Michael O’Rourke, the founder of Sexy Hair Concepts LLC and Carlton Hair International USA, is spreading the love with his new hair appliance and styling company, Love Your Hair.
This story first appeared in the January 29, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“It is so amazing to start something fresh again, and I am willing to let everything on the line to do it,” he said. “The best time to start something is the worst time. When things turn up, you are well positioned.”
In the uncertain economic environment, O’Rourke posits that companies fear taking risks — and that’s where he believes Love Your Hair can carve out a niche. He said the company would invest in developing products for the salon industry that move the needle by streamlining the hairstyling process or updating antiquated technology.
Take the Tower of Power, a hot roller appliance for $149.95 launching February that Love Your Hair boasts is the first major upgrade to hot roller equipment in 40 years. O’Rourke said the product took $300,000 and nearly two years to complete. Its innovation is a space-saving vertical heater with three temperature controls for fine, medium and coarse hair, and rollers designed to help create loose waves.
“It is ergonomically better because it is smaller, and the rollers are lightweight and cone-shaped,” said Donna Federici, a consultant for Love Your Hair and former executive vice president of sales and marketing at Sexy Hair Concepts. “Look at every star in Hollywood — they all have long, wavy hair….That is why [there are the] conical-shaped rollers. They are for a softer, more romantic time.”
Another versatile product is a $17.95 cream styling conditioner called XOXOXO (for kisses and hugs) that is meant to condition and simultaneously boost volume. Big Love, a $15.95 volumizing spray using a pump, is described by Federici as beyond a “root-lifting product” intended to add heft to the full head. Pieced Out, a paste pomade for $15.95, is for separating hair, enhancing shine and giving it the finishing hold.
Love Your Hair’s packaging is pearlized white with a large heart logo topped with O’Rourke’s name. The name Love Your Hair was chosen to reflect what O’Rourke sees is a rising desire in society to reconnect with people and shun superficiality.
Federici explained the Love Your Hair business model nurtures independent salons she asserts have been getting overlooked as the industry consolidates. The brand is entering salons through small distributors and will utilize The Institute of Courage, an educational retreat established by O’Rourke in the Santa Monica Mountains, to teach hairdressers about Love Your Hair. “The cornerstone of our business from the hairdresser on up is relationships. Otherwise, you are going through a car wash,” said Federici.
O’Rourke knows that business inside and out. Around 40 years ago, he founded Carlton Hair, now owned by Regis Corp., in South Africa and came to the U.S. in 1978 to spread the Carlton salons here. He launched Sexy Hair Concepts in 2000 and sold most of his stake in that company four years ago when Jim Morrison became chief executive officer. He ended all financial ties to Sexy Hair, currently helmed by ceo Karl-Heinz Pitsch, about a year and a half ago around the time it was sold to private equity firm Thoma Bravo.
O’Rourke isn’t expecting Love Your Hair to immediately rival the size of his previous pursuits. He estimates the brand will generate about $1 million in revenues this year. However, he said it wouldn’t be profitable until next year when he projects Love Your Hair will generate around $3 million in revenues.
“I want a project that’s going to be my legacy,” said O’Rourke. “The most successful things in the last while, they have a styling product, but they are not about style. They are products that protect color and frizz. No one is saying let’s get back into the art again of cutting and styling.”