President and co-founder of the boutique brand Oribe, Daniel Kaner tells a compelling story for why luxury, quality and a bespoke salon experience is high on today’s consumer’s wish-list. At the heart of this tale, is the hugely creative Oribe Canales, a Cuban celebrity hairdresser famous for tending the worlds super models, actresses and pop stars.
Despite his death in 2018, it remains very much Oribe’s signature write large over all the brand stands for and does, and Daniel is determined to keep it this way. While hairdressing internationally is recovering from the Pandemic, and coping with current economic pressures and a global recruitment crisis for hairdressing, Daniel remains positive about the future of our industry providing we pay attention to consumer demand. He’s a man with a plan. Nicky Pope, publisher of Tribu-te Magazine in the UK, met with Daniel on his recent tour of Europe to find out more
Nicky: So let’s get the foundations right first: how do we measure the mark of a luxury brand now?
Daniel: Well, some might say, my son for example, that it’s a limited edition trainer that he had to wait in line to get. Some may say it’s a concert that they’re listening to… someone else might say just spending time with someone that you love or working together is a luxury. So it’s a moving target! I think most of us now are really interested and conscious of the journey and prolonging the journey because there’s so many wonderful things… it’s the experience, that’s the luxury.
Nicky: Your brand is literally a particular man, his name – how important is this personal connection do you think?
Daniel: Oribe made many great contributions which remain, for example, how the products work. He always said I would like to have last sign off on the performance of a new product, that was his non negotiable. There is his standard of design, his idea that everything matters. To start, we didn’t know what ‘luxury’ was, what made things special. But we took each component part, and broke it down. Today, it’s [luxury] our attention to sustainability to diversity, inclusion… the fact that our products work for a much broader group of people.
Nicky: Oribe products were founded the ethos of being cruelty-free, Paraben-free and so on, from the outset…
Daniel: Yes. We didn’t lead with this, but we regarded this as table stakes. Meaning that’s the beginning and then you move from there…
Nicky: How important is Oribe himself to the brand now?
Daniel: On this tour I brought along the papers from the original interview that I did with Oribe made over a year’s period of time. We met in four sittings and this folder that I’m showing you right now is the interview. Oribe was a celebrity hairdresser but he ‘had the goods’, he was so talented so charismatic. At the beginning – 15 years ago- we created his story, from his arm patterning to the packaging we liked…it’s all here still. So yes, he’s really important and we will spend a lot more time talking about his legacy. For example we’re bringing back the ‘muscle man’, the lion, the illustrations Oribe drew so years ago. We will continue to tell more of a story because this is our connection to the hairdresser.
Nicky: And how do you grow the connection?
Daniel: We have a community of 50 brand ambassadors around the world and we will build a community of the most magnificent hairdressers and technicians. For the next couple of years we’re going to have to establish what’s the journey going to look like? We need to find and reestablish the path for our partnerships and to find out where that’s going… to kind of establish whatever our new normal is.
Man with a plan
Nicky: You joined with Kao Salon Division in 2018 – what’ been the impact?
Daniel: It’s a new chapter and we’ve been finding younger people to join us. We’re starting lots of dialogues on the professional side. Then on the internal side, to talk about leadership. We will teach people, and as much as we talk about the technical side of the business, we will talk about leadership and mentoring. We’ll talk about responsibility to the community. One of our pillars is obviously sustainability; so as much as you know design and performance sustainability today becomes a new very strong pillar. You can’t make a product without being conscious of what you’re making it with and where it’s going afterwards.
Nicky: Does that conversation vary a lot globally in the different territories around the world?
Daniel: The wonderful thing about being with Kao is having third party distribution, so we have colleagues who market, they have education facilities in the market and they know the customer. So we are learning that part of this journey is to meet with our colleagues in different territories, and establish what the path will be for them. It’s so exciting because it’s the beginning again always that cycle of new growth which is fabulous.
Nicky: Do you see a distinction between hair and beauty? You previously had a wider beauty range but have maybe focused more on hair now?
Daniel: Well, did you know that for direct business in the States, Cote D’Azur – our signature fragrance – is #6 in our list of top selling products. Now we have our Desert Land creations, which like all our fragrances are shared across the portfolio. Since we started, everything that we do is shared across hair, body, beauty… We want to make sure that we’re really strong in our hair then broaden. But already we’ve done a lot with aroma… our bath and body is tremendous, so we’re growing categories in the bathroom, carefully. We will stay in beauty, but we want things to make sense. We want to make less, make better, make more targeted.
Nicky: With hair, will you be going into colour?
Daniel: Well, that’s interesting… because we get asked this a lot. We now work with one of the best colour companies in the world, being aligned with Goldwell, so probably the first step is really working on education. Colour is part of the palette for a hairdresser along with great styling and cutting. We need to be able to integrate these disciplines in one. I think we will approach colour with our colleagues but maybe with an Oribe perspective.
Nicky: In the UK we are very concerned with people going freelance going independent move away from the salon since the Pandemic. Are you concerned?
Daniel: I think we’re seeing this happening globally but not just in hair salons, were seeing it in all service industries. But look what happened to us; we had this wonderful period of stability in business and this experience like a Steven King horror story! We will settle down, but I do think there will be a move to purpose-driven work. I see a drive to back to craftsmanship and being an artist. There’s a great love and affection for working with our hands – take a look at the rise of small craft spirits, beer, bourbon or vodka, take a look at the re emergence of bakeries… there’s such move to this handmade process, and we have been customising haircuts all along. The hairdresser can customise colour, cut and styling – and the ones that do that really well are irreplaceable. The customer is people going to fight to find those people. I don’t know if you tried to go to a luxury resort during Covid, but the good ones, you can’t get in. Whether it be online, wearing masks, or in the salon, consumers are paying for experience.
Nicky: Interesting. So how can we relate this to all salons?
Daniel: Something amazing about our industry is that the consumer rationalises hair and beauty services as something that is maintenance. ‘Uh, I’ve gotta get my haircut… and I need to get my nails done…’. They go into the salon, see their hairdresser and get that amazing moment that is life changing and yet its scalable, it’s affordable. The cost is quite reasonable in most countries; maybe like having one less apple martini for €20… and maybe you want to go to the salon every 6-8 weeks! A wise woman told me once when looking at what the future holds, consider what’s not going to change in the next 10 years. And here it is; we are in the right thing, our market share is growing. We have to look at what we are the best at, and go after that, build that into your business.
Be the best, lead your team. You don’t need every hairdresser to be with you, work with your 8 to 12 stylists, be the best leader, make the best experience for your customer, make the best culture for your group, reach out into the community and you’re going to find a lot of people are going on wanna work with you.
Be the best
Nicky: What industries do you see offering this kind of service?
Daniel: Hospitality. I recommend all of your readers read ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins, he talks about technology as an accelerator. How great for your front desk to be able to say, oh it’s someone’s birthday, we can give this customer a call or send a gift. It’s good to use technology to book online, or short cut, but it’s part of the programme, we still do offer the personal. I’m very inspired by hospitality – the best hospitality is a choregraphed experience, great coffee, it’s one on one, the amenities, even the most sophisticated are still offering experience. The people online are trying to create an experience but it’s going to be harder for them. We want the warmth and touch of others!
Nicky: One last question: What’s your elevator pitch, how do you describe what you do ?
Daniel: [laughing] I’m a salesman for the most amazing hair care company in the world is what I say. I used to say I’m a storyteller but then I never get off the plane! But it’s true because we don’t really sell, we are content makers. I don’t want to lead with the bottle because so much more goes into it than that!
Thanks to Daniel for being so generous with his time on a jam-packed tour of Europe sharing the new chapter of the Oribe story with his salons. For more inspiration and news on the brand, click HERE
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