At this year’s Master Jam gathering in Milan, we spoke to globally renowned session stylist and senior vice-president of Creative at Aveda, Antoinette Beenders. Here she discusses her long-standing relationship with the brand and how its unique approach has helped her flourish professionally and creatively.
“Over the past 10 years, my role at Aveda has evolved, although a lot of people think I just do hair! My responsibilities have changed a lot, and I now have a team of 35 graphic designers, art architects and video producers working alongside me because we make everything in-house. My role now also encompasses steering the brand’s image (as well as styling and product), and my love of what Aveda represents and can do stands strong.”
#WithAvedaICan… strike the perfect balance between conscience and creativity
“When Horst hired me in 1997, he wanted me to help blend fashion with nature. That’s what I’m constantly trying to do – bringing the part of Aveda that’s on display at events like Master Jam to the fore, while still preserving the beauty and wellness elements that are at the brand’s core. I want to continue to emphasise the incredible fashion capabilities of Aveda products, because there are a lot of brands that are natural and they’re all a bit ‘granola’ and kind of the same. I’m always looking to inject more of the ‘art’ part when utilising the incredible natural formulas of the products.
“I think in the hairdressing world, people have always been somewhat aware of that facet of Aveda, but I want to make it more visible for consumers, too. To change that perception of what a ‘green’ brand is slightly. I’m personally trying to show that #WithAvedaICan do so much more than they expect and demonstrate that what they offer is truly cutting edge.”
#WithAvedaICan… push styling boundaries, without pushing hair to its limits
“I come from a photographic background. My Dad was a photographer and I got really involved in editorial early on in my career, which meant I knew Aveda from the backstage world. I always liked that it was natural, but when you use natural products it also has a different effect on the hair compared to chemical-based products. That’s always been a big passion of mine; what you can do while still being kind to the hair structurally and it was what first convinced me to do a few Aveda shows in the ’90s.
“I think I’m lucky because I still get to do so many different things within my current role. Thanks to Aveda’s supportive culture, I still get to cut hair every couple of weeks. I love being in the salon – I think it keeps me grounded and I get so much research done, too. I ask clients what they think of things I’m working on and they’ll tell me straight – good and not so good! I don’t have to wait for marketing panels – with the freedom I’m afforded, I get all the honest feedback (and can observe how things work on clients’ hair) there and then.”
#WithAvedaICan… use my personal hairdressing knowledge to help shape the direction of the brand
“As I was reluctant to move to the US when I first started working with Aveda, I used to split my time into three week stints – three spent in New York and then three back at my home in London. After I had been doing that for three years, the president of the brand literally gave me his office in New York and said ‘Now you’re the creative director.’ I was like ‘Okay… what does that mean?’ I thought creative director meant hair, but it wasn’t just that – it was graphics and packaging and beyond. So I had to learn a whole new job, and that’s what I’ve done for the past 10 years!
“What’s great though is that I obviously have that hairdresser’s insight and I sit in the board meetings now and say to Estée Lauder ‘No, that’s not going to work with hairdressers or in salons’. And they’re listening, so it’s good!”
#WithAvedaICan… bring the message of Aveda to life
“At the last Aveda Congress, I told the CEO ‘You’d better come over as you need to see our big shows. Otherwise you’ll never fully understand our brand’. He came and could not believe it, he was blown away! He’d always seen the quiet side of Aveda and then he saw the creative beating heart come to life on stage. I call it the ying and the yang – the creativity and the conscience. I’ve worked really hard to mix the two together to convey the true Aveda ethos.
“The CEO is now sending all his heads of different markets to events, and we had the head of Aveda Brazil attend Master Jam because he said ‘You’ve got to come over and watch this!’ They also need to see what the brand is about – that perfect mix – because within a big corporation, you often only see what you’re shown. I want everyone on the board to fully understand the trade side; how we hairdressers love using the products, creating with them and enjoying the benefits of them. I made sure I exposed them to the trade front line and they really like it – the energy, the passion and the underlying attitude of #WithAvedaICan.”