It helped out a lot. I’m very grateful to Essence for that one. I was also working with agents who work as liaisons between various potential clients and they helped build my clientele too.
Hairstylists use agents?
[laughs] Yes, we do! I have a great agent, and she’s put me in contact with a lot of people I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to…but she can only sell me if I’m able to deliver the final product. So while I owe a lot to my agents over the years, ultimately, I’m successful because I’m able to give my clients what they’re looking for.
For most hairstylists, owning their own salon is the ultimate dream, but you took it a step further with creating your own product line. Was HAIR by Tippi Shorter always part of the master plan?
Having my own salon was the ultimate goal for me at first and I achieved that with Luxe [in New York City]. At first, I didn’t have so-called “A-list celebrities,â€ but I did have “A-list clientsâ€–moms and working women who were faithfully working with me. But then I started working with Rihanna, and when her career went through the roof I found myself traveling the world, and building more clients, and having all of these new experiences. Having a product line was never my initial goal. But as I started having new experiences my dream evolved.
What sparked the idea of creating your line of products, HAIR by Tippi Shorter?
Five years ago I was tapped by Pantene to represent them and speak on their behalf. I didn’t even know there was such a position. But I would travel and speak about healthy hair and the products that can help give you the look you want. Then other brands started knocking on my door. Soon people started asking me, “When are you going to have a line of your own?â€ and I realized they were on to something.
What makes HAIR different than all of the other lines on the market now?
[My debut line] “The Smoothing Collection” is for women with all hair types–natural or chemically straightened. Within the past few years we’ve really seen an over-saturation of products for women with curly hair. Everywhere you turn it’s about hair care for naturally curly hair. I wanted to give a product that was more versatile, and moisturizing, and can be used on hair of all types.
Is there a conflict of interest now that you have your own line?
Not at all. I have no problem with recommending another brand name. I don’t only use my products on my hair or my clients. As a hairstylist my job isn’t just to push my products on someone; I’m going to use whatever is going to give them the best result based on their hair texture and the look that we’re trying to achieve. I’ll use my products when they’ll give the best results, but other times I’ll use someone else’s and that’s fine with me. In fact, right now I love Ojon’s Restorative Hair Treatment, and Breakage Defense by Pantene. The Bamboo Dry Oil Mist from Alterna is really great, too.
For a longtime you ran your own salon, Luxe. How did you come to the decision to let go of that business to focus on other opportunities?
In 2005, about six months before I decided to sell Luxe, my business partner took me aside and said, “You know you don’t want to be here anymore.â€ [Laughs] I was just traveling non-stop because of my high-profile clients and I really felt bad with leaving her with most of the responsibility at Luxe. So in a sense it was an easy decision and a mutual decision, and it’s what I needed to do to take my career to the next level.
So now that you’ve reached that level, what have you set your sights on next?
Well, I’m working diligently on my product line and I really hope to expand into more specialized lines–products for thinning hair, a reparative line, and a line for curly hair. I’ve also finally got a prototype for a travel bag for stylists. It took me two years to find a functioning prototype but now I’ve got it and I really like it. I also have an idea for an amazing product . I’ve been developing it for about five years now and keep running into roadblocks from people saying that it can’t be done or else it would have been done already. But I’m steadfast in believing in myself. It’s going to be amazing.
Can you tell us about what the product idea is?
Absolutely not! [laughs]. I’ll talk about it when it’s manufactured and on the shelves–not a second sooner…. But other than that I’m just learning to be in the moment. I’m really focusing on expanding my brand but I also know I need to balance that with rest. I’m ready to put my passport down for a bit and spend more time with my family.