Tag: Hair extensions

INTERVIEW: All Shades Covered – Beauty Platform for WOC


Channel 4 News reported that black women in the UK spend six times more on haircare products than white women. But what is the beauty buying experience like for black women, who are essentially, the jewels in crown of this burgeoning beauty industry?

Sanmi Ogunmola and Tommy Williams (who made it into the Forbes List – ’30 under 30′) met in Nigeria while working for a fashion and beauty internet startup company. It was challenging for customers navigating the fragmented beauty industry in Nigeria and upon return to the UK, the duo noticed similar challenges here. Flash forward and the e-commerce beauty platform All Shades Covered (ASC), was created, with the aim of providing women of colour (WOC) a seamless and efficient customer experience.

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Photo credit: Forbes / ASC

What was the trigger for the inception of ASC?
Both of us have sisters and we’re aware of the effort and time black women spend on sourcing hair products, finding a salon to do their hair and the amount of time spent getting their hair done. Using our e-commerce backgrounds, we saw an opportunity to improve this experience.

When did ASC launch?
We spent months doing research and speaking to people, then had a soft launch of the website in October 2016, where we invited some people to buy hair extensions from the site. We also had some organic traffic generated via word of mouth.

“Coming from an investment banking background, my family were a bit unsure about me moving into hair and beauty, especially when I moved to Nigeria, as I’m not Nigerian.” Now they can see that ASC has become a reality, they’re a lot more at ease.” – Tommy

How did you choose the name, ‘All Shades Covered’?
It’s quite direct and describes whom we aim to cater for. Black and mixed-raced women come in all different shades and tend to receive an inferior level of service when it comes to their beauty needs – which we want to change. This doesn’t stop women of other races from buying our products if they also cater to their needs.

Has there ever been any confusion over what ASC means?
It’s quite funny actually, when we first started some people thought we are a gossip site because of the ‘shade’ / ‘throwing shade’ term. Others thought we sold make up and nude tights. However, when you visit the website it’s very clear that we provide hair extensions and products, so people are catching on.

How does ASC help the avid beauty consumer?
As well as selling hair products and extensions, we can also guarantee the quality of the hair as we know where it comes from. We deliver hair extension purchases within 3 working days, so that customers can get their hair done within that same week. We’re starting with hair products and will branch out into other beauty products, providing customers with a holistic beauty experience.

How did you decide what types of hair extensions to sell?
We did some market research and sent out a survey but the responses were quite varied, from customers preferring straight to lose curl extensions and everything in between! So, we started off with 3 style textures – curly, body wave and straight at 12 -24 inches.

“Selling hair extensions and products for natural hair aren’t mutually exclusive. Some natural hair women use extensions and wigs as a form of protective styling.” – Tommy

How do you ensure the quality of the hair extensions you sell?
We have partners on the ground in China who quality check the hair on various parameters such as, hair shedding rates and strength before and after washing. The hair isn’t Chinese hair, it’s just that the processing factories we work with in China have been able to streamline the hair production process while maintaining quality.

With your focus on hair extensions, do you feel ASC alienates a section of its current target market – black women who have gone natural?
We have hair care products suitable for women with natural hair and those who wear extensions and/or have relaxed hair, so we cater for all segments of our target market. We’re fully aware of the natural hair movement, but also acknowledge, that hair extensions account for a significant proportion of the market and hair style choices of many black women. We also have a blog with tips on how to look after natural hair and maintaining hair extensions /weaves.

How do two men provide tips on looking after natural hair and hair extensions?
Our team is made up of predominately women and we’re about to take two of them on a permanent basis. Some have natural hair, others wear hair extensions – they’re active on social media, passionate and knowledgeable about hair and beauty. We get a lot of advice from them.

 

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Photo credit: ASC

Do you sell any UK haircare brands?
Yes, we do and we’ve recently added some to the site.

Is the ASC customer base only in Europe?
Currently Europe is our biggest market (especially Italy and France), but we’ve also seen some organic customer growth in parts of Africa, including Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa. Expanding into Africa is also key goal for us in the future.

“Because the industry is so fragmented we have ASC hair reps – hair stylists selling our hair extensions to their clients, after which they receive a commission.” – Sanmi

As a new business in a crowded market are you worried about competition?
We like competition, it’s motivation! We’ve done our research and focus on providing the best customer experience. We’re aware of the competition but that doesn’t deter us from our own plans.

Any exciting developments?
Dyed hair extensions and kinky hair! We’ve had a few requests on these, so we’re listening to our customers.

What does the future hold for ASC?
We want to be a renowned beauty brand online and on the high streets.

You can check out the ASC website, which currently has a 20% spring sale and keep up with them on Twitter.

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Black hair and beauty, hair extension, kinky hair, ombre wigs, makeup for black women, natural hair, hair extensions, weave, hair weaves, black beauty

Natural hair – a fashion statement, a phase, a normality?


“Fight for your rights!” – a slogan that the black people (and other minority groups) wherever they reside in the world can relate to. It seems like controversy is just part of black culture?

Even hair.

Known as the crowning glory for women and men, hair is also wrapped up into this notion called beauty – which the majority of us are intrigued by. Consciously or sub-consciously.  However, like most things associated with ‘beauty’ the emphasis is usually disproportionately projected onto women.

Black people (women more than men) seem to have a love hate relationship with Afro hair; a subject which provokes fascination (from others) and discussion.

Afro hair has a chequered history, a controversial present and unwritten future. Who knows if we’ll be having the same conversation in 5 years time?

At one point Afro hair was seen as the epitome of black identity and defying white oppression.

Afro hair is making a comeback; most recently displayed on high fashion Western catwalks and photo shoots. Last year W Magazine’s spread, featuring models with natural hair caused waves on social media.

w mag collage
W magazine

In recent years, natural Afro hair has been stretched, pulled and debated more openly. Some may argue that it’s becoming more ‘acceptable’ now.

natural hair in fashion, natural hair in fashion
Fashion bible: W Magazine – Fashion shoot

 

In south/Latin American countries where being of African descent is usually something to be ashamed of and hidden, people are starting to embrace their African heritage. In another bold fashion step, Jourdan Dunn is on the February issue of Vogue Brasil (with an Afro wig); a country who has struggled to accept her African heritage and subscribed to European beauty standards for decades, despite reportedly having the second largest black population in the world.

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Despite the preference for straight hair among most races over the years, curly/afro hair is met with fascination, curiosity, approval and disdain. In the video below, un-ruly.com spoke to women about how they feel when asked the question many naturals dread, “can I touch your hair?”. This video was inspired by Saartjie Baartman, an African woman who was displayed across Britain by Hendrik Cezar between 1810 and 1814, because she looked ‘different’ (to the Europeans who displayed her, like an artifact in a museum).

Whether its here today or gone tomorrow, it seems natural hair still ignites controversy. We can’t forget when pop singer Zendaya Coleman was accused of “probably smelling like weed”, by a TV presenter when she wore a dreadlock hairstyle to last years Oscars. 

Zendaya hair, Zendaya dreadlocks

Either way, natural hair is here to stay; and there are afro naturals all over the world who are embracing their natural hair. To them this is more than a fashion statement, its a normality!

Courtesy of ‘Black Girl with Long Hair’…Naturals living in the Caribbean/USA…

natural hair in the caribbean

….living in Europe

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….living in Africa / USA

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Yes it’s my hair, ‘cause I paid for it!


Once again, I saw an interesting article in the London Evening Standard newspaper. For those of you who don’t know, this is a free regional newspaper. The Evening Standard newspaper brand fell into financial problems and was then bought in January 2009 for £1 by a former Russian KGB agent (the equivalent of a UK secret service agent…. like James Bond lol). In October 2009 it became a free paper in London and sold for 20p in suburban areas.

The 15th January edition had an interesting article in the ‘London Life’ section; interesting not because it was about hair weave but because it was from a white lady’s perspective. In the black community, hair can be a contentious issue for various reasons, but I don’t really know how hair weaves / extensions are perceived in the white community, I know among many celebrities weaves are cherished; Cheryl Cole, Tulisa, Eva Longoria have professed to loving hair weaves and I am sure they are not the only ones. The article intrigued me because it was a white lady who was not a celebrity – Jasmine Gardner spoke about her quest for long hair. I have seen many women of different races, white, black and Asian etc. wearing weaves in London, so I am interested to know how it is perceived among other races.

Continue reading “Yes it’s my hair, ‘cause I paid for it!”