It was a special day for the beauty press as we all had a chance to meet privately with key members of the Wella team. Journalists, reporters and editors were escorted to the press area which was peppered with white pods that looked like igloos. Each pod represented the "room" hosting a key member of Wella, with his or her name at the entrance. These pods were oddly cozy and quiet and offered a comfortable interview setting with room for up to ten people. Although we were offered just 15 minutes with just a handful of the Wella execs, I was able to score interviews with four of my favorite people. Here are some snippets:
ADIL MEHBOOB-KHAN, President, Wella
Handsome and eloquent, Mehboob-Khan was eager to answer my question about the new name for the umbrella company...WELLA. (Up until recently, the salon division of P&G was known as P&G Salon Professionals.)
"When I started everyone had a relationship with Wella as if it was a person," he said. "We needed an umbrella concept. The company, which started in Germany, was quite innovative in color. It caught fire on its own. When I hear 'Wella is back', I am shocked. It's not a nostalgia trip...it's not that we've gone anywhere! Using the name Wella as an umbrella for all of our professional brands: Wella Professionals, Nioxin, Clairol, Sebastian, SP [a European line]...just makes sense.
"Our portfolio is king," Mehboob-Khan continued. "When a salon uses our portfolio, it thrives. When asked about how to increase business, in addition to using the Wella portfolio, it's important to start the conversation with numbers and to see which products and services really do raise revenue.
"Education is equally important. We must all attend events and go after tailored solutions. Retail should be at a minimum 10 - 20%. Owners must learn how to run their businesses well, and Wella is there to help them."
KEVIN OTERO, Wella COO
Wella products can be found all over the world and Kevin Otero oversees all the countries that carry any of the lines under the Wella umbrella. While I expected him to be neutral (Of course I don't have a favorite child!), the Otero response when I entered the room jokingly asking "So why is the US your favorite?" was a true surprise. "Well, the US is my favorite," he said. "It is where I was when I entered the business in 2006. I remember like yesterday going to the Chicago show. It was overwhelming. Now I oversee globally, and its interesting to see how different continents serve differently. In Europe, Wella has a huge range of shades. In North America we were huge in care and styling. We've learned from each other and now we are offering more color in North America and more Care and Styling, like Nioxin, in Europe.
"Globalization is great in other ways," he continued. "Training is fantastic. More ideas are generated and shared more quickly. However, there are still some interesting differences. The United States likes suds while it is seen as a negative in Europe.
"It's an exciting time for Wella. This is the best year we've had. We want to continue to be the color authority and build on our reputation of Innovation, Inspiration and Partnering. See it, feel it, believe it."
JOSH WOOD, Global Creative Director, Color
When asked about how he comes up with the Trends for Trend Vision, Josh Wood said, "It's a process of inspiration. This season we wanted to go strong and more editorial...to show diversity with color. We have more shades than we know what to do with and I wanted to offer an opportunity to use them all!"
Wood pointed out that he does rely on the predication agencies. "It's a starting point. I also attend 'Premiere Vision', a fabric show that takes place twice each year. I learn so much from what fabrics are offered and ordered. Eugene [Souleiman, Wella Global Creative Director] and I then come together and talk about the shows we've done, the shoots we've done....all we've experienced since the last time we met. The 2013 trends will be released tomorrow and I am already thinking about 2014."
The Wella trends are designed to inspire, according to Wood. "The looks from these trends are our way of giving permission to have fun..to be experimental. Do something different. Women are more willing to have a level of moderninity. We want to ignite and inspire the hairdresser. Believe me, the client wants something new. Engage the client in dialogue and you should inspire each other."
EUGENE SOULEIMAN, Global Creative Director
Eugene Souleiman is known almost as much for his inspired silhouettes as well as his own "Shabby Chic" look. We were all surprised when Souleiman walked out in a SUIT with his hair combed and coifed! "So Eugene," I asked...."What's with the new look and where's your hat?" "Oh that," he says. "My wife You Tubed me, and said 'Eug...you look like a tramp. Look at how well dressed Josh is. I love you but...that stupid hat! Take it off.' OK, so I bought a suit."
More important than 'Eug's' new fashion statement is his passion about the hairdressing profession and his fellow salon professionals. "If you're a craftsman and you believe in your craft, you will want to push the boundaries. Look at that chair for example," he said as he pointed to the white plastic chair in the igloo/pod. "The chair designer was probably inspired by a smiley face. Most people would just look at the chair and see a chair with a slit in the back. But look at it...the back is the bottom of a smiley face.
"It's really about how your perceive something," continued Souleiman. "But when you LOOK for inspiration, you will not find it. You just must be aware and excited about what surrounds you. Hairdressing as a trade is full of inspired people. We are part of our clients lives. We can just be inspired by the client...that person in the chair. I've never really met a boring person. Everyone can be inspiring. My accountant is the most creative guy I know. It's not just the numbers...but the solutions. Look at truck drivers. It's not just about getting from one point to another, but its about the journey. Inspiration is everywhere."