Getting good head*

Who knew hair styling was such big business?

A girl sometimes needs a little help with her hair.  No, scrap that.  A girl sometimes needs a lot of help.  Especially when she’s a Capetonian and forced to give up “styling” after years of howling-abuse from both South Easters and North Westers.  There’s not much point in doing your ‘do’ if 20 minutes from your front door it looks like an Amy Winehouse special.

So when I was invited to the ghd Style Lounge for quick style fix on a Friday afternoon, I phoned just to check they had the right person.  ghd, short for Good Hair Day, are the makers of ceramic styling irons and styling products.  They are, according to my mates who know about this stuff, the über-gods of hair beauty.  The stylers use “thermodynamics” – or in layman’s terms, lots of heat and clever hair products – to straighten or curl your hair in nano-seconds and make you look like Gisele Bündchen on a runway.

ghd are clearly on to something.  Founded in 2001 by UK entrepreneur Martin Penny, the business has experienced rocket ride growth.  According to their website, the company’s business plans for the first three years anticipated revenue growth from between £3 and £4 million to £5 million. But by 2004 it had clocked £37 million.  Since then, the company has launched in South Africa, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, France and the US, had a 2007 turnover of £115 million and had the likes of Madonna, Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow on waiting lists for limited edition products.

Clever marketing has been part of the brand’s success.  The cool irreverence of the branding speaks perfectly to a generation of women raised on “Sex and the City” and Fashion TV.   Cunning celebrity and hair stylist endorsements, careful distribution through top salons and a premium price tag of around R1900 for the signature styling iron have ensured that the brand has become more of a fashion accessory than another tool in the beauty game.

The mobile Style Lounges are one of ways the brand is reaching out to South African ‘stylistas’.  The lounges are based on the concept of pop up retail, one of those fast fashion fads that have swept the high streets of London and the avenues of New York where brands have created temporary buzz spaces to connect with in-the-know brand fans. Fast indeed.  For my mini makeover I was whisked in and out of the pop-up salon in under an hour and transformed from drab to fab.  And the hair?  If I do say so myself; gorgeous!

“The gospel according to ghd” might just be a clever bit of advertising frippery, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you speak to converts to the products. From major celebrities in Hollywood to 16 year old cousin in Cape Town, people of all ages, styles and ethnic backgrounds literally gush at the mythic power of the stylers.

One student I spoke to got quite cross when I asked why she’d spend her entire discretionary income on a glorified hot plate.  She archly informed me that when a girl has good hair, she has good karma.

I can’t argue with that.

To locate your closest ghd salon, call (031) 717-2530.

Written for Moneyweb Life in January 09

*the orginal title, changed by the powers that be 😉

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