Last week, Original & Mineral Founder Jose Bryce Smith stopped by Simply Organic Beauty HQ and we had a blast chatting with her! We talked about how O&M began, the new O&M CØR.color, and what to expect in the coming months.
Read her interview below!
Tell us about your journey. How did Original & Mineral begin?
My hairdressing journey started when I worked at a reception of a salon. Me and my partner set up a salon in Sydney 17 years ago, and he had very bad contact dermatitis. He couldn’t use normal hair color, particularly ammonia. So, we found this ammonia-free hair color and we brought it to our salon.
We were Sydney’s first organic salon and we got a huge amount of press from that. There was a lot of excitement [about it] that the business grew really quickly. We kept it to ourselves for seven years, and then eventually we started selling it to other salons. I was the first sales representative and we were packing [the products] in the salon.
From working in a salon, I learned about the needs of a salon and how hairdressers work. My background actually had been in marketing so I combined that – and O&M was born.
Now that you’ve launched O&M’s new CØR.color. We want to know – how came about wanting to launch another color brand?
I’ve always been about natural and low-chemical, so the ethos of the brand is we bridge the gap between natural and luxury. As we know, hair color is a chemical reaction. But if you can color your hair with less chemicals and no smell/fumes – that was our aim.
CØR.color, our next-generation professional hair color, is basically PPD-, Ammonia-, and Resorcinol-free. But my aim was to get the best grey coverage, the brightest reds and blondes, etc. We have 106 shades that you can do anything that a salon needed.
Tell us how CØR.color differs from Mineral.CCT?
It’s called CØR.color because the core of the brand has always been hair color. We used Clean Color Technology (which means Ammonia-, PPD-, and Resorcinol-free), but CØR.color got Molecular Blend Technology in it.
One of the challenges of ammonia-free hair color was scalp irritation so that was something that we were determined to address. Pigments are pre-mixed in the lab. Scalp irritation is caused by free radicals and rogue pigments, so because [CØR.color] is pre-mixed, you don’t get scalp irritation.
Also, pre-mixing means all colors are blended (base color, reflect, etc), which gives improved grey coverage. Grey coverage has always been the biggest challenge for any ammonia-free color. That’s why all the testing that we did was against ammoniated color. We wanted [CØR.color] to perform exactly like ammoniated color. As a hairdresser, I don’t want to breathe [ammonia] if I didn’t have to. As a client, I don’t want that on my hair. That’s the philosophy of the brand.
The packaging looks cool. With the hair care, we’re all about it looking luxury where people can use it, Instagram it, and put it in their bathroom. I thought: Why does the hair color have to look like a backroom product that can be hidden away. It needs to come out the front.
O&M has always been so great about being fashion-forward. Now you have green chemistry, along with this new Molecular Blend Technology that no one has in the market. As the exclusive distributor in North America, we’re excited about our partnership. What excites you about being partners with Simply Organic Beauty?
With Simply Organic, I really love the philosophy of the company. You only distribute natural and organic products, which is exactly where O&M sits. Also, you’re very technology-focused. I love the way you educate and how you use the internet to reach your customers on a daily basis. Whereas traditionally, sales reps would visit salons once a month.
There’s so much information available online. It’s 2017, and traditional models of distribution [are not as effective anymore]. The world is changing, and [the internet] just makes it more immediate for us to be able to get our message across a wide audience. I think Simply Organic is the leader of that in America.
Thank you for that. What do you see next for Original & Mineral?
In the first quarter of next year, we’ll be launching a men’s range of hair color, which I’m super excited about. It’s called Q.color which is Quick Color (5-10 minutes). It’s grey blending. Five shades. I really think the men’s market is a huge growing market. Obviously, it’s ammonia-, PPD-, and resorcinol-free, but it gives really good coverage, but natural.
We’re also bringing out CØR.rebond, which is our rebonding system that you can use with all of our lighteners. It stops the hair from breaking. Balayage is a huge trend, and Paint Powder is our balayage bleach. It just means you’re gonna be able to look after the integrity of the hair. We’re all about healthy hair that’s free from stress, and CØR.rebond will fit into that.
We got some stuff coming out in the hair care line as well next year. I’m always obsessed with volume because I’ve got, like, five hairs, and I try to make them look like I got more. So, we’ll be having a dry shampoo coming out very soon.
You guys don’t stop do you?
No, we don’t. Actually, I get my best feedback in salons. I’m very lucky I get to travel a lot. I go to a lot of salons, and hairdressers are opinionated people. They tell you when they hate it, they tell you when they love it, and they tell you what they want. It just makes it so much easier. A lot of the products that we develop is actually from feedback.
So, where do you see hair color is headed?
10 years ago when we started this, people looked at me like I was an alien. Even when I first came to the US, they were like, “you’re actually a bit ahead of your time. You might not get there.” But if you look at all the major companies now they’re all going this way. Even in Europe, a lot of these chemicals are getting banned. It’s just that we are small and progressive enough. We’re doing it long enough that we’ve made enough mistakes to know how to get it right.
So I think this is the future. This is the trend. Generally, hairdressing will be going much more low-chemical, environmentally friendly, and sustainable. So many trends are going that way.
I also think there is a shift away from the major companies and the old way of doing things. We love that fashion element and keeping it cool. We’re working a lot with key influencers, hairdressers, and New York Fashion Week. Smaller brands tend to have a story people can relate to, which makes you more approachable. That’s why so many people tell me when they don’t like something. I really don’t mind. I’m not emotionally attached to anything other than being the best that I can be for the brand and making the products the best that I can.
What’s one piece of advice that you’ve really appreciated somebody has given you?
Somebody once told me, because I’ve been through so many ups and downs and we started this and founded this all from a hair salon: You’re standing on a frozen lake and you got an ice pick, and you’re trying to crack the ice. So what are you going to do? You should jump up and down. And if you haven’t gotten through the ice, you just gotta keep jumping.
I think with CØR.color, I’ve dented the ice. So I feel it’s a journey. You ought to enjoy it, but you got to crack through the ice. And I think knowing what you’re good at and surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and who have got different skills [is important], because you can’t do everything. I thought I could do everything. I even had to go do some color and I thought – okay, best to leave that to the experts.
So if you weren’t so lovely as a blonde, what color would you choose?
A few times, Wayne [Lewis] our Technical Director had said to me, darling, you should be a redhead. So I think I’d probably go copper because I’m pale and it will probably make me less washed out. I did once go dark. I had a very Cleopatra kind of hair and I couldn’t cope with it. It took me so long to get it all out.
What are your top styling products?
If I was on a desert island, the three that I would pick would be Know Knott first which is our detangling spray. I don’t use any conditioner on my hair because it’s so fine and I don’t want to weigh it down. I spray Know Knott in which is a lightweight leave-in conditioner then I blast dry my hair off. And then I spray Atonic, which is our thickening spray. It’s got Lilly Pilly, a natural collagen, so it plumps up my hair and I blowdry it. I always finish off with our Original Queenie which is our hair spray. I actually use that in a non-traditional way. I spray it in my roots and I spray underneath to get texture.
I know you mentioned the Lilly Pilly, but there are a lot of new ingredients in the brand and the new line.
Yeah, I was so obsessed with scalp irritation because that was the one thing that was coming through for hairdressers. What I really noticed with that is there’s a lot of factors that can affect it so we wanted to stabilize that – and that was our main thing. Molecular Blend Technology does that as I explained but we also use certified organic macadamia oil, which is very soothing on the scalp but also gives massive gloss and shine. Then we use coconut oil. I’m absolutely obsessed with coconut oil, I put it on my skin. It’s a superfood. So that’s our oil blend which we have in CØR.color that helps with the scalp and keeps the integrity of the hair because we want the hair to be healthy and in good condition.
I’m obsessed with the developers and how they work with the new color. So are there any new ingredients too?
The coconut oil is actually in the developer. We also have quite a few native Australian ingredients that we use in there that add a lot of moisture, which is actually quite amazing. Very powerful ingredients from Australia that are high in Vitamin C, like the Wild Seed Harvest. We got to keep our Australian roots.
A lot of those [ingredients] were borne out of the desert where you have to have hydration. So I know those ingredients were chosen for the added hydration to the color?
Yes, it’s the Wattle Seed that gives a thousand times moisture. It’s all about keeping the hair in healthy condition and super hydrated.
I used it the other day and wanted to test it without styling products. Hair was just extremely glossy and shiny and hydrated, so I know that these ingredients are just really a true bonus.
Yeah, I think obviously when you’re taking out so many chemicals, you’re looking to replace it with ingredients that will improve the product. Technology has improved so much that naturals can be high-performing and active.
What are the craziest old wives’ tales about hair color that you’ve heard? For me, it’s that organic and natural luxury products don’t work.
Oh yeah, that’s a complete myth. But that’s how I started. I walked into a salon and say my hair is an ammonia-free high-lift blonde. And they would go, “No it isn’t.” And I would go, “Oh yeah it is.” I would just say, “You’re the expert here. You try it and you let me know.”
We spent a long time dispelling the myth that ammonia-free didn’t work. Really, ammonia is an alkaline agent and we’re just using another alkaline agent. It just happens to have no smell and no fumes. So if you’re making a choice, why wouldn’t you choose that?
What’s happening is you’re opening the cuticle but you’re not doing it as fast as you do with ammonia. The process and time is the same but it’s just putting less stress on the hair. So yeah, we’ve been busting that myth for 10 years.
I know before you were addicted to the high-lift series. Is that still true?
No, actually about three months ago, one of the hairdressers that worked for me said [about my hair], “Darling, it’s making you look old and we need to get rid of that tint.” I was coloring it every two weeks for 10 years, so they swayed me to do lowlights and to be honest, I nearly had a heart attack. It was so dark!
But now I’m using ammonia-free lightener [Keratin Lightener]. Apparently, I’m 50% grey which is quite distressing as well. But when you have streaks you can hardly see the grey in between. I only discovered this when I took the tint off because I’ve never seen my roots for 10 years! So, I highlight my hair with a Keratin Lightener.
But you still have a 12 series?
Oh yes. The high-lift blondes are really great part of the range. And now we got the pastel toners as well. We’ve never had those before. I’m really excited [about them]. The pinks, mauves, apricots. I actually might try one of those coppers – would it be apricot?
Yeah, it’s pretty! It’s nice and sheer.
Okay, I might try that. We’ve actually launched CØR.color in 9 countries in the last 6 weeks and the biggest feedback is around grey coverage. You know if we’re all honest, every ammonia-free brand because of the nature of the alkaline agent, that’s been the biggest struggle, particularly in the lighter shades because dark shades tend to cover anyway. In a 7, 8, 9 when we’re doing the testing, we had a lady called Maureen and Paul the hairdresser doing the testing said to me, “Darling, you gotta come and see Maureen’s hair. It’s an 8.0 – it’s covered 100%!” And so that’s been the biggest difference.
We do very well in Scandinavia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway. They’re very knowledgeable about chemicals. Their governments have several chemicals banned that are not banned in the US. And it has gone so well for them there and they’ve given us such amazing feedback.
What is it about hairdressers that you really adore as far as characteristics of hairdressers are concerned?
I think most hairdressers are an eighth crazy. And to be honest, I’m about an eight crazy. You gotta be crazy to do hair color! But I think they are creative geniuses. Until you’ve really worked in it, you don’t really realize how creative they are and how much they can change women’s lives, [including] men’s lives. So from a product perspective, no one would do something like this unless they absolutely loved it. But when people tell you they love it or they don’t love it… hairdressers are just so expressive and honest. It’s been an amazing ride. My best friends are all hairdressers and I met so many amazing people. There’s never a dull day when you work in hairdressing.
Ashley would like to know: Where do you see the educational platform for the world going?
All hair colors are education-based. We run globally a traditional education model where we have educators on the road. But I think online is becoming so much more important. We’ve got videos for each of our retail products that are on the Simply Organic website. If there’s something you want to see, you can watch a little how-to video on how to do [a certain hair style]. We’re constantly developing more videos. We’re actually about to launch the videos for CØR.Color as well. I see videos as really important.
Also, I really want to work with hairdressers who love the product. So if you are a hairdresser and you have a great social media following, you should definitely contact us because we would love to work with you and hear what you like about it and see your video content. I absolutely think that that is the way that it’s going. We’ll soon use Fashion Week. We’re gonna be running competitions where stylists can go to New York Fashion Week, which we do twice a year. We’d really like to run a competition as well where you can come to Australia and I will host you.
Education is the most important thing. But the thing that I really love about CØR.color is it’s actually really easy. To be completely honest, I’ve been doing this for 10 years so I can say this and I know every ammonia-free line has had this, there’s been always [a lot of] tips and tricks that you have to do to get better grey coverage and to get more vibrancy in the reds, but now with the way this is [formulated] and Molecular Blend Technology – we’ve got the maximum amount of pyresol, which is the red. It’s really user-friendly that I don’t think we’re gonna need anywhere near as much education as before.
She’s right. This is like a point-and-click system where you can make anything out of all these shades and just as easily use and get your grey coverage just like that. I also know you’ve changed the timing a little bit?
Yeah, we’ve gone 1:1.5 as well in the mixing ratio, which makes it more cost-effective for the hairdresser.
And the +15 minutes model. With the new developer and 1:1.5 ratio that sort of made the education easy and switch up, too. How long from start to finish when you decided to jump back into developing a new color line?
It took us two years from when we found the right manufacturer. I went to a lot of different factories. We did all our due diligence. Ammonia-free is quite specialist and I wanted somebody who really had knowledge in this. I found a chemist we could really work with and we basically spent two years doing testing and developing the line.
Paul, who is my long-suffering hairdresser in Australia, was actually no longer working for me. He opened a salon and was having a break from products. I went to him and I said, “Please, please you’re the only one who knows it.” So he did all the testing in his salon. That worked really well because they were using it every single day, and we did hundreds and hundreds of heads and lots of comparisons.
We got a lot of new shades that we didn’t have before. And then some of the shades from Mineral.CCT, we kept those. It’s been a very long process. But, we will not stop moving. We’re always looking for ways to remove chemicals and we’re always looking for ways to improve the product. So we’ll be bringing out new shades every year. The Men’s Color that I was talking about earlier – that’s coming out the first quarter of next year. We’re really excited about that.
That’s pretty brilliant. All the barbers who do quick color for the men – it’s a huge market.
Yeah, and just being able to increase their service so quickly. I think a lot of men want grey blending now. They want that salt and pepper look. [Q.color] only stays on for 5 – 10 minutes because men aren’t gonna sit around for longer.
Anything else you wanna share with our Tribe out there?
I just wanna say thank you to all the O&M friends. Thanks for being on the journey and supporting us. We’re more enough to care and big enough to be growing. We’re excited about that. We’re getting O&M in salons around the world. I just really appreciate it. Thank you.