Luxury haircare Oribe’s move through time

Created to offer a unique, boutique perspective in the professional haircare segment, Oribe has continually set new standards with its versatile and game-changing products. Co-founder Daniel Kaner talks to Gillian Chu about the past, present and future of the luxury brand

Photo: Oribe

The year was 1976. Oribe Canales had moved to New York City to pursue his acting dreams, only to find himself working – and thriving – as a receptionist at a hair salon. Unbeknownst to Canales or the famed hairstylist Garren, whom Canales was assisting, the Cuban-born 20-year-old would go on to influence haircare and styling for decades to come, from working with Jennifer Lopez and the OG supermodels such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell to creating one of the world’s most sought after luxury haircare brands.

Daniel Kaner first met Canales through his wife, make-up artist Sonia Kashuk, who also introduced him to the haircare world. “Oribe was an incredible person and just had this magic and true glamour about him that evolved throughout the years,” Kaner recalls. Describing Canales as a “rare gift”, Kaner saw the celebrity hairstylist as a visionary for his bold attitude towards opportunities and his vigorous artistic process.

Kaner, who had experience working with Aveda and Bumble & Bumble, and Canales would go on to co-found Oribe Hair Care in 2008. “Oribe’s fearless eye, artistic sensibility and his love of hairdressing made him the ideal partner to go on this journey with,” says Kaner, who also serves as president of the brand.

Oribe’s cult favourite Dry Texturizing Spray. Photo: Oribe

Oribe was founded on the belief that haircare should push the boundaries of performance. “We wanted to make serious tools [for] hair-obsessed customers,” Kaner says. “We take a craftsman style approach and have never used stock formulas.”

Such an uncompromising philosophy has driven the brand’s intentional development process and holistic approach to product design. Not only are products tested by Oribe’s global team and used extensively backstage, on set and in the salon to attest to their first-class performance, but they are also tested by dermatologists to ensure “clean and modern” formulas that are sulfate-free, colour- and keratin-safe, and UV-protective, all for the promise of a superior at-home product experience for consumers.

“To do something well comes not only from repetition and from pushing the artistry and the excitement. It’s also about continuing to renew and reinvent what you do” – Daniel Kaner

“We’ve been able to look to global trends, a wide array of salon clients’ requests, and the newest ingredient technology in helping us originate products that are unique and extreme in every category – gels that condition, sprays that don’t flake, skincare-grade shampoos that prep hair for styling and gently balance the scalp, masques that have the richness and body of a lavish moisturising cream,” Kaner explains.

Among the brand’s revolutionary products, Kaner highlights the cult favourite Dry Texturizing Spray, created out of Canales’ desire to enhance his own hairdressing methods. From a casual everyday tousled look or classic voluminous blowout to an elegant updo, the spray works for every occasion imaginable, defining an unprecedented category in hairstyling. It remains a staple in professional stylists’ kits and in customers’ styling routines.

Products from the popular Gold Lust. Photo: Oribe

Supershine Moisturizing Cream, on the other hand, caters to those with medium-to-thick and long hair. The cream acts as a light but effective leave-in conditioner that adds shine and softness while calming frizz.

Besides its game-changing haircare products, Oribe’s packaging designs have been integral to the brand. Such attention to appearance may be a result of Canales’ attraction to glamour and Kaner’s fascination with beauty as he admits, “A lot of what’s guided me is that I like to make beautiful things.”

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Consistent with the statement “with a nod to the future and a hint of the past”, Oribe’s bottle designs combine the exquisite craftsmanship of hand-blown grappa bottles with the modern creative visions of Alex Wiederin, creative director of the boutique design agency Buero New York. The prime example of this seamless marriage of old and new is the Gold Lust products with aristocratic details adorning their surfaces, complemented by vibrant, contemporary colours to evoke “an emotional reaction”.

Despite Canales’ passing in 2018, he remains an indispensable figure at the heart of the brand. “He’s a continual reference point in terms of his belief, his artistry and his personal style,” Kaner says. The brand also continues Canales’ legacy as an eminent stylist in the world of fashion through involvement with New York Fashion Week and sponsorship of established and emerging designers.

As well as preserving Canales’ footprint in editorial shoots and fashion shows through the haircare line, the brand launched its Journey to Mastery program in 2008, which aims to advance session hairstylists’ skills. Inspired by Oribe’s passion for learning and devotion to incessantly refining his craft, Journey to Mastery spans over 40 countries and features a diverse line-up of experienced educators.

Supershine collections. Photo: Oribe

“We select our educators not only based on their talent but also the diversity of their technical abilities, leadership skills and their experience with a wide range of hair types,” Kaner explains.“ Our educators are global ambassadors for the brand and the community in which they serve, and they really represent the personality and the spirit of our brand and its teachings.”

Divided into the three chapters of Styling, Cutting and Runway Report, courses range from core foundations essential to both classic and modern hairdressing such as setting, braiding and extensions to in-depth reviews of Fashion Week trends and the creative process behind conceptualising a photoshoot.

Besides upholding Canales’ legacy, Kaner credits the Oribe team’s people-oriented culture and customers’ unwavering belief in the brand for its success. “Great achievement comes through collaboration and a shared belief in what you’re doing,” he says, quoting his wife. “People work happily together and, as a result, [they] are able to make these extraordinary products and tools.”

Photo: Oribe

So, how does the brand distinguish itself from other luxury haircare brands? Kaner stresses the importance of refining one’s role. “To do something well comes not only from repetition and from pushing the artistry and the excitement,” he explains. “It’s also about continuing to renew and reinvent what you do.”

Citing the Japanese term genba – meaning to be close to the shop floor – Kaner says, “For Oribe, the future will be about continuing to stay close to understanding what the customers’ needs are.” He suggests one way to stay relevant is to continue to innovate and create products for all types of people with different hair textures.

“When you hit your destination, you’re done; very little growth happens after,” he says. “We’re going to keep journeying ahead.”

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