I feel naked without VoMor!

Almost a month ago to the day, I had VoMor hair extensions put in, as part of research for a work-related project. While I was less than thrilled at the idea of having another person’s hair in my head, I learned a lot from that experience, which I expected. As it turns out, I actually loved having the extensions in, which I far from expected.

First, I got more random compliments on my look this past month than ever before. People did not comment on how good my hair looked. They did not ask where I got my hair extensions put in, or even if I had hair extensions. People just said nice things such as “You look really good today.” Maybe I looked better because I felt more beautiful than usual.

Second, I did not feel the extensions at all. They didn’t itch, they didn’t snag, they didn’t feel like anything really – other than I was much hotter (in the temperature sense of the word) than before. Apparently, hair does keep you warm.

Third, they were much less high-maintenance than I had expected, or had been warned they would be. I only made two changes to my daily hair routine: to run, I had to trade my high ponytail for two braids; and I did blow dry my hair after each shampoo (but the low maintenance way, without a round brush, just using my fingers).

Yesterday, a week before I head to Greece to the salty sea (which can be damaging to hair extensions), I had the fabulous Scott Messina from Paris Parker remove them. As scared as I was to have him put them in, I was even more concerned about having him take them out. What if I really don’t look good with “just” my natural hair?

Scott had warned me: “You will get addicted to them.” And I did. I feel naked without them. I miss “my” hair. In the fall, after a summer of sea, river, and pool, I will be back for more. Who knew?!

I did it… VoMor Hair Extension System…

For the first time in my life, I have thick, full hair and I need hair clips of a larger diameter to put it all up.

Yesterday, I spent two hours at Paris Parker Salon in Hammond, LA, where the fabulous Scott Messina performed a VoMor Hair Extension System service for me. This appointment did not come without much angst… as those of you who know me know, I am the most low maintenance person when it comes to my hair. Indeed, until just a few years ago, I did not even own a hair dryer (and even today it lives at the bottom of my tool drawer, next to my drill). Yet as I am becoming more involved in the hair side of the beauty industry (thanks to my husband and his company, Neill-TSP), I thought I had to learn first-hand about this very trendy service. I did this all exclusively under the guise of research…

In addition to getting thicker, fuller hair, here is what I learned during these two hours spent in Scott’s chair:

1. VoMor is about “volume and more” and not merely about “mermaid hair” (which is what I have always thought about when thinking about hair extensions). I didn’t want extra length, I just wanted more body and more volume. Scott used 16 inch hair, but then cut the extensions to match my length, plus one inch. Just for fun, however, I had to snap a picture of me in full 16 inch hair…

2. Available in 29 colors, VoMor extensions are made to match Aveda hair color. Apparently, some women want to have my exact hair color, because even though I don’t color my hair, we found the perfect color match.

3. VoMor extensions are super comfortable. Somehow I thought I would feel like I was wearing a wig. But truly, I don’t feel anything. This type of extension is known as “tape extensions,” which is best for your hair as it won’t damage it, pull it out, or snag it.

4. While I do find it strange that I am in effect wearing another woman’s hair (yes, this is human hair, and yes, I try not to think about this too much), I don’t have to worry about how this hair was collected. Apparently, human hair is quite a prized resource and collecting it for use in our industry is not always done in the most ethical or humane manner. Not so with VoMor. Not only is this the best quality hair on the market, it is also sourced humanely and ethically.

5. Fuller, thicker hair = more than “just” fuller, thicker hair. Fuller, thicker hair = more smiles, more sassy head movements, more of a spring in my step. While I have seen hair extension services performed on a few women in the past month, and have seen first hand the shift in attitude that comes with it, I now have personal experience in the matter. And it feels great.

Yes, this will require me to actually spend some time on my hair (no more air drying, I need to go dig out my hair dryer from my tool drawer), and yes this means I will wear my hair straighter than usual (extensions don’t come in “wavy”). Will this more high maintenance hair regimen mean I won’t want to keep these extensions in for the two months they are meant to stay in? Who knows… time will tell… 

BeautyView: Matana C. LePlae, Co-Founder and CEO, Lashfully

One of the key trends in beauty this past year has been eyelashes. We have graduated from a mere obsession with mascara to a fascination with eyelash treatments, eyelash extensions, and more.

Matana C. LePlae, Co-founder and CEO of Lashfully, Inc, has capitalized on this consumer trend. Her chic beauty lounges offer services and products that specialize in the care and treatment of eyelashes.

A citizen of the world, Matana has lived in Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York and currently resides in San Francisco with her two daughters. I recently caught up with her, and loved how much we had in common (in particular skipping dessert but keeping the wine, not believing in work-life balance, and disliking cheap tippers!).

AP: What city were you born in?

ML: Seattle, WA.

AP: What city to do you live in?

ML: San Francisco, CA.

AP: What is your middle name?

ML: I am Thai and we don’t really have middle names so mine is my maiden name: Churanakoses.

AP: What is your astrological sign?

ML: Taurus.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know?

ML: I am neat, organized and keep an orderly home, but my desktop on my computer is a complete mess! There are icons on top of icons.

AP: What is your most prized possession?

ML: A teapot from my grandmother.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be?

ML: My grandmother. She passed away about 12 years ago; she was so sick at the end but made she sure she had her Chanel red lipstick on until the very end. I miss her laugh.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum.

ML: Classic, modern, feminine.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model?

ML: Nope.

AP: Diamonds or pearls?

ML: Both.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret?

ML: I know it seems like self promotion but really lash extensions (and if you’ll indulge me in a #2: absolutely no sun on the face.)

AP: What fragrance do you wear?

ML: I switch it up but primarily stick within the Chanel family: No. 5, Mademoiselle, Chance, Allure.

AP: Botox or not?

ML: Not yet, but I am keeping a watchful eye on when I should start…

AP: Hair color: natural or not?

ML: Semi-permanent to cover a few greys.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any?

ML: Forgo dessert but keep the wine.

AP: What do you do for exercise?

ML: All kinds of cardio, boxing with my trainer, and those awful burpees!

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge?

ML: Real butter, greek yogurt, apples.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice?

ML: Bees Knees.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance?

ML: I don’t believe in balance, I just like working really hard and also having lots of fun and fully participating in everything.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average?

ML: 50,000.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? 

ML: 1. Never check a bag; 2. wear your heaviest, bulkiest item on the plane (coat, boots, bulky sweater) 3. Take cash.  I am kind of a dooms-day traveler and paranoid that all ATMS and credit card processing will be shut down and I will have to revert to cash only.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now.

ML: John Coltrane, Anything by The KillersFrank Sinatra (yes, I am an old soul).

AP: What book are you reading right now?

ML: The Receptionist – An Education at the New Yorker by Janet Groth.

AP: Quote to live by.

ML: I recently was listening to Stephen King being interviewed on NPR about his new book. He captured something that I think nails my philosophy — I am going to quit and be dead for a long time. The only time I have is now.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve?

ML: Cheap tippers.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get?

ML: I am an early riser, 5:30/6 a.m. I usually get about 7  – 71/2 hours/night.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry?

ML: How woman’s faces can be instantly transformed and when they see it, they smile and stand a little taller.

AP: Least favorite thing.

ML: Unfortunately I think there are a few people in this business that think beauty is only skin deep.

AP: Who is your mentor?

ML: Hillary Clinton.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today.

ML: Always live with class and style. Remember that your peers or even those who are many levels “your junior” at the office, can one day be an important client, boss, investor, connection.

Building a cult brand…

Today, I had the privilege of speaking on “The Business of Beauty” at the first Fashion 360 conference organized in DC. On a panel with other DC beauty experts, I was asked to discuss “building a niche beauty brand.”

Building a brand, creating a connection with consumers, establishing a unique selling proposition in what is an overcrowded marketplace is indeed the most challenging part of my job.  To be truthful, if I had the answer to “how to successfully build a niche beauty brand,” I probably would be spending time on my own private island instead of working on a Sunday. I am still learning.

As I continue to learn, I am lucky enough to surround myself with advisors and mentors. One such mentor successfully developed another Swiss beauty brand, La Prairie. And to him, I owe perhaps the most insightful discussion of how to build a nice brand, beauty or fashion. Today, as I prepared for the “Business of Beauty” panel, I turned back to my notes from that meeting.

In my pre-Evernote world of paper notebooks, I knew exactly where to look. That meeting happened early February 2010, and since I date my notebooks, it was no problem to identify the right one. Why do I remember the specific date, you might ask. Well, on Sunday, February 7, 2010, the Saints were playing in the Superbowl. And I could have gone, with my husband no less, a die-hard Saints fan. Instead, I boarded a plane to Geneva in order to attend a Board of Advisors meeting that had been scheduled for months for Monday, February 8. That meeting, I decided, was more important than the most important football game of the year.

During that meeting, I learned about building a cult brand. And while this was over three years ago, the lessons from that day continue to influence the marketing choices and strategies that I define for Alchimie Forever. The lessons of that day centered on the premise that the Catholic Church is one of the most successful brand builders. My advisor was very specific in his comparison, listing what a cult brand (whether fashion or beauty) needs to have, and what we can learn from the Catholic Church (I was raised and baptized Catholic, and mean no disrespect to this or any religion by drawing this comparison).

  1. A cult brand needs a cathedral, a physical place that believers can come visit. Aka a flagship store or showroom.
  2. Ideally, this cathedral is located in a sacred area, which in retail speak means Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, Madison Avenue in Manhattan, or Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
  3. Just like the Catholic Church has altars, physical manifestations of the sacred, brands need merchandised physical displays.
  4. Every brand needs its own “bible,” a brochure perhaps, a way to tell its story and weave its tale.
  5. The Pope is essential to the personal connection believers have to the Catholic Church. Just like the person behind a fashion or beauty brand (entrepreneur, brand founder, brand owner) is key to personalizing the brand’s story.
  6. Every brand needs Apostles. The founder cannot spread the gospel by his or herself, brand ambassadors are essential to creating buzz and reaching more consumers.
  7. Every brand needs a Holy Grail, namely, a hero product. Think of the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (one of my favorite products of all time), or the Kiehl’s Crème de Corps.
  8. People crave rituals. With rituals come mystery, myth, and magic. In the skin care world, rituals represent the method of applying the product. Think of the Eve Lom cleanser and muslin cloth.
  9. The idea of Pilgrimages can be translated into a distribution strategy. The places consumers go to see or purchase a product are special, unique, and rare. Think exclusivity of place and quantity.
  10. And finally, we have religious holidays. Brand translation meaning products or collections created for a specific and special event.

Now, to take this theory and make it reality…

BeautyView: Christina Han, Associate Beauty Editor, W Magazine

In building a consumer brand, in particular a beauty brand, press is absolutely key. Indeed, I think our time is about the power of press. Not the power of money. Not the power of fame, but the power of writers, journalists, bloggers, editors. Given this context, it has been a true pleasure getting to know Christina Han, associate beauty editor for W Magazine. From a first deskside meeting, we have had the opportunity to meet a couple more times. I am in awe of her: she is smart, gorgeous, stylish, powerful, and somehow manages to stay super thin despite her Chipotle addiction…

AP: What city were you born in? CH: Baltimore, MD.

AP: What city do you live in? CH: New York, NY.

AP: What is your middle name? CH: Eun-Kyung, which is my Korean name. Directly translated it means, silver mirror. Perhaps foreshadowing my career in the beauty industry…or extreme vanity.

AP: What is your astrological sign? CH: Capricorn.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? CH: The effect beauty has on people. Whether it’s advice on a new product or a salon recommendation, beauty makes people happy.

AP: Least favorite thing? CH: From spilt nail polish and glitter shadows to exploding bottles of shampoo, my dry clean-only clothes have seen it all.

AP: What is your most prized possession? CH: All of the vintage (and even some newer) bags I have slyly borrowed from my mom’s closet, but have yet to return.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? CH: I eat Chipotle on a weekly basis.

AP: Do you wear a watch? CH: Yes, always. AP: If yes, what model? CH: Cartier Roadster.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? CH: Diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? CH: Ryan Reynolds.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? CH: SoulCycle and a good bottle of wine. However, not at the same time.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? CH: 1 Cashmere socks to slip into on the plane. 2 SK-II Treatment Masks to rehydrate skin post-flight. 3 Never accessing the free WiFi on the plane to check email.

AP: What is your favorite book? CH: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? CH: Ketel and soda with a lemon wedge, only. Absolutely no limes allowed.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? CH: Joanna Vargas, my facialist. She keeps my complexion glowing with her treatments and products. I live for her Daily Serum and never skip a day.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? CH: I have two favorites, Versace Versense and a more recent discovery, Tom Ford’s Jasmine Rouge.

AP: Botox or not? CH: Whichever makes you happy.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? CH: Natural.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. CH: It’s broken!

AP: Quote to live by. CH: “Be sharp.” – my mom

AP: Who is your mentor? CH: The amazing Sarah Brown.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. CH: Never turn down an assignment. Show up early and leave late. Learn how to replace toner in a copy machine.

Beauty by the numbers: Skin

I spend a lot of time applying creams, masks, serums, eye contour products, and many other lotions and potions. I also spend a lot of time merely about skin. I think about how it is the one accessory that I am stuck with forever. About how it reveals my age. About how it reacts to various situations and emotions (do your cheeks redden when you are embarrassed?). About how it reflects my lifestyle and diet. I collect what I call “funny factoids” about skin, the largest organ of our body… This morning, I ran into an old (May 2006!) Allure Magazine “Beauty by the Numbers” column, and was reminded of some of my favorite funny factoids about the largest organ in the human body.

  • 200 A.D.: Year in which the Roman physician Galen combined wax, olive oil, rose petals, and water to create the first cold cream.
  • $1,000: Amount paid to Gloria Laura Mercedes Morgan0Vandebilt in 1924 for her endorsements of Pond’s Cold Cream.
  • 21: Total square footage of skin on the average human body.
  • 7: Total weight in pounds of skin on the average human body.
  • 40,000: Number of dead skin cells the body sheds every minute.
  • 650: Average number of sweat glands in one square inch of skin.
  • 20,000: Number of pores on the face.
  • 53: Percentage of American women over the age of 33 who have acne.
  • 16: Percentage of American who have at least one tattoo.
  • 60: Percentage of American women who say they would give up chocolate or their morning coffee for better skin.