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L’Oréal Acquires Pulp Riot; Retains Thurston and L.A. Base

May 25, 2018 | 6:56 AM
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Pulp Riot Founders Alexis and David Thurston at their Butterfly Loft Salon in Encino,California, from Salon Today 2016 cover story.
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L’Oréal has announced the acquisition of Pulp Riot, a professional hair color brand launched by David and Alexis Thurston in the United States in June 2016.

In less than two years, Pulp Riot has helped transform the professional hair color market by creating content and using social media to inspire and educate stylists across the world, specializing in vibrant and trending color shades and techniques. Pulp Riot has amassed more than 675,000 Instagram followers.

L’Oreal’s announcement reports Pulp Riot net sales of U.S. $11 million in 2017, with its largest distributor in the U.S. being SalonCentric. The brand has also started international expansion.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Pulp Riot teams and to amplify the international development of this iconic brand," said Nathalie Roos, President Professional Products Division of L’Oréal. "Its unique creative artistry and stylist-powered education will inspire the entire division.”

David Thurston, CEO and Founder of Pulp Riot, said: “We’re excited to join the L’Oréal family, the grandest beauty company in the world. We believe this move will give Pulp Riot the fire power to accomplish our most ambitious goal for the brand. We are especially happy that so many of the loyal stylists who contribute to the success of Pulp Riot will have even more opportunities moving forward.” 

MODERN reached out to Thurston the moment the L’Oreal Professionnel announcement was made public. “I’ve received a million calls offering congratulations and also some people expressing concern,” Thurston said as he honored MODERN’s Maggie Mulhern with his first post announcement interview. “You and MODERN have been with me from the beginning. I remember all of your support from that first interview about Instagram. Of course I want to give you the first interview!”

MODERN has been tracking Thurston's success since he first launched the @ButterflyLoftSalon Instagram account in 2014. The account shows the results of the color and style coming out of his Butterfly Loft Salon in Encino, California. When we first chatted with him at the salon (holding an early Periscope – that’s how long ago!!!) Thurston shared all of this tips and tricks on how-to gain an Instagram following. Back then he had around 20K followers and as of this writing, the page has 219K. 

The Instagram page was followed by his very successful Butterfly Circus, an ongoing educational event where David, along with wife, visionary and top colorist Alexis, invited colorists in to share their expertise. Realizing there was a need for high quality fashion color, Thurston launched Pulp Riot, his new line of strong, heavily pigmented and effective colors. The line was quickly cherished by colorists who not only loved the product, but loved the results, the packaging, and the message: “Superior hair color for extraordinary artists.” The @pulpriothair Instagram page has 679k followers with more than 4,800 posts of strong, vibrant finishes from Pulp Riot fans around the world (Pulp Riot is now used in 33 countries.)

Here we ask David Thurston five questions to get the insider view on the acquisition and the future of Pulp Riot:

MODERN: WHY DID YOU SELL PULP RIOT?

DT: “We felt like we needed more fire power as we build product. Right now we are a hair color line but we wanted to reach a broader market and branch out to create more retail opportunities for salons. Next week we are launching shampoo and condition and we will continue to build. L’Oreal Professionnel hs that extra fire power and existing infrastructure. What appealed to us about L’Oreal Professionnel was that we like what they do. It’s been more than a decade since they purchased a color line. We like that they will allow the founders run the company keeping me as CEO and Alexis as Vice President. We want to retain all employees. We were told, “We don’t want to ‘L’Orealize’ you, we want you to ‘Riotize’ us. We are not sell-outs. It’s ok to put in all the hard work and get a reward. We went through the hard work of creating something to provide jobs and income, generate revenue - all while paying pay taxes. What makes us different is that in the past companies have built their brand on the backs of stylists. So many of the stylists who have helped build Pulp Riot are also benefiting from the acquisition. They will be rewarded with nice little checks.”

MODERN: THIS HAPPENED VERY QUICKLY. WHAT IS YOUR SECRET TO SUCCESS?

DT: “Yes, it seems like it happened quickly. The truth is Alexis and I have been laying the ground work for years by building relationships with artists, building a product based on education, building it with social media and building it with positivity. We provided a solid base. When we launch the product and now arrive in a new country, we are met with open arms.  It’s not just products, it’s everything that backs the products.”

HOW -IF AT ALL - WILL PULP RIOT CHANGE? WHAT IS THE FUTURE?

DT: “What’s great is we, Pulp Riot and L’Oreal Professionnel, have the same goals. Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and put on my crappy black tee shirt and head to work.  I don’t foresee any massive changes, other than for the positive. Business as usual. To make it clear: David and Alexis will stay in California, run the company, oversee the same social media and will continue to offer opportunities to hairdressers. Alexis will remain, for the large part, the person creating our product, which she will test on me – who will remain her favorite client.” 

HOW WILL YOU BE INVOLVED MOVING FORWARD?

DT: “I’m CEO of the company. I will continue to direct the vision and work with the team to execute that vision. Basically, I will continue to run the company, hiring people who are smarter than me and collaborate with individuals from L’Oreal Professionnel to define that vision. We are working with HUGE FANS of the product who don’t want to change anything. It will make our brand that much better.”

WHAT IS ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU AND ALEXIS?

DT: “We have worked our butts off for several years without any breaks. It’s been a real challenge. We are headed Paris for a few days to celebrate and to take a moment to enjoy. Then we are going to come back and accomplish our goals.”

When asked if he had any parting words, Thurston thought for a moment and said, “We tried to do it the right way and hope we did it the right way. The excitement of moving forward makes us happy. Sometimes you work hard for something and sometimes you are rewarded.”

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