Editor-in-Chief Tess Aurore hosted an interview with Odele co-founder Lindsay Holden about the moment she and her co-founders knew they’d struck gold, why gender isn’t a priority to the brand, and what her hopes are for the future.
Thanks for squeezing me into your schedule, Lindsay. One thing I really want to know: what were your initial thoughts going into creating Odele?
First, I could not understand why I was paying $40 a bottle for my salon-grade shampoo. As a firm believer that crazy good doesn’t have to be crazy expensive, why was there not something that met my high standards as a consumer?
Then, my two co-founders and I are all moms. We looked at our bathrooms and it was bottle madness. It was shampoo for me, shampoo for my partner, whatever kind of shampoo for my kids, the clean kind.
We asked: how do we just simplify this category? In addition, create something that meets my high standards, but can be used by those who are sharing my shower? We had the backgrounds to do something about it, and it was the right time.
I know I’ve told my past partners to keep their hands to their 20-in-1 body-wash-shampoos.
Literally, there are partners out there trained to ask permission. They ask, “can I use this?” because the unleashing on them for when they use the wrong product is scary.
Before I continue, what do you know about QUILL? I ask because I saw Odele was about being genderless, and QUILL is a gender-inclusive beauty site.
I love what you’re doing, and I totally agree, the idea of this gendering never felt right. Whether it’s advertising or whether it’s how you even shop for things in brick and mortar, there is a men’s section. There is a women’s section. But there’s no difference. There should be no difference. Good hair knows no gender.
One thing I noticed: you have a fragrance free option, which many companies do not have.
We put that through the National Eczema Association Certification, and all of our products are dermatologist tested. We’ve never been drawn to these overly-gendered fragrances. What makes a beautiful fragrance, in my mind, is if anyone can use it, because [fragrance] is such a fluid thing.
Yeah, it’s about need, not fragrance.
We base all of our products on benefit. What should be determining how you shop for our products is your hair type and texture and the benefits that you seek to achieve with your product. It should not be determined by your age, by your gender, by your race.
You now have a body wash, which is so exciting. Were you purposefully marketing it as gender-neutral, like your haircare?
Yeah, it was always intentional. Every product we make is made to be shared, so we often credit our fragrance to being gender-neutral. You’re not going to get this overly-masculine, deep woods, ax-bearing, woodchopper scent. At the same time, you’re not going to get this flower bomb of something.
No “Wolf Fighter” or “Pink Petunia Garden.”
You just want to enjoy the experience in the shower, but not have it dominate you when you’re done. That’s the filter we always look at our fragrances through. But, again, same as hair type, it’s benefit-driven. What are the most common skin concerns? What are the benefits that those skin concerns seek, whether it is soothing, moisturizing, clarifying?
I know that your products are super clean too, on top of that. What were you looking for when you went with “clean?” Because there are so many definitions floating around.
It’s a hard thing to define, especially in the US right now. It’s always evolving. At the time, we looked to many retailers who are doing great jobs defining what clean is, and we looked at what their clean standards are. We also looked to the EU. We are not out there to be the most natural; we are out there to be the best in terms of performance and efficacy. That’s what we did when it came to defining “clean.”
However, it’s something that we are always monitoring as new information comes out. “This is now bad; it was once good.” We evaluate those, always putting the consumer first.
It’s why people flock to you, even though you’re so new.
It’s fun to think we’re still new; we’re still small. A lot of people discover us on the shelf. They pick us up for our beautiful bottle, the fact we’re clean. They take us home and they love the performance. It’s that combination of high-quality and performance at the price they just paid [$12] that creates the love.
It even comes down to your containers and packaging; it’s not overtly gender-neutral, but it’s not boring. It’s not as if you chose beige and brown.
We are design junkies. You care so much about your environment. We wanted this to fit into that environment, as opposed to screaming at you every reason to buy it from the shelf. Therefore, the design itself, it was important to us that it looked good.
Do you have anything that you’re going to be releasing that you would like to talk about?
We just released a new product, a Moisture Mask. Seasonally, our Air Dry Styler is an awesome hero product. It’s my favorite when there’s also a little humidity out, because then I can coax some texture from my hair.
You have it all.
The proof is in the goop. We always say, “try us, you will like us. I hope that you will share us with those you love.”
When you look back at his, hers, mine, ours, theirs, it is just too much. A lot of it goes back to just not over complicating things. You should know why you’re choosing your product.
One final question, I must know: where does Odele come from?
Our name is a phonetic translation of the word “å dele” [uh-dell-ee]. In Norwegian, å dele means to share. At its core, the brand name is a reminder of that value.
Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing your time, despite your crazy life.