Vamp Nail Polish

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Vamp nail polish (originally Rouge Noir), created in 1994, is a dark red and black nail polish made by Chanel. It was at one time Chanel's best-selling cosmetic and was, at the turn of the century, the fifth best selling nail polish in the world. Vamp has been credited with bringing dark, non-traditional polish colors into the mainstream of late twentieth century cosmetics.


Vamp was created in 1994[1] by Dominique Moncourtois, Chanel's director of makeup creation.[2] Moncourtois was inspired by Karl Lagerfeld,[3] who asked him for a dark polish that would show up in the black and white photos that Lagerfeld was making to introduce his 1995 Spring/Summer Chanel Ready-to-wear collection.[2] Moncourtois didn't have such a color, but he improvised with ordinary red polish covered with black marker ink and a clear top-coat.[2]

According to the New York Times, the color "dominated the imagination of the masses" in 1994.[4] The day after Lagerfeld's runway show, Madonna called Chanel's Paris office hoping to obtain some.[2] By 1995, Chanel had diversified the concept into two similar shades as well as matching lipstick.[5] These included a "purple and silvery" variety called "Metallic Vamp".[6] The polish was priced at $15 a bottle[7] and sold extremely well, with nationwide shortages for months after its introduction.[3] It became Chanel's best selling product.[2] By 1996, Newsweek was reporting that the color was "finally out of style",[8] but even into 2000, it was the fifth best-selling nail polish in the world.[2]

Lasting effect on fashion[edit]

Before Chanel introduced Vamp, dark, non-traditional polish colors were shunned by mainstream cosmetics companies and their customers.[9] Vamp was responsible for setting "in motion a widespread trend that made nail polish in virtually any color acceptable".[9] According to Melinda Davis, the "extraordinary phenomenon of Vamp" was the fons et origo of a late twentieth century trend of "[a]n entire generation of wily, sexy women ... using a new category of 'black widow spider' cosmetics to express their sexual power".[10] Chanel's introduction of Vamp has been credited with inspiring the foundation of a number of edgy new cosmetics lines in the late twentieth century, including Urban Decay[11] and Hard Candy.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

Uma Thurman wore Vamp in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction[1] where, as Randy Laist notes, her character "manages to retain her deadly signification and support the narrative of danger that structures her date with Vincent, however, through the semantic value of her Chanel Vamp nail polish, the brand name of which refers back to a history of cinematic femmes fatales".[12] Madonna wore it in the December 1994 video of Take a Bow.[3] By 1997, it was mentioned in "Welcome to the Hellmouth", the series premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as an archetypal example of something that was "Um, over? So over."[13]


  1. ^ a b "Haute Black". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland. January 3, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Face up to avant garde". The Straits Times. Singapore. August 3, 2000.
  3. ^ a b c Lydia Martin (April 25, 1995). "Hot Fashion Tips: Black-as-Night Nails Vamp It Up". The Miami Herald.
  4. ^ "The Most Lucrative Form of Flattery". New York Times. October 7, 2013. p. E3.(subscription required)
  5. ^ "Fashion Notes". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. August 24, 1995.
  6. ^ "Team Players". New York Magazine: 119. September 11, 1995.
  7. ^ Carole Watson (December 3, 2002). "Book Paints Makeup Biz in New Light". New York Post.
  8. ^ Lucy Howard; Carla Koehl (April 22, 1996). "Pigments for a post-vamp era". Newsweek. 127 (17).
  9. ^ a b Victoria Sherrow (January 1, 2001). For Appearance' Sake: The Historical Encyclopedia of Good Looks, Beauty, and Grooming. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-57356-204-1. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Melinda Davis (October 21, 2002). The New Culture of Desire: 5 Radical New Strategies That Will Change Your Business and Your Life. Simon and Schuster. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-7432-4790-0.
  11. ^ "Nails: Metallica". Vibe: 128. November 1996.
  12. ^ "Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Baudrillard's Perfect Crime". International Journal of Baudrillard Studies. 10 (1). January 2013. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  13. ^ Rita Ponweiser. Kulturspezifika und Anspielungen in der multimedialen Übersetzung am Beispiel der amerikanischen Fernsehserie "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (Masterarbeit) (PDF). Universität Wien. p. 61. Retrieved April 18, 2014. Cordelia: [...] If you hang with me and mine, you'll be accepted in no time. Of course, we do have to test your coolness factor. You're from L.A., so you can skip the written, but let's see. Vamp nail polish.
    Buffy: Um, over?
    Cordelia: So over. James Spader.
    Buffy: He needs to call me!