LONDON — Josh Wood, the celebrity stylist, has been rethinking the conversation around hair color. His aim is to make it more relevant for modern-day women, and is launching his own brand of temporary and permanent color products.
Many women — with the possible exception of Wood’s high-profile clients such as Elle MacPherson, Kylie Minogue and Kristen McMenamy — are lost when it comes to finding the right color for themselves or covering gray hair, according to Wood. He wants to address those issues and pass on his expertise with a new, digital-first label aimed at empowering women who are coloring their hair at home.
He said he wants to give them the knowledge they’ve been missing so far — and make the process a little more glamorous.
“What’s interesting about gray hair is that it’s universal around the world — whether you are from China, Africa, Greece or Scandinavia, everybody grays. The feeling is also the same, whether you’re sitting on my chair and paying 1,000 pounds, or you’re shopping for home hair color,” said Wood, who conducted focus groups with women ages 30 to 60 from across the U.K. in order to pinpoint their needs. “What was evident more than anything was that women are lost. They certainly have no idea how gray they are — some women who are 30 percent gray would say that they are 80 percent gray. It was also clear that they were really unhappy.”
His eponymous label, which launches on Feb. 6, focuses on helping women identify the right color for themselves via online consultations. AI-powered chat boxes pop up on the brand’s new site to help point customers in the right direction. Customers are asked to identify their natural hair color and the amount of gray they have to cover.
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Colorists will also be on tap to chat with customers directly if they have further questions after the consultation, while video content will provide step-by-step demonstrations on how to use the products.
“We will always be online, and there will be somebody at the end of the consultation to advise what color you need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Wood, adding that the consultation process, which was developed in San Francisco over a period of 18 months, can offer up to 20,000 different outcomes.
Wood funded the development process himself and has now brought on two private investors to help accelerate the brand’s growth.
New AI-enabled features will be introduced later in the year. “At the moment, the consumer is used to walking into Boots, standing there with no assistant, with everything looking the same. That’s why we’re going to start slowly and make new additions within three to six months.There’s no point in alienating somebody who’s coming from an aisle into this.”
Other features on the web site also include a club that customers can join to connect with other women facing similar concerns when it comes to graying hair, and editorial content such as clips of Wood coloring Gigi Hadid’s hair backstage at Versace, which customers can view while waiting for their color to set.
“It takes people away from the feeling that they’re doing something that’s really boring. Hair color has become utility, you’re buying it in the same aisle that you’re buying toothpaste and sanitary towels. I want to direct the glamorous experience of coming into a salon back into the beauty world,” he added.
The range will launch with 37 units, with more colors and additional products already in the works.
The permanent hair dyes are designed to make hair look darker and cover gray strands. They contain hydrolyzed quinoa protein, which Wood said helps to nurture the hair during the color process. They are also free from ammonia and PPD, a chemical widely used in hair dye to help withstand fading.
His temporary color products aim to tackle specific needs, based on feedback that Wood received from clients and focus groups. They each match a corresponding permanent color product in the range — another first in the market according to the colorist.
There is a blending brush for coloring gray hair in, a larger version called the “root smudger” to enable quick application for women who have more gray hair, a tinted dry shampoo for those who want to add an extra layer after coloring their hair in with the brush or smudger, and a root-marker, which is shaped like a thick pen and is designed for coloring in the hair you might spot while on the go.
Care products are also included in the range such as shampoos and conditioners; an intense mask, which aims to lock in color and bring back gloss to the hair, and a “shade shot,” which offers an extra boost of color to counteract any fading.
Prices range from 5 pounds for the shade shot to 15 pounds for the temporary color blending brush.
The products are packaged in sleek white tubes and boxes that feature splashes of color and bold black numbers, to facilitate the process of finding the right color number in an aisle full of products.
“I definitely wanted to move the look and feel [of the products] to be more like a beauty brand than a traditional hair brand,” added Wood. He is one of many celebrity and runway stylists who are looking to connect with a wider audience through new, targeted product lines that have a more modern, fashion-driven look.
Jen Atkin’s Ouai hair line has expanded its reach to 300 Sephora U.S. doors, while backstage-regular Sam McKnight’s new range of styling products has been performing strongly at Liberty London — its main wholesale client — since its launch last spring.
Wood’s new range will be sold online and at Boots with the aim of reaching the 80 percent of women in Britain who color their hair at home and shop at their local Boots.
“I definitely designed a digital brand, but I thought it would be rather shaming if I didn’t include the woman who is going to the Boots aisles to look for the right product. Ultimately, everything is designed for mobile, so you will be in Boots looking at what the right color is for you on your phone,” Wood said, adding that he wants to look at developing additional strategic retail partnerships for new territories such as North America and Asia.
The focus will remain digital, with no plans for aggressive retail expansion: “I think if it gets too wide, that focus on the consumer goes and the brand becomes too marketing driven. I want to take the focus away from the manufacturer and have the experts talking to the consumers.”