Andrew Dale: How He Grew UNITE To Cult Status + 7 Must-Haves For Good Hair Days
Andrew Dale started his career at just sixteen, training at Vidal Sassoon. He went on to open five successful salons and then founded the haircare brand named UNITE. From Dale’s own experience, he created products that perform and are effective. The formulation and innovation in the line has spurred hairdressers to share the products with their clients and UNITE has become a legitimate staple in hair care, rising to the top in an overly saturated market. On a mid-day call, after flying back from London, Dale shared the keys to building his brand, the tricks to good hair and the 7 products every woman needs for fabulous hair.
INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW DALE
What's the single most important thing you learned from starting your own company?
A. Don’t ever lose the passion for what you do. I think so many people get into business for the wrong reasons. I got into this industry when I was sixteen because I had a passion for it, and that passion grew and grew. Obviously, the more I got into it, the more I understood it, the more passion had I for it. And now, with the product company UNITE, I have such a passion to try to make people feel better and look better with our products and I really mean that. That passion is just there. It’s strong. I think that’s what drives the company. That’s what drives the brand. I think you can see when people lose their passion in a brand, the brand loses as well. If I was to tell anybody what I’ve learned, it is to keep the passion for what you do, because that’s what will drive your brand.
What’s the key to remaining passionate, and not burning out?
A. Obviously when you’re working and driving the business as hard as you are, burn out could come into it. The best thing I ever started doing, five years ago, was yoga.
“I do yoga three nights a week now, and it’s probably the best thing I ever did.”
I think what people have to understand, with starting a business or growing a brand, is you have to have a bit of balance. I never had that balance in the beginning. I came to understand how balance could help me. Every morning I get up at six o’ clock and go straight into the gym in the house and I do an hour and fifteen minutes every morning in the gym. Those things are the perfect balance for me. They stop me, believe it or not, from burning out because it gives me more energy to keep going, it’s fantastic. It sounds crazy but I was in the gym at 5 a.m. this morning because I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and got in the gym and did an hour on the treadmill and felt great afterwards. I was like, great I’m ready for the day now. That’s really how I am (laughs).
As your company has grown exponentially, what area(s) do you remain most “hands on”?
A. People. Just people. When you’re looking at a brand that grows, even when you look at Apple and Steve Jobs, he had a great team around him. I think of Miuccia Prada, you know all of these people.
“When you look at somebody like Tom Ford, yeah he’s a great leader of his brand, but he has a great team around him.”
I love working with my team and I want them to know I’m here for them to support them in any way shape or form I can so they can do the best job they can do every day and they know that, they can rely on me. That’s important. My team comes first. If I make my team come first, they will make the client come first. There’s a lot more of them than me. The president of my company, marketing, education, even finance, operations…I’m literally working with them every day, we will have a meeting to see what’s going on. Even if it’s a 10 minute meeting, it’s a great meeting. The other thing is, I let everyone know just CC me in on the emails, I probably won’t even jump in or even comment, but I like to know what’s going on. I’m not a micromanager, I’m a little bit more hands off, but they all know if that they ever want to speak to me, I’m there.
I personally look at education as marketing. There are different ways of approaching it. I was thinking of something that happened the other week to us. A good friend of mine, Ken Paves, a brilliant hairdresser, was working with Victoria Beckman, and they were doing a Vogue shoot. She did an Instagram post of her getting her hair done and in front of her is the whole collection of UNITE products, and she’s talking about getting her hair done. She has 24.1 million followers; now that’s advertising to me.
With respect to your Paramount Business course, do you have to be a salon owner to take the course?
A. No, you don’t have to be a salon owner to take the Paramount Business training, you actually don’t even have to be in the industry believe it or not, which sounds funny. I’ve had a lot of husbands come along with their wives to sit in on it. The wives are hairdressers and the husbands are either in the IT industry or another industry. They’ve come up to me afterwards and said, man I’d love for you to do this course with my company, it’s got nothing to do with hair. What I talk about in the course is more branding, because I think brands are important.
“Corporations and businesses get boring, but brands can be exciting. Building a team to create the culture within that brand is how brands become successful, so I teach a lot about that.”
But what I really want to teach hairdressers is how to do is make money. Back in the day, I had five salons with over a 100 hairdressers working with me and I was very successful. That’s how I was able to create a brand like UNITE and move forward, because I had enough money to do it. We have no VC (venture capital) in our company, we did this all on our own.
Should haircare be approached in the same way as a skincare regime? What should women use in a haircare routine daily, weekly or monthly?
A. There’s definitely a regime that one should have just like makeup or skincare, there’s no difference with haircare.
- A daily shampoo with a daily conditioner.
- A prep spray, which is a leave-in conditioner, which is a thermal protector and U.V. protector, and just really makes your hair work well when you come to blow dry it.
- A styling product whether you want your hair straight, curly, volume or hold, that should be the styling product.
- A finishing product if you want shine, texture or hold again.
- A clarifying shampoo, just like you need to cleanse your face with an exfoliant, it’s a cleanser for your hair to use once a week without doubt.
- A mask, a treatment, the treatment should have balance with protein and moisture and that should be added to it. So right there, there’s 7 products.
Then if you’ve got curly hair and you blow dry your hair straight, some days you might want to wear your hair curly, so you use the Boing System or some days you want your hair straight so you use the Lazer Straight System. Again, you can end up with having an array of products, anywhere from 7 to 9 different products in your bathroom, which is nothing wrong with that. When I think of my skincare, because I love doing a bit of skincare, I have my exfoliant or my scrub, or another product in the shower that I work with on my face and I come out and obviously moisturize. Then at night time I use a nighttime cream and vitamin masks, and things like that. When you think of skincare you usually end up with about 7 or 8 products for that and then makeup, who knows. One of my daughters was working for Bobbi Brown so when I look at my wives makeup counter my wife’s got a lot of makeup there, and I’m thinking what’s the difference with haircare? There is no difference.
What is the reason so many women struggle with achieving well-styled hair after they leave the salon?
A. I can tell you why, hairdressers aren’t good at consultation. Within the consultation they usually talk about, well what’s wrong with your hair? Oh, you want more volume, or you want it to be straighter or you want movement in it. They never talk about, with me cutting your hair like this, these are the products that you should use to maintain it. You know it’s really interesting, the average salon in American only sells about 6% to 8% in retail, which is diabolical. You go to an country like Sweden, which sells our products, and the average retail in the salon in Sweden is 30% to 35%. They’ve trained their clients over there to understand that when they go for a haircut, that’s where they are going to buy their product as well. What happens over here in America is the hairdresser feels as though they are an artist, so they’re not selling, they don’t retail but what they don’t understand is I think it’s caring. It’s caring about your client enough that when she leaves you and goes home she can take care of her hair the way you have, so they will send her home with a care package in Sweden. Hence why most clients will buy online or they go to a beauty supply. Who’s in the beauty supply store advising? The person that didn’t do the hair and who’s on Amazon? Nobody to advise them, unless they watch a video and how do they know if that video is going to be right for their hair as well. That’s really where it stems from and how it starts.
What are your thoughts on dry shampoo? Should it be a staple in women’s haircare?
A. Without a doubt, my wife uses it every day when she doesn’t wash her hair. She has quite long hair and the U:Dry Clear Dry Shampoo is amazing. We travel with it as well. It’s become a staple now. U:Dry Shampoo is very light and very clean dry shampoo. It’s got a powder in it but the powder is translucent, so even on dark hair you don’t see any build up or residue. It washes out very, very easily, very quickly. So there’s no challenge with ours. Now, if a dry shampoo has got a lot of powder and residue and is quite heavy, I don’t think they will be too drying, but I think you have to watch that they don’t build up on the scalp too much, so you don’t use them that often.
“Everyone should wash their hair every other day, if not every third day. People with shorter, mid-length hair should shampoo everyday.”
I shampoo my hair every day, and I know a lot of people who shampoo their hair everyday as well and there’s nothing wrong with that if you’re using the right products. But don’t use dry shampoo too much, don’t use it 3 days in a row. That can start to get a bit bad and your hair isn’t going to look that great anyway after that.
What should a woman never do to her hair?
A. I would say color their own hair. I don’t think any woman should be coloring her own hair at home. I think women should be going into a salon and getting their hair professionally colored, without a doubt. I think you can always tell when someone has done their color at home, because it always looks so bad. Also using crap products, that’s going to wreck your hair.
Do you have suggestions/rules to protect against the damage of heat styling and hair coloring?
A. Yeah, if you’re coloring your hair, make sure you’re using a shampoo that is color safe. What I mean by color-safe is one that doesn’t have sulfates, sodium chloride anything to fade the color or wash the color out too quickly. When you’re using heat, 7Seconds Detangler Leave-in Conditioner, which is a thermal protector, U.V. protector. You have to use something like that if you are using excess heat on your hair without a doubt.
Blonde hair can be very hard to maintain because of the double process and color oxidizing. What do you recommend to maintain the health of blonde hair?
A. So we have a whole line called, Blonda. Blonda is a blonde toning shampoo with a blonde toning conditioner. Then we have daily Blonda shampoo and conditioner as well and then we have the Blonda Fix. Blonda Fix is something that literally takes all the brassiness out of blondes and keeps them nice and bright blonde. So using the Blonda system you never have any challenge with that.
I have grey hair and sometimes grey hair can go a little bit yellow as well, or brassy if it’s not taken care of properly. I use Blonda Shampoo daily and never had a challenge with that at all. So highlighted blondes, highlights, bleach blondes, the Blonda System is the best to use. With the Blonda Fix, which is the treatment in our Blonda system, actually works as a bond repairer, which means it brings and sort of locks the bonds, that are damaging to your hair, back together. It not only tones but it is an extreme conditioner and hair fixer at the same time, hence the word Blonda Fix. Very important, because bleached hair and highlighted hair can get trashed, so you need something that not only tones but really works on the condition as well and we nailed it with Blonda.
The Deputy Editor & Fashion Director of British Vogue mentioned using U Luxury Shampoo and Conditioner. What's difference about the shampoo/conditioner combo?
A. U Luxury is really phenomenal for all hair types. We made it slightly different, we’ve got crushed pearls for protein, because crushed pearls are going to add the protein instead of using a rice or soy. We’ve got argon oil in the shampoo and conditioner and that’s going to make the hair shiny and glossy and really work on the mid-length to the ends to seal cuticle a lot more. And then we’ve got white honey from comes from the big island of Hawaii, that’s the only place you can find it, and white honey is a very restorative ingredient for hair. It smells amazing, which is why she probably likes it too.
You’ve lived in London, L.A. and now are headquartered right outside San Diego. What are your favorite spots (stores, restaurants, bars or hotels) in the three cities?
A. I’ve been a member of Soho House for about 15-16 years now so whenever my wife and I travel around London, New York, LA and even last year when we were in Berlin, we’ll go to Soho House. They’ve always got great standards, people in there are always cool, so that’s one of the things I like to do when I’m out. Designers and clothes?, I stick to the same sort of thing, I’m a complete Tom Ford freak. I must have over 30 of his suits, shirts and shoes and stuff like that. I love Tom Ford.
For a certain restaurant I love in L.A., if it’s not Soho House it would be Cecconi’s, it’s a fun sort of restaurant. In New York, there’s a couple we really like, I love Carbone in New York and I also love the Beatice Inn, which is fantastic. In London, we tend to go out a fair bit but it’s usually Soho House, but another one of the big restaurants we love in London is Quaglino’s. We love having breakfast at The Wolseley, the breakfast at The Wolseley is fantastic.
In San Diego I’m member of a club down here called The Grand, so we end up going there a lot, which is nice. There’s always great fun things but as much as I travel, I just got back from London last night, and nothing is nicer to come home to my wife and dogs, who I love. We’ve got three rescue pitbulls, and they’re the softest, most lovely, cuddly dogs. I know people don’t think that but they really are. It was just lovely coming home to my wife and the dogs last night. Just perfect.
Lastly, you worked with many high-profile clients during your career including Sting and Faye Dunaway. What is a favorite memory from working with a high-profile client?
A. The funniest story was with Carol Burnett, when she first came into the salon to get her hair done with me. It was when I was fresh in America and, being over in England for so long, I didn’t know who she was. She came in and sat down in my chair and I’m giving her a consultation and everyone in the salon is looking at her. I said to her, are you famous or something because everyone is looking at you?
“I was very cocky back then and she laughed and she said I’m actually an entertainer. I said to her, like what in the circus? And she started laughing again, she probably thought that was funny because I didn’t know who she was, and I ended up doing her hair for a long time.”
She was really cool. The other person I thought was just extremely cool was Cassandra Peterson who was Elvira. I thought her and her husband Mark were just the coolest people. I use to go to her house and do her hair, not her wigs but her real hair, which is a long layered strawberry blonde. Elvira’s house was below the Hollywood sign, above Beechwood Canyon, which was really cool and Alice Cooper would occasionally turn up there. That’s what I remember about then, all good, all really good people to work with.