Talking Business, Hair Trends & The Perfect Blowout With Drybar Founder Alli Webb
We confess, we’re kind of snobs when it comes to our hair. Five years ago we couldn’t find a decent place to get a perfectly tousled blowout and had to resort to curling irons, rollers or God-forbid—blow dry our own hair. Now, salons are popping up left and right offering to give customers some of the best, most Hollywood-worthy locks with services that range from a quick, fun ‘do, to a slower, more relaxing spa experience. Wanting only the best of the best, we went to the company that started the craze—and our obsession with the little yellow hairdryer—Drybar. We got the opportunity to sit down with Drybar’s founder Alli Webb and talked business, styling trends and what it is that makes their blowouts so flippin’ perfect.
To say Webb was made for this business is an understatement. The founder of Drybar has fifteen years of experience under her belt working as a professional stylist, training with TONI & GUY and John Sahag, and even started her own mobile blowout business in 2008. “After I had two kids and I really was a stay-at-home-mom, I got kind of anxious to get back out there into the world and I started a mobile blow dry business,” she recalls. She spent her days styling hair for friends, other moms and neighbors in the area, but she soon realized her little venture would not meet the high consumer demands. “I thought, you know, instead of me going to them I should open a place where they come to me.”
With funding and help from her older brother and co-founder Michael Webb, the two started their first Drybar in Brentwood, CA in 2011. Today they have 35 locations and product available in 170 Sephora stores as well as several online distributors and QVC. “After around our third store I really wanted to develop a product line because I felt really restricted; really more it was like I was cherry picking from this line and that line and I was trying to come up with the perfect assortment from all these other brands,” she explains. “It just felt like a mish-mosh in our shop and I felt like there wasn’t a line of product that was perfect for what we were doing.”
And we’re so glad she made her own, because if anything can extend a blowout (or even the life of your bangs), Drybar products can. The collection ranges from hair treatment oil to their very own yellow hairdryer (affectionately named “Buttercup”), and are all made with the idea that they are for one use only—getting and keeping that beautiful blowout. To design the perfect concoctions for creating that bombshell look, Webb turns to her team for support and the final say on items. “I’m really lucky because these products start out as my vision and the great thing is I’m able to share that with, well, we have 2,000 stylists working with us, so I get a product where I like it and then I put it in the shop,” she explains. “I get the stylists to give me their feedback and that is so valuable to me—every product that we’ve developed has a ton of input from stylists that are working in Drybars, that are working with hair every single day.”
Creating the initial product, however, proved a little more difficult than just asking for criticism from her employees (which we can’t imagine is very easy to begin with anyway). “It’s a very hard process to start a product line, which I have learned,” Webb laughs. “It was very overwhelming.” Luckily for her, an initial investor in Drybar, Janet Gurwitch, had a little experience in launching a new brand—as former CEO and co-founder of Laura Mercier cosmetics. “That was about a year, over a year ago, that she came on board and started helping me get this off the ground, and that was really the turning point; we were able to kind of get this going,” Webb explains.
Former-CEO-fairy-godmothers aside, Webb is a fan of her own products (how could she not be) and uses them daily to get her own naturally curly hair to stay the way she styles it. And her favorite creation? “That’s like asking what child of mine do I like the best! Probably what I use day in and day out is The Chaser,” she confesses, but admits that most people don’t know how to use it correctly. She suggests trying it on the ends right after a shower as a leave-in-conditioner or on dry hair for shine, texture and “piece-y-ness.”
When it comes to doing our own hair at home (because we don’t always have time to run to our nearest Drybar), we had to ask Webb for any pointers or tips on getting that amazing texture and bounce that only seems to come when someone else is drying our strands. “Whether we’re doing your hair or you’ve been doing your own hair at home make sure you [start] with a really great blowout, so that you can have it for two, three, sometimes even four days,” she says. We can’t imagine getting four days out of any at-home blowout, but we’re totally willing to try. “Use oils and cream conditioners on the end of your hair,” Webb offers. “Brush through your hair at the end of the night; it’ll help move those oils from your roots to your ends, which is kind of where everybody needs help.”
But what about the secret to keeping that lust-worthy, salon blowout? “I know, that’s the million dollar question!” she laughs. Web makes a few suggestions that range from piling on the dry shampoo to changing your bed linens. “Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or wrapping your hair in a satin scarf, all that stuff helps. Cotton tends to rough up your hair quite a bit, so always kind of avoid that,” she says. While we’re waiting for our new sheets to arrive, she offers up some style tips for that funky in-between stage, where the hair is not quite fantastic, but not a total mess either. “Take advantage—put your hair in a cute bun or braid back the sides and bobby pin them back—something that you can get away with even though your hair isn’t as bouncy and full as it once was,” she says. Since tucking all those locks away in a bun might feel like cheating, a fun braid, chignon, half-up style or full ponytail could do wonders to put some life back into your blowout. And don’t forget the dry shampoo.
As we get our hair out from under those winter hats and move into spring, we’re going to be wearing our tresses down a lot more often. Since we were chatting with the queen of blowouts, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear her take on new trends for the upcoming season. For Webb, hair in 2014 is all about one thing: volume. “Volume is such a big trend this year, we have a lot of volume products coming out,” she explains. “I think you’re going to see bigger, bouncy hair—there’s this really great big-hair trend and I think it’s going to continue to emerge over the next year.” Following trends like body, deep side parts and braiding, Drybar keeps their menu current by offering styles such as the Southern Comfort (big hair with volume) and the Mai Tai (messy and beachy).
To keep ahead of the curve and give their customers the very best, Drybar has perfected the art of blow drying hair. “We start off all our blow drys in the front because most people have hairline issue—bangs, cowlicks, all kinds of weird stuff—usually right on your hairline,” Webb explains. “It’s really hard to change dry hair. Once hair is dry without like, a lot of heat, you really can’t change it, so tackle harder areas when your hair is wet and you have some control over it.” Genius.
Drybar plans to expand by opening more locations in 2014 as well as taking their product to 300 Sephora locations, almost double their current market. With several new products in the works, Webb is keeping mum about the details. “We have some other fun stuff, I don’t think we’ve released it yet and [PR] might kill me if I tell you exactly what they are,” she laughs. “There’re a couple that are like, still ‘may come out, may not come out’. I should hold off on telling you for now, but there’s some exciting stuff coming out.” With the brand growing from a small salon in Los Angeles to a national name with locations from coast to coast and products sold in one of the biggest cosmetic stores in the world, Webb is beyond thrilled. “To see it doing as well as it’s doing ‘knock on wood,’” she whispers, “has been really so gratifying.”