Styling products are set to star in Target's Kristin Ess lineup

Target will unveil online a new brand of hair care developed by celebrity hairstylist Kristin Ess on Jan. 15, as part of the retailer’s drive to become a destination and a bigger player in the $10 billion mass hair-care arena. The giant chain already had made strides four years ago when it ushered in the concept of textured hair and became one of the first to break down barriers by merchandising ethnic brands in mainstream departments.

The new line, called Kristin Ess Hair, will make its debut on target.com, then follow in all Target stores a week later. Ess is the cofounder of Thebeautydepartment.com and a major social media influencer.

Her line is considered the first celebrity/social media influencer hair-care range to bow in Target. While Target would not comment, industry sources said the collection could pump out annual volume between $5 million to $10 million.

Thebeautydepartment.com is a hair and makeup tutorial site where she offers beauty and hair tips. Ess also has a large following on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Adding to her reach, she’s been a creative force behind red carpet styles for celebrities including Lauren Conrad, Lucy Hale and Nikki Reed during her 20-year career.

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Although she clearly has joined the world of celebrity, Ess has not forgotten where she came from. “I’ve always had this focus on Target — since I was 19,” she said. “Target is part of my world. It is exciting for me to do an affordable product line and do it with Target,” Ess said about teaming up with the chain and Maesa Group who helped develop the products. Ess said her goal was to create a line that looks high-end but is an “affordable luxury.” With its crisp and clean packaging, the hair care line resembles professional counterparts.

Target was on the hunt to offer its customers affordable salon-inspired lines. According to Dawn Block, senior vice president of beauty and essentials for Target, the chain’s salon and salon-inspired hair-care business grew “steadily” in 2016 with high-single-digit sales expansion versus 2015.

“Our results show our guest is looking for salon and salon-inspired products at a value and that’s where we saw white space,” Block explained of the desire to bring on Ess.

The range spans 15 items, including emerging forms such as loose styling powder and a reconstructive mask. Block said the offer is broad to accommodate not only general cleansing needs, but styling solutions, as well. Prices range from $10 for a shampoo to $14 for a serum.

What also distinguishes the collection is that she listens in through social media for feedback from her followers. “I also see myself as the creator but also the consumer. I started out to produce a core line that I could use to style any client in my chair. In fact, I took just these 15 items to clients to make sure these were the right choices.”

She is especially bullish on the styling products within her portfolio since social media is fueling demand for the tools needed to achieve looks such as braids. “With Facebook Live and Instagram, I can show a look and answer questions immediately on what I’m doing,” she said. Some of the items in her lineup, such as the Working Texture Loose Styling Powder, are relatively new to the market and work to create styles gaining traction via social media sites.

Beyond her tips, she’s enthused by the promise to help protect hair from damage thanks to a strengthening complex called Zip-Up which includes chia seeds, pea protein and marine algae.

Target will unveil Kristin Ess Hair with a special fixture crafted to help consumers navigate the selection. Also, copy on the bottles contains tips and tricks “written in Kristin’s voice,” Block said. “We’re bringing her expertise to the shelf.”

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