ABOVE PHOTO: Hair stylist Joscynthia Mason working on model Asia Marie. (Photo by Bill Z. Foster)
By Leah Fletcher
On the exhibition floor, the energy is high. Exhibitors pass out samples and every free hand gets a flyer pressed into it. And all around, you see “Marley” weaves of mixed colors, braided styles of impressive heights, twists, locs and Afros.
Welcome to the world of the 2016 Philadelphia Natural Hair Show.
The show, in its fourth year, is becoming one of the largest boutique beauty events in the Philadelphia area geared toward women of color. On May 14, the show attracted over several hundred people, who wore their hair natural or who were seriously considering transitioning to natural hair. The Natural Hair show, the brainchild of Celena McAfee and Monica Eversley, attracts mostly Black consumers and mostly female hairstylists, makeup professionals and beauty entrepreneurs who paid anywhere from $20 to $150 to attend the event was at First District Plaza.
The world of natural hair looks quite different now than it did four years ago, said McAfee, who realized there were very few natural hair products that addressed the needs of African American women. McAfee and Eversley started blogging, about their experiences and as concerned consumers in search of the “ultimate natural haircare products”. “I tried any number of products and experimented with so many until I found the right ones,” said McAfee, who admitted to feeling like a “product junkie” during the process. It was from their experiences the show evolved naturally. Today, the annual show receives visitors and vendors from around the country.
There was an array of seminars and presentations designed to offer eventgoers opportunities for personal haircare to networking opportunities and career development. “I attend every year, said Ashley Posey, “It helps me stay abreast of new products.” And the workshops like “Find the best type and texture product for your hair type” or Town Hall discussions such as “Black women and the perception of beauty in the media”, gave these naturalistas a chance to sharpen their skills and increase their haircare acumen.
“Every show I have attended has been better than the last because it keeps current with the trends,” said hairstylist Donna Matthews, who also noted that constantly changing trends and the rising consumer interest in natural hair has resulted in lower sales for salons dedicated to only chemically-treated hair (perms) and extensions (weaves).
That interest is changing the business of black haircare and the dollars associated with it are grossly underestimated. According to market research firm Mintel, the projected size of the market will reach nearly $800 million by 2017. This figure, noted by Mintel, does not include general market brands, weaves, extensions, wigs, independent beauty supply stores, distributors, e-commerce, styling tools and appliances. If they were added to the mix, Mintel estimates earnings could possibly reach a half a trillion dollars.
There are budding haircare entrepreneurs with in the black community that are creating their own product lines and companies that offer hairstyling services to on-line stores that offer human hair extensions. For instance, exhibitors like Mumbi Dunjwa, founder of Naturaz Hair, have launched haircare product lines that now adorn the shelves of traditional retail outlets or are available through on-line venues. Dunjwa’s product line graces the shelves at a number of ShopRite Supermarkets in the Philadelphia area. And, the company, preparing for its next growth phase, is seeking sales personnel to represent its product line.
The exciting news coming out of Philadelphia is that this beauty venue was bigger and better than ever. The one-day event was filled with nonstop education, exhibits and entertainment, that included a Philly Hair Fashion Show, hosted by legendary, radio personality Lady B, of Old School 100.3 FM.