Digital media platform is celebrating its 20th year anniversary. Launched in 1998 by three curly-haired journalists who saw the need for a website that catered to textured hair, the site has since grown to become a part of its own global media powerhouse, TextureMedia, a group of digital properties targeting multicultural beauty enthusiasts, reaching more than 16 million people per month. On September 6, the company will host its iconic Texture on the Runway show, sponsored by Sally Beauty, where curls, coils and waves take center stage on the runway during New York Fashion Week. Here, CEW Beauty Insider caught up with NaturallyCurly co-founder Michelle Breyer as she reflects on the evolution of the textured hair market, key trends and what the company is doing to celebrate its milestone.

Beauty Insider: Why do you think the website resonated so much when it first launched?
Michelle Breyer: We started NaturallyCurly during a time when people with curls and coils were largely ignored by the haircare industry. When we launched, we were spreading the message that texture was beautiful and providing information that wasn’t available in traditional beauty publications. It also resonated because people really like the inclusiveness of the site – people with curls, coils and waves of all ethnicities and ages are welcomed. Even though their journeys might be different, they bond over a mutual desire to celebrate texture.

BI: Talk about the campaign you are running as part of the 20th anniversary and what are the campaign’s goals?

MB: Through December, we are running a comprehensive campaign across the site, on social and through events that will celebrate our history and our community. It is designed to educate people about all of the different content that has been produced over the years, as well engage our loyal community. There will be brand giveaways, a special Texture on the Runway video and regular content pieces. Our goal is to put the community front and center through campaign initiatives such as TextureTales, a user-generated storyboard where individuals can share their curl journeys.

BI: Can you share any details about this year’s Texture on the Runway show?

MB: I can’t provide details but expect the unexpected. Each year, brands have tried to outdo each other and this year will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the runway. The themes of the seven brands – Cantu, Carol’s Daughter, Camille Rose Naturals, Creme of Nature, Mielle, SheaMoisture and The Mane Choice – are so creative, and integrate entertainment, high fashion and music.

BI: What are some major evolutions you have seen in the textured-hair space over the last 20 years?

MB: There have been evolutions in terms curl cutting techniques from companies like DevaCurl, Ouidad and Curlisto that make it easier to train stylists on how to cut curly and coily hair. There also have been huge strides made in terms of haircare ingredients, both natural and synthetic, that make it easier to moisturize, defrizz and define texture.

One of the biggest evolutions has been how social media has provided a platform for entrepreneurs to launch new product lines, giving them the ability to quickly gain market share. These entrepreneurs have contributed to the huge growth in the curl category – people like Richelieu Dennis from SheaMoisture, Mahisha Dellinger from CURLS, Lisa Price from Carol’s Daughter and Monique Rodriguez from Mielle. If you look at the category, some of the hottest companies are founder brands.

BI: What are some key trends you are seeing in the market now?

MB: Because curly girls tend to cocktail their products, many brands now have developed and marketed products designed to be cocktailed together, which allows the curly girl to customize her regimen to a specific weather condition or occasion. It also is makes business sense because it encourages the consumer to purchase several products together.

Companies now understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to texture, so many brands now have different collections for wavy, curly and coily hair. There’s also an awareness that porosity is very important for people with texture, so there are products now for high porosity and low porosity. Brands are also getting creative with ingredients and scalp care is super hot right now.

BI: How have brands/retailers utilized your company to make business decisions?

MB: TextureMedia has become one of the top resources for brands and retailers looking to effectively reach this valuable consumer. Over the years, we were a key advertising partner in launching more than a hundred brands – including L’Oréal EverCurl, Bumble and Bumble Curl Curl and Paul Mitchell Curl. Through our TextureTrends consumer insights division, we have consulted with brands, retailers and private equity firms on product development, positioning, marketing campaigns, merchandising decisions and acquisitions. With the launch of Shop NaturallyCurly (once known as CurlMart), we have served as an incubator for brands, helping them grow into some of the leaders in the space. Such brands as CURLS, Kinky-Curly and As I Am launched on the e-commerce platform. A major retailer told us that they looked to Shop NaturallyCurly to make decisions about which brands they would bring into their stores.

BI: What progress do you think still needs to be made in this space?

MB: Even though there has been a lot of progress made, and the world for curly girls has dramatically improved, there is still a perception that it textured hair still has its challenges. There still aren’t a lot of stylists trained in how to work with curly hair (most cosmotology schools still don’t train students in how to work with texture other than how to blow it out or chemically relax it). Curly hair is still the exception rather than the rule on the runways during Fashion Week. Although the number of products for texture has exploded, the shelf space dedicated to them still is dwarfed by the space dedicated to general market products.