Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gimme Gimme Gimme - Getting your hands on Aussie indies internationally

I've been getting a few questions lately from international readers about how they can get their hands on the delightful Australian polishes I'm so fond of showing off around here, so I thought it might be useful to put all my advice on squashing Aussie lemmings in the one place.

Just let me state something first, for the record: posting nail polish from Australia, if you don't have the appropriate license to do so, is illegal. It IS legal to post domestically so long as you specify that it's to travel by road only, but the actual implementation of this can vary widely between post offices. Some refuse to post it at all, some don't care. You just have to take your chances. But unless you have the appropriate license, posting polish internationally from Australia is always illegal.
So there's that technicality out of the way. On to how to source the shinies!

Step 1. Go Straight to the Source

If you're lusting after an Australian lovely, the first thing to do is check whether the brand is able to ship internationally. Not all Australian indies are able to do this, but quite a few have gotten the paperwork and licensing in order and are able to ship to lots of international locations directly. A lot of this information is already listed in my Shopping Guide, but I figure it's worth including here too. The brands I know of that you can buy directly from internationally include;
Pretty Serious
Femme Fatale Cosmetics
Alanna Renee
Dead Set Babes
Glam Polish
Love Thy Polish.

Step 2: Hit The Shops

If the brand you want doesn't ship internationally, then your next step is check out some resellers who stock Australian indies. There are lots of these around, so you've got a pretty good chance of finding what you want, even if it is at a slightly higher price. While resellers charge more per item, the shipping costs can be dramatically lower than shipping from Australia, depending on where it's going. Resellers are also often a good place to look for discontinued stock after the brand has sold out of their supply - often they'll have gotten their stock a bit later, and so it's available for a bit longer than through the brand directly.

The reseller I hit up most frequently is Color 4 Nails, because they are not only a reliable source of discontinued Aussie indies, they also stock indie brands like A England and Esmaltes da Kelly which are impossible for us Aussies to get directly from the brand. (In addition to the indie goodness, they stock mainstream brands like Essie for about $15 less than the Australian retail price, but that's probably less relevant if you live somewhere that sells them for a reasonable price.) I've always found the customer service from Color 4 Nails excellent - the shipping is a little costly, but everything always arrives quickly and totally safe. The owner also keeps the Color 4 Nails Instagram very up to date with swatches of new polishes, so you can have a good browse before you buy.

The Australian brands stocked by Color 4 Nails that aren't able to ship internationally directly include Celestial Cosmetics and Shades of Phoenix. If you need some more pretties to round out your basket, Color 4 Nails also carry Alanna Renee, Femme Fatale Cosmetics, Glam Polish, and Pretty Serious.

Mei Mei's Signatures is another site I find myself browsing fairly often. Like Color 4 Nails, Mei Mei's stocks a combination of indies and mainstream polishes that are viciously overpriced here, which often equals doom for my wallet.  I've only had one issue buying from Mei Mei's; once a polish from my order accidentally got shipped with someone else's order, but the owner was incredibly quick to respond, offer me options, and ship me out a new bottle on the double. I was SUPER impressed with this, as it's often when things go wrong that otherwise perfectly pleasant small business owners can really drop the ball. But Mei Mei's Signatures reacted calmly, quickly, and very helpfully, so I would totally recommend giving them your dollars. Speaking of dollars, keep in mind all prices are listed in Singapore Dollars - this always throws me, but it's easy enough to Google a conversion. The Mei Mei's Signatures Instagram account is always bursting with swatches too, which is really helpful for decision making when they stock so many, MANY pretties.

The Australian indies that Mei Mei's stock that aren't able to ship internationally include Arcane Lacquer, Celestial Cosmetics, Emily de Molly, Mckfresh Nail Attire, Sayuri Nail Lacquer, and Shades of Phoenix. You can also pick up Femme Fatale Cosmetics, Glam Polish, Love Thy Polish, and Pretty Serious while you're there.

I haven't bought from Harlow and Co for a while now, but don't recall any significant issues when I did. Harlow and Co stock a huge variety of international indies, including a couple of Aussie indies, and are based in Canada so they might be a better option postage wise than the US based sellers for my maple leaf loving readers.
Australian indies stocked by Harlow and Co include Arcane Lacquer, Femme Fatale Cosmetics, Glam Polish, Love Thy Polish, and Pretty Serious,

Now, the next two resellers I want to mention are ones I haven't actually shopped at personally, just because I don't really need to source Australian indies from resellers that often. However, I haven't heard anything bad about their service either, which is always a positive sign in a community known for spreading gossip like butter and "glitterbombing" anyone who stuffs up.

Beauty So Fly are based in Singapore, like Mei Mei's, and also list all their prices is Singapore Dollars, but have a much smaller range of Australian indies available. Lilypad Lacquer and Prettypots Polish are available, as well as Femme Fatale Cosmetics.

Norway Nails is probably the best bet for anyone based in Europe looking for Australian indies. The US and Singapore based ones that are close to me are not exactly convenient for those of you in, well, Norway, so it's neat that there's a business covering that other side of the world. All prices are listed in Norwegian Krone, and the exchange rate makes this a ferociously expensive option for those of us earning Australian pesos, but for those of you with money that's actually worth something on the global market the prices aren't too bad.

The Australian indies available from Norway Nails that don't ship internationally directly include Arcane Lacquer, Emily de Molly, Lilypad Lacquer, Miss Ashleigh and Prettypots Polish. You can also scoop up lovelies from Alanna Renee, Femme Fatale, Glam Polish, Pretty Serious, and Love Thy Polish.

Step 3: Become a Smuggler

So what to do if NONE of these suggestions can get you what you want? People who don't understand might tell you it's no big deal, and to forget about the perfect polish you just can't get. I say those people are fools, and coveted pretties are ALWAYS worth the effort. And if you can't get your mitts on what you want through conventional commercial means, it's time to investigate smuggling.

Now, just to reiterate, sending polish to your friends in the post is illegal. It's bad, and naughty, and pretty much every postal service in the world says it's a big no-no. If you're in the UK, Royal Mail actually have a habit of destroying packages leaving the country that are found to have polish in them without the correct authorisation, but most other countries will just return it to the sender.


IF you CHOOSE to send polish to people, or get people to send polish to you, of your own FREE WILL, there are a couple of options available. If you scout around the internets, there are quite often polish fanatics holding blog sales, where they sell off their unwanted polish for wildly variable prices. Sometimes the prices are amazingly low, sometimes jawdroppingly high, you rolls the dice and you takes your chances. There are also a couple of communities set up on Facebook to facilitate these type of sales: Just Indies is, as the name suggests, just for indie polish sales and The Nearly No Rules Polish Sales Group also has a lot of Aussie indie sales on a regular basis.

If no one is selling what you're looking for though, you might have to consider getting together a polish swap. While this can be a totally awesome and mutually beneficial arrangement, there are a few precautions you should keep in mind. Lacquerheads of Oz did a very useful summary post on just this topic, covering all the basics, but I have a few additions from my own experience.

Firstly, always swap with someone who has done it before if you can. Places to look for potential swap partners are The Safe Swap Society, which is dedicated to polish swapping in general, and The Australian Indie Polish Appreciation Society, who are dedicated to Aussie indie polishes in particular. A first time swapper isn't always a dealbreaker, but I would recommend looking for an experienced swapper first.

Secondly, make sure you're both on the same page about what you're agreeing to. There are a hundred different ways to negotiate a swap; will you be swapping bottle for bottle, or dollar for dollar? Are you just sending someone money, and they send you back polish? Whatever works for you is fine, but make sure it works for both of you, and that you've both explicitly agreed on what you're each expecting.

Thirdly, when you've found a partner, done the negotiation, and have your package ready to go, (this is starting to sound more like a date the more I talk about it) make sure you take a couple of pictures of the package and it's contents. If you can afford it, postage with tracking is always the best bet, but this can be ferociously expensive, so at the very least make sure you have pictures to prove the package existed in the first place if it goes wandering.

And lastly, communicate, communicate, communicate! Let your swapee know what's going on at every stage of the process. Most people won't mind waiting a bit to get what they want, but long silences invite paranoia and it's horrible cousin drama. Let them know when you order the polish you're swapping, when it arrives, when you're sending it out again. It's always better to be the person sending too many emails and keeping someone too up to date than the person that has to be kicked to give a response.

Step 4: Ask Aunty Femme

If all these methods fail you, and the pretties are still hanging tantalisingly just out of reach, you can always send me an email and I will investigate your situation. I love putting people and polish together, and if it's possible, I am always happy to make it happen!

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