Portland’s Claws Out Uses Nail Polish to Fight Trumpism

"We had the idea we could use this project as a way to raise money for things we really care about and we were afraid were in jeopardy.”

Photo credit: Claws Out

When Eden Dawn and her husband, Ashod Simonian, first considered starting a creative side project together, it seemed a little too ambitious to actually make happen. The two already had full-time jobs, and precious little free time.

Then, overnight, their priorities shifted.

"We talked about nail polish for a little bit, but it didn't really go anywhere," says Dawn, fashion editor at Portland Monthly. "Then came Donald Trump, barreling into the lives of all of us. We had the idea we could use this project as a way to raise money for things we really care about and we were afraid were in jeopardy."

Six months after the election, Dawn and Simonian launched Claws Out, a company perhaps best described as a small-scale charitable fund masquerading as a nail polish line.

Each color in the line—which is sold online and in more than 40 stores locally and nationally—is dedicated to a specific group or nonprofit: 20 percent of the profits from each of the nine different hues helps fund its inspiration. The gold-flaked "Matriarchy" supports Moms Demand Action, a group pushing for stricter gun laws. The bright pink "Uterus" gives to Planned Parenthood, while the warm gray "Darcelle" donates to Camp Kids Connection, an Oregon summer camp for HIV-positive or -affected children.

(Claws Out)

"The only way we could give more money," Dawn says, "was to make more money."

Making politics a core part of branding is a growing phenomenon. Trump's divisive rhetoric has, in many ways, been the catalyst for an overlapping of consumerism and activism. Last December, for example, apparel maker Patagonia sued President Trump for rescinding the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, a move that ended up being "great for business," according to CEO Rose Marcario. Even closer to home is Wildfang's extremely popular "Wild Feminist" line of graphic tees and hoodies.

But overt political stances aren't always a boon.

In March, a few weeks after being invited on KGW-TV's Portland Today to talk about Claws Out, Dawn was informed via email the segment wouldn't be airing "based on a few of the pointed political references."

"Portland Today is mostly entertainment, but still under the news umbrella of KGW, so we have a responsibility to stay balanced," read KGW's email to Dawn. "Thanks so much for your understanding."

The ousting, Dawn told WW at the time, did little to hinder sales.

"One man sent me a message through Instagram that he felt so annoyed about the whole KGW thing he woke up and painted his nails despite not being a guy who paints his nails," she said, "because it was a way he could think to show support."

TV producers aside, Dawn says financial transparency is crucial, and an ethical cornerstone she finds lacking in many companies with espoused "feminist" views.

"In my day job, I would get all these press releases about things like T-shirts that say 'Girl Power' because 'feminism is the way to go,'" she says. "Then I would read the press release for the company and it would just be made over—not supporting women-owned business, not donating to any groups. It was just total bullshit marketing fluff. And I was so annoyed by it.

"I believe in being really transparent, because if you're not doing anything really shady, then why wouldn't you be?"

Most of Claws Out's partnerships with nonprofits are personal, either because Dawn and Simonian already donate to the organization, or because Dawn has used its services or worked with key individuals in the past.

"When I was in college at Portland State University, Planned Parenthood was my only health care," she says, "and we all know the Republican agenda on women's reproductive rights, so that one was a no-brainer."

Dawn adds that ethical manufacturing of the polish is equal in importance to the causes the company champions. All the colors are mixed in the U.S., are not tested on animals and are vegan. And the labels are produced by small, women-owned printing companies.

"We are a feminist-run company that is trying to do good things for the world, and we believe in progressive ideals," Dawn says. "The nail polish is simply a nice thing we like that is our tool to help do that."

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