Keune Haircosmetics is the leading luxury hair care brand to come out of Holland – an unlikely place you might find yourself thinking – but herein lies the key to its 90th year anniversary occurring this year – every tiny drop the brand produces and manufactures is from start to finish executed in their Dutch laboratories. With widespread international acclaim and a concise set of ranges including KEUNE, CARE, BLEND, DESIGN, SO PURE and now a new Tinta colour set, the brand is neatly positioning itself as a niche, 100%natural range, only available in-salon, in a bid to make a mark where the market these days is saturated by samey products and flooded through online retail channels.
It’s certainly an engaging concept; including the inviting and delightful scent and packaging. As a key stockist of the SO Pure range, which has just been launched onto the UK market and is already garnering attention from our discerning customers here at Michaeljohn, we caught up with Lee Harper, UK managing director to get the lowdown and learn more about the 3 So Pure buzzwords, Phytopherapy, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, and why Keune is happy to eschew the mainstream.
Jan Keune founded the brand in 1922.
You originally launched So Pure in 2002, why have you re-launched it in 2012? How have you noticed the hair industry to have changed in the intervening years?
Back in 2002, we still had this great natural product but our focus had been so entirely on that. We didn’t cater enough to the consumer with lively, visually pleasing packaging and strong communication material – so there was a groundbreaking product with none of the luxuries around the edge. Re-launching So Pure this year also fit in with the way that Keune runs all its retail lines, where they are cyclically revisited to keep them updated and cutting edge.
There have definitely been big changes in the UK industry over the last 9 years; the gap between professional and mass market has been narrowed continuously – whereby most labels are owned by multi-national conglomerates, such as L’oreal - changes and trends echo what they want and salons have got slack about recommending products.
You are the biggest selling brand in Brazil, but how does the UK market differ from International markets?
Countries such as Brazil, India, Pakistan are all in the middle of an economic boom, whereby their whole economy is growing, as a brand selling over there, Keune is very much part of that. Here the challenge is entering into an already saturated UK market, where you have to be ‘banging down doors’ to get your message across.
The brand philosophy is to make an uncompromised, 100% plant essential product, but can you let me in further on the process from sourcing right through to execution?
The key to the whole process is ‘Keune Control.’ Everything is administered under one roof, where a lot of other brands out there outsource different components, which ends up with an inconsistency in the product lines. Initially through research, we decipher what clients might like to use – e.g Argan Oil has had a huge increase in demand of late. From there and after further research, we make about 8 variants of the product on a very small scale in the lab, and carry out endless checks and tests including, health and Safety. Next products are passed to the studio to test on clients and get feedback on anything from hold to texture. Products are then deconstructed back to raw materials, tested again and manufactured. As we do it all in-house our production is quicker because we don’t have to ship anywhere.
We have a whole A-Z of the ingredients used in our products explained in our manual for reader benefit!
And what are proving to be the most popular products on the range so far?
I would say the Moisturizing range of shampoo, conditioner and treatment – I guess the British have dry hair!! Then probably the colour care range.
In a time when the market is saturated, how are you positioning it and in which UK stockists?
Currently we have 450 UK stockists. There are 35,000 UK salons – in 5 years we are hoping for a 10% increase across all the Keune products. So Pure is our flagship line – it has such a strong philosophy that it really lends itself to salons with a similar strong ethos and heritage of their own, such as Michaeljohn.
As a 100% plant essential, natural product, how do you differentiate yourself from an ‘eco brand?’
We don’t like to focus solely on the natural idea at So Pure. We don’t use the word ‘organic’ either as we think the term has been pulled out of shape as a concept and doesn’t represent anything anymore. We are happy to disclose our ingredients, which a lot of eco brands are not, but we are happy to promote the idea of balancing natural ingredients with a sense of reality and longevity. If a product was utterly natural, it would have to be kept in a fridge!
So talk me through these 3 buzzwords you base your philosophy on…
Physiotherapy, aromatherapy and homeopathy underpin our whole ethos. A balancing between the science of using natural plant extracts instead of chemicals, the belief that scent and smell can adjust mental state, and treatments to work through emotion and evoke memory.
How do you see the industry developing and growing over the next couple of years, where would you like So Pure/Keune to be then?
Ideally we would have liked to have launched a base of accounts and extended the range. We launched So Pure colour at the end of October at Salon International. A very niche, high end, paraben free, 35 shade colour range – it was met with much positive interest. I think colour will continue to dominate the industry over the next few years, and two categories will emerge; small, atelier style salons or large long running establishments.