This Revolutionary Natural Hair-Care Brand Has an Empowering Message: "Normalize Frizz"
Maeva Heim is the CEO and founder of Bread Beauty Supply, a new hair-care brand at Sephora that's revolutionizing the way women of color, specifically Black women, take care of their hair. For our column UNTOLD, she is sharing how the lack of options on the market and her final straw led to the creation of her own natural-hair brand. This story was told to Jessica Harrington and edited for length and clarity.
In the '90s, my mom had a hair-braiding salon in Perth, Australia. It was a place that I would frequent a lot growing up, and I'd be in there on the weekends and after school, just helping my mom braid hair, answering phones, sweeping the floor. It was my first exposure to the hair-care industry. We would import a lot of products that were designed specifically for textured hair from the United States, and then we would sell them in the salon like a mini beauty supply store. It was pretty much one of the only places that you could get those kinds of products in Perth, and it was definitely the first African braiding salon in the area — and probably one of the first in Australia.
When I got older, I got a job in marketing at a major beauty corporation, and I became a little disenfranchised with the beauty industry as a whole. It felt like the industry wasn't really taking us seriously as consumers — I wanted a brand that would speak to me and would speak to other women like me, and it didn't. So, I left knowing I wanted to start a brand that championed women of color.
During a trip to the US, I had a chemical relaxer in my suitcase, and when I arrived at my destination, I opened it up to find the relaxer had exploded. It was all over my stuff. I didn't have access to get another one because we were in the middle of nowhere, and I was due for a top-up. In that moment, I just decided that I was going to stop chemically relaxing my hair, which was something I had done since I was 6 or 7 years old. I had never actually experienced my natural texture of curly hair at that time.
When I got to the "multicultural hair-care aisle," I was really shocked. It felt like I had gone into a time machine back to 1995.
I think for a lot of women, they go from relaxing throughout their whole life and then they finally get to a point where they're like, "You know what? I'm going to stop doing this." And I think at the time, for me, there were also a lot of cultural influences. Social media was giving me all this access to other people who had the same hair type as me, and I felt like I didn't really need to abide by these rules that I thought I had to follow. I was seeing more and more women also going through this process in real life — a natural-hair movement was happening. It normalized the experience so much that I felt like I had permission to do the same.
From there I was like, let's go and find these products for my hair type, and when I got to the "multicultural hair-care aisle," I was really shocked. It felt like I had gone into a time machine back to 1995 — nothing had changed. I couldn't find anything that I related to, and all of the offerings were really complicated and overwhelming. I pretty much just wanted to know how to wash my hair, and nobody was taking me through that process or making it easy.
From that moment, I went away and started building Bread. I wanted to create the staples of a hair-care wardrobe (which is how I landed on the "Bread"), and then I extended the brand name to Bread Beauty Supply. It's a nostalgic nod to that beauty supply shopping experience and a signal to what we want to eventually build.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted the brand to exist in retail — specifically in Sephora. I felt like I wasn't getting what I wanted in there — not just in Sephora but more broadly in these mainstream spaces. This customer, which was me, was being relegated to independent stores. The woman that we were speaking to was already shopping in Sephora for skin care and makeup, but we knew that she wasn't really shopping there for hair care yet. So I thought, "How can we indicate that it's for her?" I decided pretty quickly that we had to have faces on the products so say "this is for you," so that if she were walking through the store, it would catch her eye.
Something else that I noticed as I was building Bread and thinking about who this brand was for was that a lot of textured-hair routines were incredibly complicated, and a lot of the heritage brands in this space had a very distinct look and feel, which felt very glossy and photoshopped and all about these perfect, defined curl and coil. I wanted something simple, and I was like, "Why isn't that an option for my hair?" I didn't want to have to do these four-hour-long routines to achieve this style that is "a good style," when maybe I want my hair to be puffy — maybe I like when it's frizzy and big.
So we made that part of our message: we should embrace frizz; frizz isn't always bad. It's not always an indication of unhealthy hair. You can have really healthy hair and still have frizz. As a brand, our long-term mission is to normalize frizz and make it not just normal but aspirational, and just give Black women permission to do that.
As a brand, our long-term mission is to normalize frizz and make it not just normal but aspirational, and just give Black women permission to do that.
I think that the industry has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. In general, I just want the standards to change and, ultimately, for any woman, anywhere, to be able to walk into a boardroom, for instance, and have a big Afro or wear Bantu knots, or whatever she wants, and nobody bats an eyelid because that's just the new normal of the world.