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Q and A: Jose Bryce Smith of O&M

After bridging the gap  between natural and luxury with her professional colouring and haircare range, Jose Bryce Smith is now focusing on education and innovation with her new digs in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. The self-confessed hairdressing junkie and  Original & Mineral founder catches up with Michelle Ruzzene.

On the new space:

“I love hanging around hair dressers, and I learn so much when I’m around them. I  wanted to create a space where they could come. We’ll use one section for education, but it’ll be sort of an academy for O&M. We’ve invited session stylists to use the to prepare for shoots, do models, celebrities, things like that. We put really high-speed cable in here as well for internet, so that hairdressers that are visiting from interstate or overseas can come and use the wifi if they want. Brad Mullins is now our editorial stylist, so he’s works out of here as well.”

About the location:

“I’ve always worked between home and done sort of shared office spaces, and I haven’t had a salon for 10  years. About six months ago, I just decided that I wanted a space here, and I really wanted somewhere where the team would feel inspired coming to work. I wanted it to be central in Sydney, because it’s right near the train station, and people can come for education.”

On manifesting:

“I was really lucky. I’m  into manifesting and I had our general manager look for ages, but he kept telling me there was nothing and it was all too expensive. So then I just went online and literally, signed the lease, he didn’t even see it. It took patience, but we got there.”

Its features:

“There’s a really amazing rooftop up here that we’re going to use for events. But it was more the location, and I liked the big windows –  it was an empty shell. My partner is amazing with how he renovates houses and he helped me with the interior. He suggested the glass and the detail on the glass, just to divide it. And because of the acoustics, and having hair-dryers on in here, we put the carpet in. We wanted minimal clutter, we want it to just be a nice open space. The lounging area was based on Soho House ( a hotel chain and group of private members’ clubs originally aimed at those in the arts and media).  I wanted that feeling that  if you were a hairdresser in town, you can come and use the wifi, you can come and hang out, so for people who wanted to see the space, and for it to be a relaxed sort of environment.”

On New York:

“We’ve had our salon in New York for more than five years now, it works well because we have a really strong market in Europe.  We’ve got this really cool space in the meatpacking district, and we’ve got quite a lot of Aussies and Kiwi hairdressers working there as well. It’s got a similar feel to this (Darlinghurst), it’s in a really old brick-building, that’s opposite the highline.”

On the O&M range:

“We start with the colour, and then the haircare’s all high-performing naturals. We’re probably the first company that quite successfully straddled salons and high-end retail. We had the first five-free-formula in the shampoo, so it was sulphate and paraben-free a long time ago. But what we wanted was it to feel like luxury, but be natural. Glamorous women also want products in their bathroom that happen to be low-chemical. Why does it need to be green and brown and look like it’s in a health-food store? So the thing that we really go for, because we’ve been pioneering for so long, we talk about being ‘Made for Originals’.”

On Net-a-Porter:

“We were the first Australian  hair-care brand on Net-a-Porter, and we’ve been on there for about five years now. It’s not massive volume, it’s massive exposure. It’s great positioning, and to be honest a lot of the retail we go into is more about brand awareness, the majority of our business goes through salons. But online is something nobody can argue with and it’s really good positioning. The business has increased enormously in the last twelve months – it’s actually tripled. That’s partly why we built this space as well.”

Why business is booming:

“We’ve always been pioneering this low-chemical hair colour, but when you’re trying to take a lot of chemicals out, sometimes in the past, you compromise on performance. While we always had a really loyal following,  there were certain things that you had to do in order to get the grey coverage, and to get exactly what you wanted. And maybe the more vibrant red. So what happened was, we spent two years developing COR Color, which, we named because the core of the brand was colour. And then the zero in the middle represents no ammonia, PPD, or resorcinol, which is what we’ve always taken out. The product now performs so well that all the benchmarking we did was against ammonia-major companies, and now it performs so well the business is escalating so fast. Also, the UK Council came out in the end of 2016, which was just when we launched a new colour saying, if you colour your hair with PPD you’re 15 percent  more likely to get breast cancer. And then, there was a study done in California where they cited hairdressers as 50 percent more likely to get bladder cancer. So we believe that hair colour is becoming a health choice. So that’s part of our brand as well. We sort of hashtag, ‘Hair colour is a health choice’.  And I think that if you can colour your hair without so many chemicals, why wouldn’t you choose that? Hairdressers are becoming more aware about what they’re  breathing that in, and what people are putting on their heads.  So we’re finding that big salons are changing over from major companies all of the time to O&M. We’re getting calls everyday. We’re projecting a massive amount of growth, again, for this year.”

Celebrities and influencers:

“We believe that the hairdresser is the modern-day influencer – that’s partly why Brad Mullins is our editorial ambassador. Hairdressers are some of the most passionate, creative people that you could get. And when they love your product, they really love it. So we’re more focused on the hairdresser than we are on the celebrity.”

The future:

“We’ve got new products coming. That’s got 105 colours in it already, so it’s a full range. And we’ve just brought out a men’s quick colour, which is like a 5 minute colour, and we’ve got new shades coming out this year, and other product extensions. We’re now very focused on what’s next, and how do we keep moving, plus we’re always still spending a massive amount of time and money on research into what else can we take out without compromising on the performance. I just want O&M to be the best that it can be, and I want it to be the most high-performing, natural haircare brand that’s Australian-owned and made.”

For more information visit www.originalmineral.com

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