"Like Flowers, But with Garbage!" Get the Chic Swiss Topcoat Jennifer Lawrence Raves About In "American Hustle"

I put that journalism degree I never got to real good use unearthing this one.
Publish date:
January 13, 2014
shoppables, nail polish, American Hustle, Mavala, topcoat, switzerland

I FINALLY watched "American Hustle" last week. I don't know what took me so long -- because it's not like I had to drag my ass to a movie theater. As a member of a guild, I get DVDs of all the year's Oscar hopefuls delivered right to my doorstep so I can watch them in the privacy of my own home. (I think I may have gotten "American Hustle" before it even came out in the theater.)

I actually wind up throwing most of them away, because I am a horrible boring person who doesn't really have the attention span for movies. I bum myself out, too, if it's any consolation.

I was excited to watch "American Hustle" -- because the 70s are my favorite decade for drugs, beauty, fashion and just about everything else. But especially the fashion.

But watching the movie left me with a few burning questions that it seemed only the Internet could answer. Marci answered the first one when she caught the same beauty blunder I did within about the first minute of the film:

Because, um, DUH --the film takes place in 1978, but Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale with a gut) sprays his complicated do with L'Oreal Elnett, which wasn't actually available in the US until 2008. Since I've gotten boatloads of L'Oreal swag on every show I've ever done, I'm chalking this one up to simple product placement.

But questions still remained for me about the film. (Skip ahead to :24 in the clip below to see what I'm talking about.)

"Like flowers, but with garbage?" What is this magical Swiss topcoat Golden Globe winner Jennifer Lawrence's character Rosalyn was referring to? Does it really exist? Is it still being made? And how can I get my hands on some?

I put the movie back on and fast-forwarded to the end, hoping to see if I could read the label:

Which didn't really help at all. It looks vaguely Swiss, for sure, and appears to have the word '"color" on the label. I asked this question in the comments of Marci's beauty blunder post and a clever reader instantly responded: "It might have been Mavala Suisse!"

After some extended Googling and super sleuthing, I became pretty sure she was dead right. I was convinced that the topcoat referred to in the film is a Mavala product called Colorfix. But as my high school journalism teacher always said: "Don't tell me, sell me!" So I set out to investigate. (But first I ordered a bottle to be sent to my house on the double.)

Mavala Colorfix is a clear top coat reinforced with acryl, (a cousin of what they use in acrylic nails) which dries to a hard, elastic glaze. It claims to "fix" the nail color, giving it a brilliant shine. So, it's the original gel polish topcoat? Except I don't have to soak it off with acetone and tin foil at the nail salon? Sign me up!

Mavala was founded in Switzerland in 1958, and started their own professional manicure school in London in 1969. All their products are still developed and manufactured in glamorous Geneva, Switzerland.

While doggedly pursuing this nail polish mystery, I found a vintage magazine ad for what appears to be a different Mavala nail product from 1964:

The fine print reads as follows:

This ad only served to confuse me -- because if it's from 1964, and the film is meant to take place in 1978, it stands to reason that their products would have already been available in the US by then, right? But the ad does give weight to the idea that it was a cult product, brought back from Europe by wealthy travelers, which is part of the storyline in the movie. So I took a chance and wrote to the PR rep for Mavala, hoping for a confirmation.

Dear Alison,

I saw the movie and you can bet when I first heard about a Swiss top coat that doesn't chip, my ears perked up right away. But my hopes were soon dashed when they spoke about odor. Mavala's Colorfix is Swiss, chip proof and probably the best top coat in the world, but when it dries, it is completely odorless....no flowers and certainly no garbage.

So as much as we like the thought that this wonderful, chip proof top coat from Switzerland is indeed Colorfix, the second part of the equation forces us to advise that it is definitely not our wonderful Colorfix.

Best regards,

Richard Nelson, Mavala-USA

Of course no company wants their product to be associated with garbage, what did I think he was going to say? But never mind this whole beauty mystery for a minute, let's discuss how the polish I ordered actually worked.

I used the Colorfix topcoat on my dull, rough, two week-old manicure that I had recently covered with glitter in an attempt to salvage it. It goes on really smoothly for how thick it is, and after it dried, my nails had a great shine that seemed to be three-dimensional -- almost glass-like?

The Colorfix is almost more of a glaze than a topcoat. It felt like a layer on my nails, and the shine held up even though I spent a good amount of time digging in my garden over the weekend.

But it does take a good while to fully dry -- like at least 30 minutes. Since I am a person who waits a full two hours after a manicure before doing anything too hard on my nails, it didn't bother me at all.

And now the questions you read this far for -- am I right? Is this really the polish Rosalyn was wild for in "American Hustle"? And more importantly, does it really smell like flowers, but with garbage?

Well, yes and no. As for the first question, Mavala's PR department advised me (in a follow-up email, I bugged that poor guy like 12 times) that the Colorfix topcoat didn't hit the market until the 1980s. But if you'll remember, the topcoat in that vintage ad up there doesn't have a product name -- it's simply billed as Mavala. So it stands to reason that the original late 60s formula got a rebranding in the 80s to become their current Colorfix.

And as to the second question? It does have a strong odor that really is sort of sweet and sour. (Yep, almost like flowers and garbage!) It actually smells like a super-sweet hard candy that's been soaked in rubbing alcohol -- you almost want to eat it, but something about it puts you off.

I believe it's just a hop, skip and a jump from my description to the film's screenwriters embellishing the chemical laden scent as "flowers, but with garbage." After all, most dudes (and girls alike) are inclined to think nail polish smells pretty bad. Once it dries, it is pretty much odorless -- but nail polish does, after all, smell like nail polish, so I could see someone commenting on the smell.

Plus, I could find no other reference anywhere to a super glossy top coat from Switzerland that resists chips (just as J. Law said!) and was a cult object in the late 1970s. The fact that the writers fudged the years it was actually available in the states doesn't surprise me much either. After all, nothing in Hollywood is real, remember?

There is zero doubt in my mind that the topcoat Rosalyn was so hooked on in "American Hustle" is most definitely meant to be Mavala's Colorfix -- and it's a really great product! It's become my new go-to topcoat.

I hope you enjoyed this bit of hard-hitting investigative reporting. After all, I did letter in journalism in high school -- and I'll bet you didn't even realize that was possible.

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.