was to empower the nail professional with the intelligence to deliver excellence. That was always the inspiration and the ultimate vision, and that path is what helped us attract educators, the best brand ambassadors and the most passionate individuals who embraced that mission and gave it everything they had. Our goal always was, and still is, to advance the state of the industry—just doing what was expected wasn’t enough.
Is there anything you would have done differently? If there hadn’t been any hiccups along the way, and we had plenty for sure, I don’t think we would have been as strong as a brand or tenacious about our success. Even some of our product failures led to huge success. A great example of that is our first odorless liquid and powder called Turbo (long before odorless was ever a thing). I loved the product, but it was hard to use and required an elevated level of education, so adoption was low. Not even a year later, we said ‘Okay, never mind, let’s pull it back.’ The same technology we used to create Turbo was later used to create Retention Plus Liquid and Powder five years later, and today that’s still the gold standard. That said, my motto has always been, ‘Show up to work every day and have fun, mistakes included.’ That’s still true—it’s been 40 years of fun.
Speaking of fun—Who would you want to play you in a biopic? I hope Steven Tyler would! The movie would be masculine, feminine, rock ’n’ roll fun, so he would be the perfect fit.
If you named a nail polish after you, what would it be called? Jammin’ Jan. I’d want it to be something bold and powerful.
You’re surrounded by beauty products all the time. What’s one that you absolutely cannot live without? I’m a little biased, but I’d pick CND Solar Oil. It can fix any issue—nails and otherwise.
Last but not least, what are you personally going to do to ensure CND’s legacy lives on? I’ll try my hardest to keep the nail pro on the pedestal that we’ve always had them on. That was something my dad instilled me way back in the beginning—the nail pro is who we are here to serve, and their happiness, their needs, their intelligence are all part of our mission. In the 40 years that we’ve just celebrated, I feel like that mission has kept us on track. There are a lot of distractions along the way that can take you off track, but as long as you keep that mission in mind, it’s super easy.