Daniel Kaner

Glass interviews Daniel Kaner, president and co-founder of Oribe Hair Care

FOR OVER a decade, Oribe has revolutionised the hair care market with their beloved featherlight formulas and precedent-setting technology.

Founded in 2008 by Daniel Kaner and two partners, including one of the world’s most influential hairstylists, Oribe Canales, the Oribe brand has since become a favourite among industry experts and A-list stars, with their award-winning products used globally to create high-impact volume and long-lasting colour, from the salon to the catwalk.

Kaner, president and co-founder of Oribe and a trailblazer in the business, has actively involved himself in every aspect of Oribe since its beginning, from product development and packaging to marketing and sales. Speaking with Glass, the beauty industry titan reflects on an illustrious career, revealing his must-have Oribe products and his take on the reasons behind the brand’s unwavering popularity.

Daniel Kaner
Daniel Kaner

What sparked your interest in professional haircare?
The start of my career in the world of hair care began with my wife, Sonia Kashuk, who is a makeup artist and entrepreneur. She had been consulting with Aveda Corporation based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and often got back to my home state of Minnesota for meetings, and during one of those visits is how we met.

Sonia introduced me to Aveda’s unconventional and innovative founder, Horst Rechelbacher, and we hit it off. He started to invite me to some of Aveda’s management meetings and we developed a strong friendship and business relationship.

Sonia and I eventually married and I joined her in New York where I started my career at Aveda in an official capacity, which was a life-changing and business-defining experience.

I learned a great deal directly from the founder of Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher. Horst was a unique thinker — one of the most interesting people I’d met in my career. I had an English degree from the University of Minnesota and was working in the recycling industry. With him, it was not just about the product, it was about the process. I’d never seen such conviction and belief in the products, the process, the brand. In retrospect, it was a hard horse to hold onto because it liked to buck its riders. But it really stamped a lot of who I am as a business person today.

What was the process of bringing Oribe to market?
Sonia always believed that Oribe was a brand waiting to happen. They worked together for many years and became close friends. She found him engaging and charming. We discussed a possible project but I had accepted a position at Bumble & Bumble, so the timing wasn’t right.

After Bumble was purchased, I knew what my next act would be. It came organically. During visits to salons, I would think: Salons have a high level of service, so why couldn’t they have products at a high level, too? What if we created something that was luxe and unique in nature – maker-designed, specialty and boutique?

Oribe Canales came from the editorial world, he was charismatic and charming, you just knew he would resonate with stylists. He combined edgy but luxe qualities in his style. That was the inspiration for what the line could be.

The idea was so clear in our minds. While we were still developing the product, I was meeting with buyers – luxury department stores and salon owners. They loved our story and what we were trying to do. That was something I’d never experienced.

How has the brand managed to stay on top?
Oribe is this amazing mixture of the customers that buy it – including salons and specialty stores – and the team that continues to hold itself to the brand’s standards. Every team member is a leader and a maker and a designer, and is responsible for the brand’s overall success. The brand is a bit of all the parts that fit together, this is what makes it special.

Oribe’s Dry Texturizing Spray has been a cult favorite ever since its launch in 2008 — what is the key to the product’s enduring popularity?

This is an original product that Oribe Canales created out of desire for a tool to enhance his hairdressing. It was so fun to work with him because he had such a strong perspective on the performance of the products. Performance was our non-negotiable. At the time, stylists would use dry shampoo to prolong a hairstyle because they liked the gritty texture it gave the hair, which was good for volume and backcombing, but Oribe didn’t like the residue. He said, “I’m going to create a dry shampoo that’s not used to absorb oil; I’m going to create a styler that doesn’t leave any residue.” Then, rather than add a scent that just covered the smell of the base, we developed a fine fragrance that runs throughout our entire line.

Our fragrance, Côte d’Azur, became a recognizable brand signature, and Oribe created a product that every session hairstylist and consumer wanted to use. I’ve attended many fashion shows and you wouldn’t always see the can, but you would smell Oribe in the air.

What is your favorite Oribe product?
I have a lot. I love the incense. I love having our liter bottle in the shower: It’s like a sculpture to me. I use Curl Control Silkening Crème: The hair’s not crunchy, and it adds memory.

My hair still looks like hair – whatever’s left of it! The Restorative Body Cream is amazing: It’s heavy yet just melts into the skin.

Looking back on your career thus far, what has been a high point for you?
Having the opportunity to work with creative people and serve customers who have helped build our brand in over 50 countries … it’s really been an amazing journey. The team has been on this journey for a long time, and I used to coach them to be the absolute best at what we do.

But now, we’ve been focusing on the idea of what would it take to be the most interesting, and how we can focus more on environmental and social elements as guiding principles in how we operate. The business climate is different than when I started my career, we are all so tightly connected – teams, customers and the brand.

So to do the job well, the idea of partnerships, working together closely to define our objectives, allowing us all to continue to win. That has been the most rewarding … I’ve loved being a part of this brand, being associated with this team and being in this industry. It’s always felt more like a passion project than a job.

What has been a challenge that you’ve had to overcome?
We have always taken a skincare-minded approach in the development of our products. Finding the right partners who would be able to make these custom, treatment-grade formulations was a challenge, but we have a dedicated team who works hard to ensure all of our products live up to our standards.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Evolving to the next cycle of the process: Learning how to become better makers, and how I can become a better leader. It’s all about finding our best self as a leadership team and as a brand.

With the closure of hair salons during lockdown, at-home treatments and colourings have in recent times taken centre stage. Do you think quarantine has changed the way people look at haircare?

When people are locked inside, it’s not about cutting or coloring hair. We’re seeing a society of broader self-acceptance and self-expression. As a result, there’s a trend toward individual expression and artistry in the way we look. It’s more about, how do I want to look?

by Joshua Hendren

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