I have been obsessed with hair accessories since the tender age of five when I was given a gorgeous headband that perfectly matched my very favorite baby blue cashmere sweater.
Never mind that I'm a Winter and look horrible in Baby Blue. What did I know? At the time I just just a kid and colors moved me in extraordinary ways.
At the time I loved the way the headband, which was a hard U shaped plastic number, slide onto my head and held my blonde tresses perfectly in place.
I recently found a photo of me wearing that first headband and marveled at how far my obsession has evolved.
When HairBoutique.com became a glimmer in my eye back in 1996, eventually coming to official life in 1997, one of the first things I focused on was hair accessories. By the time Hairboutique.com's online Marketplace was opened in 1998, the first items for sale were, you guessed it, hair accessories.
At the time I will admit to my total and complete cluelessness about the inner workings of the hair accessory business. But I knew what I loved and what looked great. With that naive yet passionate love of hair accessories as my mantra I stumbled and bumbled my way through a vast maze searching for answers.
Lessons In The Hair Accessory World
Along the way I learned many lessons. Some more painful than others but all of them offered me an opportunity to evolve in my appreciation of the entire accessory industry.
In the very early days the hardest lesson I weathered dealt with the politics of which accessory designers were willing to sell to which distribution channels.
In the the dawn of the Internet e-stores, Web companies like HairBoutique.com, Eve.com and even Beauty.com were initially shunned, snubbed and ignored by the high end lines that only wanted to have their designs shown in brick and mortar stores with prestige initials. In the early days was even better if those stores were in New York or Los Angeles.
I was such a shock to show up with my hard earned money in hand driven by my wild passion for hair accessory designs only to be told that my money was not good enough. One of my earliest heartbreaks involved a hair accessory line created by a family of Asian sisters in California. After first agreeing to sell wholesale to me, once I placed my very substantial opening order for Brazilian imported hair clips, I was completely shummed.
After days of trying to confirm that my order had been processed with zero response from the company, I was shocked to receive a fax that simply stated "We Don't Want Your Order".
Not only was the response bizarre, once I managed to finally get the owner on the phone, it was clear why our order had been greeted with such a rude response. In their eyes, the Internet was one step below the worst trailer park in the mean streets of LA.
As they say, when one door closes, another opens and shortly after that rebuff, HairBoutique.com started receiving calls from some of the really great accessory lines and designers wanting to do business with us. I was beyond thrilled and dumped every spare penny into those designer's lines.
Timing Is Everything
I also learned that a key tenet of being successful in the hair accessory market involves timing. Being in the right place, at the right time and making the right connections is crucial.
Which is how I came to meet one of the industry greats, Accessory Designer Jennifer Behr.
While shopping at one of those prominent stores in New York, I met one of their accessory buyers who showed me some lovely designs by Frederic Fekkai. It was love at first site.
I was impressed by the uniqueness of the Fekkai designs and the unusual leathers, silks, satins and feathers used in the pieces.
While it is considered politically incorrect to try and mine contact information for designers from other retail locations, I did manage to ask a free lance fashion editor friend about the Fekkai line. I was told about Jennifer who at the time was Fekkai's head accessory designer.
Shortly afterwards I was passed Jennifer's phone number at Fekkai by the editor in question and proceeded to make contact after a few days of phone tag with eternally busy designer.
On my next trip to New York from Dallas Jennifer invited me to the Fekkai offices to see her latest collections and to discuss the possibility of HairBoutique.com carrying the line in the future.
Spread before me in a contemporary meeting room were rows and rows of the most stunning, innovative and lush hair accessories I had ever seen in my life.
Jenn, as she is called, was vivacious and incredibly informative explaining in great detail her inspiration behind each and every piece, the intelligence behind the various materials utilized and she even shared her philosophy about designing for the human head with all of its unique requirements.
Not only did it turn out Jenn had a background in art with a focus on sculpture, but her specialty was on the human head and face. Even more interesting was the fact that she went to school in St. Louis at Washington University, which happened to be where I grew up and did some post graduate work.
Although once again I put together a substantial initial order for the entire Fekkai line, right after the meeting with Jenn, it was decided to discontinue the Fekkai accessory line in favor of focusing on the hair and beauty lines. I was broken heartbroken.
Jenn consoled me with the news of her own entry in the world of hair accessory designing. I was thrilled. Not only had she been the head designer at Fekkai for five years, she had worked with a small hat maker and free lanced designs for other well known hair accessory lines.
I could not believe my good fortune when Jenn sent me her first collection via overnight delivery. Even though Jenn had warned me of a very long delivery cycle because every piece was hand-made and the materials were imported from Europe, I was willing to pay in advance for our order and wait as long as it took to receive her first line, which arrived in December of 2005.
My Source Or Inspiration
When Jenn's accessories arrived at Hairboutique.com I stopped and looked at every single piece. I was amazed at the incredible workmanship as well as form and function of each item.
In some of my phone conversations with Jenn she had graciously shared her philosophies about accessories and design principles.
Unlike other designers who are very guarded about their creations, Jenn was always more than willing to share her insights and experiences. At one point she encouraged me to take classes and I was appreciative of the suggestion. I immediately enrolled in a local fashion design school and took classes in metal working.
Since Jenn first encouraged me to expand my own knowledge base my knowledge of the hair accessory has deepened. In a lot of ways hair accessories can be compared to wines.
Yes, there are many people who want a good wine to have with dinner or from celebrations. But there are those wine lovers who live for discovering that very best wines available. They study wine magazines, take wine tasting classes and sip their way through many bottles until they find their own personal nirvana.
Is there really a difference? Maybe not for some but for the true afficianado there is absolutely a major difference
One thing that I have learned on my long and winding hair accessory journey is that there are hair accessories which work perfectly fine for everyday wear. There are also accessories that work for evening wear or special events. However, there is a rare breed of hair accessories which can only be defined as nirvana, just like in the case of that coveted bottle of fine wine.
I have also discovered that there are hair accessories integrators and there are hard core designers. Jenn Behr is a designer's designer. Her rare collections are truly original works of wearable art you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. In all my hair accessory journeys, I am honored to have made her acquaintance and experienced her stellar designs. And yes, I personally wear her designs with pleasure and pride.
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