Oscar Blandi, who began his career at the Peter Coppola Salon almost two decades ago, knows a lot of about hair color—as many a blonde socialite can attest to—and unfortunately he knows just as much about losing control when you sell your brand.
His first salon was located in the landmark Plaza Hotel. And nine years ago, the Naples-born hair stylist expanded, and migrated a few blocks away to his current address, 545 Madison Avenue, where the 11,000 square foot-plus space houses 120 employees and 56 stations.
“Sixty-five percent of our business is color, it’s the drive and technical part of the salon,” he said, “The rest is cut and style.”
The salon also offers a variety of nail, waxing and makeup application services.
Oscar, who has touched (and re-touched) the tresses of Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Reese Witherspoon and Katie Holmes, sat down for an honest talk about selling his company, how he wishes he hadn’t and how he’s moving forward in the salon business.
Beauty Insider: When did you start your product line?
Oscar Blandi: About 12-years-ago. Frèdèric Fekkai was really the first to create a line. I saw how he did it and thought, I could do one as well. At the time I was a spokesperson for many companies like L’Orèal and Shiseido, so I had a chance to talk to chemists and really learn the functionality of products and how they enhance the style, cut and color of hair.
BI: What products did you release first?
OB: I started simple, with a shampoo and conditioner. We built little by little with a mousse, gel, volumizer and our Curl Acception, which Julianna Margulies named, because she said we should “accept our curls.” Originally these were for the salon.
BI: When did Sephora become a retail partner?
OB: I had clients who were from Sephora, and they were looking for new products and new names to add to shelves. They were impressed with the effectiveness of my products, so we tried them out in four doors. A year later they asked me to be in every store.
BI: What product would you say put you on the map?
OB: That would be hands down our dry shampoo. Sephora really wanted to take me to the next level and asked if I had the resources to do that, meaning I’d need to hire a marketing person, a CEO, a CFO and build a real company. At the time, I was at the Plaza Hotel and my distribution center was a storage room upstairs manned by four people. The dry shampoo was something totally different, and back then it was in a powder form, aerosol sprays hadn’t come out yet, and we were really one of the first to market. Now everyone has one. Then we launched a texturizer. Everyone has that now, too. My focus groups were our customers and stylists. The salon was my lab. Today we have 18 products.
BI: You sold the company, why?
OB: When you sell a company, it’s usually with the goal of growing distribution, but there’s an understanding that the innovative person behind the company will still be involved in the creative part. Six years ago TPR Holdings acquired 70 percent. They’re good business people, but we had some differences early on, which is why I’m not involved as much. I regret selling. We stayed in Sephora until the contract ran out, and then TPR strategized the brand’s distribution. I wanted to stay professional and in the high-hand; they wanted to do more mass marketing. It was very frustrating.
BI: Would you start another line?
OB: This is a business without an expiration date. I’m still working with clients and hearing what they need. I’m always looking to grasp, tweak and create. In the back of my mind I’m always building sku’s. Right now I’m the new spokesperson for Wella, which has been great. They’re very innovative. They’re all about health. Wella is a romance. It’s a new relationship. If this does work, there is room to maybe start a new business.
BI: What else is on your agenda?
OB: Our site has gone through a lot of changes. We got it back this year [from TPR], so we are doing more social media, a newsletter and more marketing. We’ve added videos and photos. It’s a process. We’ve also hired a public relations firm and we’re starting to do a lot of promotions.
BI: Have the blow out bars taken away business?
OB: Not really. You have different customers. You have the quick in and out, and those that want to relax and hang out and want more than the simple blow dry. They want a relationship with a stylist and we want one with them. Every business has a cast of clients: the one who is willing to make changes and try something new; the one who is up on the trends; the one who wants a change because she broke up with her husband or is having bad times; and the recurring one who is tried and true. You always have to offer new things and good color is a business.