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Michelle Breyer on 20 Years Serving the Curly Haired Community

TextureMedia influences up to $5 billion in hair-care sales each year.

Twenty years ago, Michelle Breyer and two other friends were frustrated with a lack of information about caring for their curly tresses. Without the advantage of today’s resources such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, Breyer had to devise her own plan to create an information hub. A reporter by trade, Breyer knew how to research and parlayed those skills into a community called NaturallyCurly to share tips and product knowledge.

TextureMedia Celebrates 20th Anniversary
NaturallyCurly’s Texture on the Runway.

“Our goal was to create a place for people like us — a forum to provide support, tips and inspiration for other curlies,” said Breyer, a cofounder of NaturallyCurly. “From Day One, NaturallyCurly has been an inclusive community that talked texture and empowerment instead of ethnicity. As a result, the community spans a wide range of ages, texture types and ethnicities.”

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NaturallyCurly has grown into TextureMedia, a global power, reaching more than 16 million people per month and finding its place at the center of a grassroots movement that changed the way society views texture, and facilitated the growth of an industry. TextureMedia influences up to $5 billion in hair-care sales each year. The monthly social reach is 26 million strong across its portfolio of brands including NaturallyCurly, Shop NaturallyCurly, CurlyNikki and TextureTrends. The latter is a consumer insights and solution for brands offering research about the textured hair-care segment. Through the research, the company has worked with such market leaders as L’Oréal, Unilever, Target, Estée Lauder and Sally Beauty as well as the many grassroots brands.

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In honor of the 20th anniversary, NaturallyCurly is kicking off a campaign to celebrate its loyal followers and share their stories and inspiration called TextureTales. Community members are encouraged to share their curly hair journey, with this content highlighted across the website, social media and e-mail.

From the outset of NaturallyCurly, the centerpiece of the site was CurlTalk, a platform where many of the most influential bloggers gained their voice. Terms like “plopping” and “pineappling” were created by NaturallyCurly’s community to describe the techniques they created to work with their curls. More than a million separate threads have been started on CurlTalk since the site started.

“When I found NaturallyCurly’s CurlTalk in 2006, I discovered there was this whole community that didn’t just include black women, but also white women with their own struggles,” said Patrice Yursik, founder of the “Afrobella” natural hair blog. “That was a real eye opener to me. It made me realize this was more of a universal struggle than I thought it was.”

On Sept. 6 at Gotham Hall, NaturallyCurly will host its fourth annual Texture on the Runway fashion show where curls, coils and waves take center stage on the runway. More than 750 top influencers and media attended last year’s show. This year’s event includes seven hair-care brands — Camille Rose Naturals, Cantu, Carol’s Daughter, Creme of Nature, Mielle Organics, SheaMoisture and The Mane Choice — at its runway show.

Here, Breyer discusses the impact NaturallyCurly has had on the industry and the upcoming Texture on the Runway show.

WWD: Did you think you’d ever be celebrating this milestone?

Michelle Breyer: We believed in what we were doing, but it was an altruistic hobby at first. We thought we’d sell a couple of T-shirts. We didn’t even see it as a business. It was such a different time back then. You would walk into a store and there wouldn’t be a ton of products for curly hair or you couldn’t find stylists who knew how to cut curly hair. Being where the company is today and to see the industry where it is today is surreal. Since NaturallyCurly was established in September 1998, more people are accepting their natural texture. Of those who have transitioned to natural hair, only 10 percent say they would chemically straighten again. Almost half have been natural five or more years. The number of products in the multicultural/ethnic category today is more than seven times what it was 20 years ago, according to IRI. NaturallyCurly has worked with more than 300 brands to launch their products to the curly market.

WWD: What’s different about this year’s Texture on the Runway?

M.B.: It has become the go-to place for people during fashion week. We have seven brands this year and each is going above and beyond to outdo each other. They are making at statement that they can’t make at any other event. We are seeing so much creativity on the part of the brands. And, we have a cohost who is hot and relevant to the industry right now: Amara La Negra. For brands, we have a street team that will be out and about handing out samples and serving as curl ambassadors on the street.

WWD: You wrote a book last year, called “The Curl Revolution.” What’s been most eye-opening as you’ve toured the country promoting the book?

M.B.: This is still very grassroots….There are people still wanting to tell and share their stories. It is still something that defines them and affects their lives. Every single stop [on the book signing] reinforces that there still is such a need for what we do. Curly hair affects you throughout your life and we want to make people feel empowered and excited about their hair.

WWD: What recommendations do you make for retailers trying to figure out how to best present products for textured hair?

M.B.: It is hard to find products when they are divided in so many different ways. I think it is more important to present products by texture versus multicultural or general market.

WWD: What’s next?

M.B.: We’re seeing the power to have our community have more influence on how products are developed. We want to grow this community and its power through research that we do that helps companies and retailers make decisions for this consumer or more events that pull people together. We’re constantly collaborating with people in this industry. In fact, our research was recently used to help the Global Beauty Alliance endorse the term textured hair over ethnic hair.