Tips to Start Your Own Haircare Line From 3 Major Founders

With the rise in popularity of Instagram, came the rise in popularity of the people behind-the-scenes, enter: celebrity hairstylists, makeup artists and fashion stylists.  These days, celebrity hairstylists can be just as famous (if not more so) than their clients, but just like most things on Instagram, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to one’s life and business. Sure, we know the names and products of our favorite celebrity hairstylists haircare lines, but what we don’t know is what went into launching their respective brand – the ups and the downs, the day-to-day. So, we decided to dive deeper and share the story of three celebrity hairstylists haircare lines. Keep reading to find out how the founders of R+Co, IGK and Christophe Robin started their brands, maintain a balanced life and continue to overcome obstacles.

R+Co

Cool-girl haircare brand R+Co was founded by Howard McLaren, Garren and Thom Priano, three hair master minds, stylists and groomers for major fashion editorial shoots and some of Hollywood’s most elite A-listers. Here, Howard, Co-founder and Creative Director of R+Co, shares the trio’s R+Co journey.

Howard McLaren R+Co celebrity hairstylist haircare lines
via R+Co

What was your first idea for a product?

The first product was  HIGH DIVE Moisture + Shine Crème. It was a hybrid product, and we made it for our needs. It captures a texture [that] people were not getting anywhere else and this product is now #1 in sales .

Biggest challenge you faced along the way?

Trying to keep the cost down was probably the main challenge. We used stock packaging and did the design ourselves, so we could keep great ingredients and formulas. We wanted to keep the products at an affordable price point.

The other challenge was focusing on education and trying to get hairdressers to go back to being hairdressers, to the craftsmanship, the artistry. We wanted to look at the hairdresser and help them keep up with the demand of the new consumer. Today consumers want to know who is making these products and why, transparency is important.

How long did it take you to get from beginning ideas to launching your first collection of products?

Three years.

What space did you see in the market when launching your first products?

We’re going back to the consumer, s/he didn’t want the big brands, they were looking for a niche brand, that looked and felt different. There was a gap in the market and we wanted to target this new consumer that came along. We wanted to make a brand where the products came from artists instead of marketing.

How do you balance your schedule between styling clients, running your brand and your personal life?

You can’t do it. You don’t have a life, if you want to grow a brand it’s 24/7, that’s the time it takes. Your brand is your life. It means you’ll have a hectic life, haha.

Advice to other stylists or industry professionals looking to start their own hair brand?

Focus on the market you want to reach and who you want to talk to. The industry has changed so much, products have to be consumer focused. Identify who you are trying to sell to. Bring hybrid products based on classics, [in order] to bring classics into the future. Bring a brand that people can follow and get excited about.

Make sure you have enough money to grow the brand, it’s an investment, in cash, for a few years to make it to profit.

IGK

IGK‘s product line just launched in 2016 and has quickly become a cult-favorite hair brand that shows no signs of slowing down. The brand, which has salons in New York, Miami and L.A., is known for it’s innovative products with cheeky names, (enter: Expensive, Rich Kid and Sunday Funday, just to name a few) and is lead by it’s four co-founders Aaron Grenia, Leo Izquierdo, Franck Izquierdo and Chase Kusero. The foursome talked to us about their dream team and how they work together to create the products that we all love so much.

 

IGK celebrity hairstylist haircare brand
via IGK

What was your first idea for a product?

Franck: Our first idea for a product was RICH KID Coconut Oil Gel. We wanted to create a product that would give you that perfect lived-in, air-dried texture, that women could use every day and would be good for the health and style of their hair. We’d started to hear a lot about coconut oil and that it’s so good for you to eat and is great on your skin and in your hair. We tried it and we were able to create this weightless gel formula that moisturizes hair while giving it naturally air dried, tousled texture.

Biggest challenge you faced along the way?

Aaron: Starting a brand is a huge challenge. We had been doing hair, managing salons–we knew how to do that. When you start a brand, you think you know what to expect and what to do but there’s so much that goes into it. Especially in the beginning and even now, it feels like every day you find a new challenge, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting. And that’s why we have a team, we’re all working towards this common goal together.

How long did it take you to get from beginning ideas to launching your first collection of products?

Chase: The ideas came pretty naturally to us because we’d been in the salons and around hair most of our lives. We had so many things we wanted to create, make better or do differently right from the start. Once we decided what we wanted to include in our line, we spent a little over two years testing and refining each formula to make it the best it could be.

 Franck: We’re in salons everyday working with clients, so we know what they’re looking for and what they’ll actually use. We get a lot of product inspiration from our clients, their routines and the trends we’re seeing. Then, we test all of our products in our salon with clients and our stylists, so we know they’ll work in the salon and at home.

What space did you see in the market when launching your first products?

Aaron: As hair stylists, we’ve worked with a lot of different products and when we started our own line we wanted to bring out something that was really different and better than what we’d been using. We wanted products with good, quality ingredients, that are vegan, cruelty-free and free from gluten, parabens, sulfates – things we know are bad for your hair. Most importantly, we wanted products that do what they say they’re going to do. Hair can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Our products are straightforward, easy to understand and easy to use.

 Leo: Yes, and a lot of that inspiration came from our clients. We know what they’re able and willing to do at home, their lifestyles and how much effort they want to put in. We made our products with that in mind – giving them the hair they want in a way that works with their lifestyle and isn’t too difficult. The timing was key, too – so many hair brands had been out for a long time, there was an opportunity for something fresh.

How do you balance your schedule between styling clients, running your brand and your personal life?

Chase: Right now, we’re growing so quickly it can be hard to find that balance. Everyday is full, and I’m usually doing a little of everything at once. When I’m at the salon, the clients are the number one focus. For the brand, it’s constant. We’re always texting, talking about what’s next, thinking of new ideas and trying products in the salon. It’s exciting and it’s what we’re working towards.

Leo: It can be tough to balance, and I don’t like to plan. I like to live in the moment, show up and challenge myself. Personally, I always make time for a morning workout (boxing, tennis or running) and I try to see friends at night. At the salon, we always have a morning meeting to get everyone on the same page about the priorities of the day, which helps us focus. For the brand, it’s a part of everything. We take inspiration from our clients and our lives (fashion, art, music) for new ideas and we’re always thinking of or testing new products. Everything kind of flows together.

Advice to other stylists or industry professionals looking to start their own hair brand?

Franck: Listen to your clients and what they say they’re using the most or missing the most from their routines and try to create to meet those needs and make something good for the hair and for the environment. We decided from the start to keep our products free from sulfates, parabens, gluten, petrolatum and mineral oil, and to be vegan and cruelty-free. It’s so important and it gives you better products.

Christophe Robin

Christophe Robin launched his self-titled haircare line in 1999 but before that, Robin was the owner of a French boutique salon and the stylist to actresses like Catherine Deneuve, Vanessa Paradis and Kristin Scott Thomas. The Mane Master gives us a glimpse into his life as a celebrity hair stylist and salon and brand owner.

Christophe Robin celebrity hairstylist haircare brand
via Matthew Brookes

What was your first idea for a product?

When I created my first two products it was in the early ’90s, I was working on sets with the supermodels at the time and changing their hair colors four to five times a week sometimes. Imagine the damage! I needed something to protect their hair and something to gently cleanse it, to make sure the color would always be beautiful. This is how I created my moisturizing hair oil with lavender and my cleansing mask with lemon – my favorite duo!

Biggest challenge you faced along the way?

When I created my first products, the small lab at the time that agreed to help me told me: “These are the best formulas we have ever made, but you will never sell them!”. This was at the beginning of the silicones, wash-and-go, nobody had the time for a low-poo shampoo! Somehow, I trusted my instincts and today they are still my top sellers!

How long did it take you to get from beginning ideas to launching your first collection of products?

Once you have the idea, things can go really quickly. For me, it took some time finding the right lab and a lab that would want to work with me! 

What space did you see in the market when launching your first products?

As a colorist, I felt there weren’t a lot of brands formulated for color-treated hair. It’s essential to take good care of your hair if you want to have a long-lasting and beautiful color, so this gap made a lot of sense for me to go after.

How do you balance your schedule between styling clients, running your brand and your personal life?

At one point, my life really got crazy busy, and it was way too much to handle, one day in Mexico City, the next morning in Dubai…

If you want to last in this business it’s important to learn how to balance all of this. Today, my priorities are my brand and my salon, they really keep me grounded and it’s what I love most – I still travel but I make sure that I can be home on weekends and relax! 

Advice to other stylists or industry professionals looking to start their own hair brand?

Commit to great formulations and believe that things will work out!

Want more tips from the pros? See some of your favorite celebrity hairstylists’ favorite drugstore hair products here.

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