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Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Aveda's Global General Manager, Barbara De Laere

Anne Moratto | July 3, 2017 | 9:14 PM

Aveda, The Art and Science of Pure Plant and Flower Essences, has been a model of environmental responsibility and sustainability for nearly forty years. Guided by the vision of its founder, Horst Rechelbacher, the leadership team of Aveda continues to champion his holistic approach to beauty and to create a culture of caring and stewardship.

Barbara De Laere, previously the senior vice president/general manager of Aveda North America, was recently appointed the senior vice president, global general manager of Aveda. Her passion for the brand is obvious and she spoke with MODERN SALON about Aveda’s ongoing commitment to its core values and earth-first approach.

 MS: Please share a bit about your beauty background.

 BDL: I started my career in the Netherlands in 1999 at L’Oreal.  I’ve worked across three continents and touched 33 countries.  It’s been extremely enriching, as I’ve seen the many different sides of the industry.

 I’ve stayed in this business because I have a true passion for the hairdressing profession. I find hairdressers that unique combination between business owners and creative artists.  They’re also coaches, psychologists, trichologists, team builders, and educators.  Also, it’s the only industry where you have a consumer in your space for an hour and a half.  It’s all about making that time valuable.

MS: How does Horst’s legacy continue to guide Aveda?

 BDL: We will be celebrating 30 years, next year, and his fingerprint on the business will be that much more evident. We are really going back to our roots and strengthening that legacy.  All of it--Horst’s passion for Mother Earth and the kingdom of plants and herbs, his vision of holistic beauty and the power of nature to heal, the balance of ancient wisdom and advanced science—guides us.

We will also further our commitment to environmental sustainability and honor Horst’s leadership in these efforts. There is no better way to do business than by caring for the world in which we live. When I read all the interviews he did over the years, I am so aware of his environmental activism and know we’ll continue that protection in everything we do.

 Horst’s legacy continues in our network of salons and stylists. There are so many 'giving back and doing good' stories coming from them. Every single day, our network is contributing to healing through beauty.

 We see and hear consumers saying ‘smells like Aveda’ and we know that scent and emotions are intrinsically linked.  This was extremely important to Horst and we continue using ancient Ayurvedic wisdom to develop our aromas and to honor the influence smell has on how we feel.

 Horst has been quoted as saying, ‘I always try to do something other people don’t.  Instead of a ‘me, too be a how-to.’  That would be one of our pillars, our determination not to follow the pack and to always push forward in helping people make better choices for themselves and their families.  We’ll continue to help them pay attention to what they’re putting in their hair and on their skin and educate them on how it impacts the environment.

 MS: What will be some of your short-term goals in your new position?

BDL: My first objective now is to listen. I spent a lot of time in the field with artists and with consumers and salons to really understand what they love about Aveda, what they would like to capitalize on, and what stories make a difference. 

 The second is finding new, creative, and innovative ways to drive consumers to that Aveda experience in salons and to educate them on how they can make environmental and responsible choices. There are so many beautiful stories in the DNA of our brand.

 MS: How does Aveda connect with the salon professional?

 BDL: We reach them with unique and very rich education and events. We have regional networking forums, for instance, where they can connect with peers and exchange best practices. Coming up will be some new professional development classes, including one on using the power of social media to recruit clients and build a following.

 Our Aveda Congress allows our worldwide tribe to come together to get inspired during a show that highlights the trends of tomorrow. It also affords them the opportunity to sit with colleagues across the world and to talk about how to make a difference. It’s very powerful.

 MS: How does an owner go about bringing the Aveda line into their salon?

BDL: This is my chance to do some myth busting.  We are an inclusive brand. Yes, there are some prerequisites but if you are willing to commit to the Aveda mission and to the quality of the client experience,  if you are passionate about continuous education and about connecting to a community of like-minded salons, then we want to hear from you. By visiting our site, salons can be put in touch with a local representative to discuss the different programs we have and to talk about how we can make sure they are set up for success.

 MS: Our sister publication, SALON TODAY, names their top 200 salons each year and nearly 50% of those, each year, are Aveda salons.  To what do you attribute their success?

BDL: Aveda owners are committed to lifelong learning. That includes both business education and also peer-to -peer learning. There is a generous exchange of best practices that takes place between Aveda salons. They work together to elevate each other in the industry.

We also create all kinds of ways for salons to mentor each other and we create communities that have hands-on activism.

And, of course, they do not compromise on guest service.  We have a service wheel which is a structure for salon providers on how to give an excellent guest service at every point of the visit. When that is followed, the experience for the client is unequaled. If you ask consumers, they will describe an Aveda ‘inhale and exhale.’ It is a combination of breath, aroma and touch that comes through in every service.

MS: Final words?

BDL:  I’d like to underline our ongoing commitment to the planet. Along with other companies, we continue to support the Paris Climate Accord.  We’ve partnered with Global Greengrants Funds to support their initiatives year long and we’ve honored Earth Month every April, giving over 50 million dollars. We raise money for local and regional nonprofits. It’s one of the things that separates our salon network from any other network and it binds them together. It is much bigger than a product. 

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