James Dyson’s improbable second act as a beauty mogul

Hours before James Dyson took to the stage to announce Dyson’s latest beauty innovation in front of around 200 people, he was running a TikTok-like tutorial in a dimly lit Chelsea conference room in New York.

Dressed in a casual black bomber jacket, dark henley and jeans, Dyson, 76, first roughly dried his hair with Airstrait’s new Airstrait straightener, then turned the device over and ironed the hair.

“That’s how you create a root lift,” he said as he lifted the Airstrait above his head. James Dyson is known for testing all of his products, and beauty tools are no exception.

Airstrait marks the fourth beauty launch since Dyson first entered the category in 2016 with the Supersonic hair dryer. While the brand has been known around the world for more than 30 years with hand dryers in almost every airport and popular vacuum cleaners, its entry into the beauty industry has brought unexpected new interest to the company. The hashtag #dyson has over 4.1 billion views and many competitors, including other vacuum cleaner makers like Shark, are looking to build on Dyson’s success.

It also put Dyson on the map with teenagers who are re-educating their parents and grandparents about the previous generations’ brand mostly associated with bathrooms and housework.

“Fourteen and sixteen year olds don’t buy vacuum cleaners, they buy our beauty supplies. Their parents don’t have time to browse social media like this, but they show it to them,” Dyson said. “It’s a whole new audience that we haven’t touched.”

Generation Z catapulted the brand to TikTok, helping to engineer the rise of curtain bangs and fluffy bangs seen on influencers like Matilda Djerf. That too was born, followers. According to research by Spate in April, Google searches for “Duplicate Dyson” and “Dyson dupe” increased by 9.1 percent year-over-year.

Last year, the company said its revenue rose 7 per cent to £6.5bn ($8.1bn) and profit before interest, tax, amortization and amortization was £1.3bn ($1.6bn). . Hair cosmetics is the company’s fastest-growing segment in the US, Dyson said. The company is based in Singapore after moving from the UK in 2019, which drew criticism at the time as James Dyson was a vocal proponent of Brexit.

“We want to be in the beauty industry on a grand scale; we’re happy,” he said. “The beautiful thing about beauty is that people really care about them; not everyone cares about vacuum cleaners.

James Dyson inventor of the bagless double cyclone vacuum cleaner.

Dyson cult

Airstrait, a multi-function hair dryer and straightener, promises no heat damage and turns back time. Precision air jets pump air through tension rods (which look like hot plates but aren’t) to dry and smooth your hair.

Wet to dry straighteners are not new – Ghd, Conair and BabyBliss have their versions. But neither were hair dryers or curling brushes. Dyson says the Airstrait is in a class of its own.

Sometimes the staggering prices of Dyson tools help get that message across. Beauty brands like Harry Josh have tried to offer a luxurious hairstyling experience (her initial hair dryer costs $250). Dyson has given cosmetics buyers permission to spend much more than that. Supersonic costs $429.

For nearly $600, Airwrap, a hit for drying and curling hair, promised users salon-worthy blowouts with minimal skill. Corale, a hair straightener launched in 2020, costs $499; just like the new Airstrait.

Premium pricing has proven to be an advantage rather than a deterrent. The segment continues to grow. Beauty accounts for 30 percent of US sales.

Yarden Horowitz, co-founder of Spate, said there were some signs of price sensitivity in this market as searches for the brand fell by almost 12 percent year-on-year. Dyson also has to contend with counterfeits: cheaper products that promise similar results (with varying degrees of accuracy).

House bets

In October, Dyson announced that the company would invest £500 million ($625 million) in cosmetic development and innovation; the company said its capital expenditure was up 63 per cent last year to £463m ($579m).

Airstrait is the first of 20 products to be unveiled over the next four years. James Dyson hasn’t ruled out that some of these items may fall outside the category of tools, and said bringing AI to more items will be a priority (one potential use: allowing tools to turn off when they’re put away).

The latest device also draws on the brand’s previous tech: it has the same quarter-size motor found in the Supersonic and Airwrap, and uses a filter most commonly found in Dyson vacuum cleaners. It’s also the first Dyson beauty tool to feature an LED screen, like the company’s humidifiers and fans, and reminds users what state they’re in (wet or dry) or what temperature they’re using.

It’s hard to imagine what beauty customer might need or could afford all four Dyson tools (especially since the Airwrap and Airstait are multi-stylers), let alone 19 more of them. But James Dyson doesn’t see the desire for his beauty line dwindle.

“It’s a bit like being a craftsman. It has several tools. He not only has a hammer, he has a screwdriver,” he said.

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