On Set With DevaCurl's Colin Walsh
Ask a stylist what professional beauty brand is synonymous with curly hair, and DevaCurl will more than likely be at the center of conversation. The multi-cultural beauty brand founded 12 years ago by Lorraine Massey started where all successful beauty stories begin, in the salon. With a cult-like following of #devacurlgirls, the business has thrived in the natural hair care market by listening to consumers’ needs and supporting stylists with reliable products, services and education. At a recent DevaCurl photo shoot, MODERN SALON sat down with CEO Colin Walsh and asked for an update on the brand’s future.
“Everything starts with people and this year has been focused on creating and building a team that is as remarkable as the brand has been.”
MODERN SALON: Share the vision and thought process behind DevaCurl’s reintroduction into the market.
Colin Walsh: The history of DevaCurl is an incredible one. The salons started over 20 years ago and the product line started over 12. This is our opportunity to reveal how remarkable our brand is, and more importantly, the people behind it, the stories that exist of every curly girl that’s ever walked into our salons or picked up a product. You’re really sharing the stories and the content of people’s lives as opposed to any refinement of the logo.
MS: Describe what the process was like to share those stories?
Walsh: I’ve been in this industry for 14 years, but I’ve only been at DevaCurl for a year and it’s like I’ve discovered an entirely new world. Everything I’ve loved about this industry, which is human connection, understanding and self-expression, is at an entirely different level at Deva. I can walk up to any curly girl on the planet and ask her about her hair and it will unpack the biggest conversation, which is a privilege and an exciting part of what we do. You don’t have to market that. You don’t have to shape it, sculpt it or change it. You just have to listen, support and then help.
MS: With that, what’s been one of the biggest challenges that you’ve experienced?
Walsh: I’m not trying to use cute words to reframe this, but it’s not necessarily a challenge, it’s all an opportunity. Everything Deva has done has been remarkable. It’s born of this honest, deep, profound commitment to curly girls and helping them naturally be who they are, embrace who they are, express it to the world and share it. The business opportunity is to build this structure and scale around that so we can share it with more people. It’s not behind any ambition to become a big company, it’s behind an ambition to make big change, to create a big opportunity and reach many people who haven’t heard – because I think DevaCurl is still one of the best kept secrets. Those who know us, love us, but not enough women know we exist today. So the opportunity is to share the message more broadly and with greater volume and capabilities. Everything starts with people and this year has been focused on creating and building a team that is as remarkable as the brand has been.
MS: As consumers become more knowledgeable about their hair texture, we’ve seen this influx of brands that are breaking into the market and finding it to be lucrative, how do you set yourself apart and reestablish yourself as a curl authority?
Walsh: Certainly over the last few years, everybody has entered. I’ve drawn the analogy before that hairdressers are a bit like doctors in how they care for people. The difference is, in the curl category you’re not just a doctor, you’re a heart surgeon. In medicine, you wouldn’t go to the family doctor for heart surgery. A general brand, while they see the opportunity, you can’t do it part time and be completely committed both to the technical, practical, artistic and emotional aspects of the category. You can’t launch a few products or a range and deeply understand what this means to a curly girl. For us, this is a full time occupation, it has been our expertise for 18 years. So while it’s exciting that it has this much attention and we’re grateful for all of the buzz that other brands bring, it hasn’t challenged our expertise. It’s just brought more opportunity to us to share who we are, what we’ve always been and what we’ll continue to be.
MS: DevaCurl has remained extremely loyal to its core audience of clients and stylists with naturally curly hair. Was there ever a temptation to expand into other sectors of the texture market?
Walsh: I think that’s a great point and the commitment to curls is unwavering. For the last 10 years, straightening was the biggest trend. DevaCurl never touched it, never went there with a single product or service to promote straightening because it was completely and solely committed to texture and natural curl and letting a woman express and embrace who she is, when she wants to. I’m grateful for the courage it had to stay the course in times when it would have been very tempting to go down the other path. It does creates trust, clarity, understanding, and a conviction. A heart surgeon who always remained a heart surgeon. It’s a specialty that I believe in deeply and now can speak firsthand on, a profound, deep, singular commitment to the category and an ongoing understanding and expertise.
MS: What are you most excited about for DevaCurl in 2015?
Walsh: I’m most excited about bringing empowerment to so many women. The reality is embracing your natural texture is a big overt gesture to the world. The world will interact with you very differently and so, at its essence, it’s about comfort and confidence to express who you actually are. The opportunity we have to help women, men, children everywhere understand who they are and express it to the world is what I wake up and get excited about. And that’s why I love this industry and I think hairdressers do every day. At Deva, we have the opportunity to do this on a completely different level, where you’re not walking out with someone else’s service, or someone else’s hair color, you’re walking out as yourself.