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How R+CO is Shaping the Beauty Industry: Q+A with Howard McLaren

Mary Kaleta | September 25, 2018 | 12:04 PM
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Howard McLaren opens his live demos with a chat about his life.
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Each atteedee recieved a bag full of R+Co goodies!
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The final looks
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McLaren with MODERN Associate Editor Mary Kaleta
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Rockstars aren't the only ones who go on tour. This year, R+Co is producing its Legends Tour with Co-Founder and Creative Director Howard McLaren. The tour is a celebration of iconic hair styles, and McLaren is exploring the inspirational work of hairdressers from different eras through live demos. 

MODERN attended the Chicago stop of the tour and sat down with McLaren.

Why go on tour; why is it important for a brand to connect with its hairdressers?

When I got together with Garren and Thom Priano [McLaren's co-founders of R+Co], our main conversations were about the culture of the industry and what’s missing. We’re all classically trained. They’ve had incredible careers, and they’re still in the top five hairdressers in the world. To be able to do what they've done, you have to have those standards, those techniques. And those have sort of disappeared because people and things have really started to speed up. It's tough. Does being successful on Instagram now mean you'll be a legend? We'll see. 

The three of us did apprenticeships, and we spent the time learning the simplest of haircuts. It was always with scissors, and I was trained in Sassoon methods. I think for us, we see that we have to help the next generation understand the importance of the legends who inspired us. Like Vidal Sassoon like Leonard, and French hairdressers. And it seems old fashioned, but it’s really the backbone of the industry. All the techniques that they used we’re still using together. Whether it’s fashion shows, for the magazines or in the salon, you have to have that ability to reach into your mental toolkit. 

How has R+Co changed since 2014? 

We started the brand with some basic products. Now we want the products to be 100% vegan. We want them to speak to people, particularly to millennials. That’s why the packaging is just photographs that we shoot. We launched with the core products, and it was very stable. But then we started to grow and create hybrids. Our products are based on classic texture. Because we’re in the fashion industry, we have to have products that work together. Products should layer; a look can’t appear to have too many products in it.

How does R+Co differentiate itself?

We understand the millennial. We’re gen x, but we hire people who are younger and understand the world and social media. We start from scratch and work from there. Being flexible is the most important thing. One of the beauties of the brand is that. The brand is only 4 years old, so it’s so important that we have the ability to shapeshift. 

At R+Co, we feel the industry is a little fragmented. That's why we made The Reset documentary. People now rent suites or are cutting hair in a house. What’s missing is getting together; it's collaborating with other people. I’m seeing a lot of people who went to work on their own who are now now coming back to salons because they feel that information and mentorship you can get from working with other people is so important. In that way, you’re constantly training. 

What plans does the brand have to grow with the future?

We’re not here to sell products; we’re here to inspire people. And if we can do that, the products will probably sell themselves. This tour is really connecting people and letting them know we’re there; that we can help them become the hairdresser they don’t even know they can be. Garren, Thom and I have such longevity in the industry, and we’ve seen so much coming. We’re still open to the possibilities of what’s next. How can we really help the industry? For us, curiosity is something we're suited for. What’s next? We’re looking for inspiration. We’re always open. 

The R+Co Legends Tour will make its next stops: 

Denver: Monday, October 8

Scottsdale: Monday, October 15

San Francisco: Sunday, November 4

The tour will end with Vision On, an all-day educational event—bringing a trifecta of cutting, styling and grooming talent from R+Co’s The Collective.

This round-robin style event will feature three sessions – each dedicated to one Collective member, for an array of hair cutting and styling demos. 

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