Janet Collection is one of the companies that has been leading the way in hair trends since the 1990s. When P.P. braids were very popular and synthetic hair hit the weaving market, Janet’s J-body was a must-have for beauty stores. When lace wigs were beginning to rise and bundle hair was introduced, Janet Collection always took the lead in the hair market. When the human hair market was hit hard by the Chinese factories’ direct online sales, Janet Collection blew new breath into the braiding market by releasing Mambo, a crochet braid style.
Based on the glorious history of Janet Collection, the unprecedented success of Mambo was no coincidence. How does Janet continue to create hit products that have changed hair history? CosmoBiz visited Janet Collection’s headquarter in New Jersey to find out the company’s secret ingredients behind the success.
People and Relationships
The busiest person at Janet Collection is Bora Kim in the marketing department. Behind the splendid runways of New York Fashion Week and in the booths of trade shows, Bora is always there to meet people. “You are seen everywhere. What kind of work exactly do you do at Janet Collection?” we asked. “Well, It looks like I’m just hanging out everywhere, but I am really busy,” Bora answered smiling. Her job is to monitor consumer trends by interacting with African American beauticians, consumers, and bloggers. She’s kept close relationships with them and, in fact, become a part of their culture; a local beauty school even allowed her to audit classes for free. Her role is to bridge Krean and American cultures.
“In case of Mambo, our CEO gave me a general outline of natural style. Based on his outline, I talked with beauticians to find a concept of the style and Mambo came around,” said Bora. The development process wasn’t easy. “The factory said it was impossible to mass-produce.” Despite the negative response from the factory, the Janet Collection team collaborated to make it happen, and Mambo was created.
Youngjoon Hwang, Managing Director, said that a free work environment encourages each employee to bring their highest quality work. “Excluding CEO, all the people need to have a parallel relationship, rather than top to bottom to be efficient,” said Hwang. Kyongsoo Kim, Design Director, confirmed that positive and encouraging teamwork brought about Mambo’s success. Kim explained, “We talk and discuss openly between departments. We made numerous mistakes while developing Mambo. Bora brought up the idea and we designed it on drawing. Our production manager contacted the factory to make a prototype, and when a sample arrived Bora showed it to beauticians to find any issues. Then our team got together to resolve those issues and made another sample. This cycle seemed endless, but one day we had Mambo on our desk as a final product.”
The Limit of Copycats
“Since Mambo was well received, other companies copied Mambo but they made the same mistakes that we had when we were developing it. Some retailers purchased copied products without knowing, but consumers want only Mambo and there must be a reason why,” Ilhan Kim, Marketing Director said.
Consumers are sensitive to the functions of braids, unlike weaving hair. Which fiber is used and how much hair is contained in a package are important. The loop part is crucial because it changes the entire look. Sometimes people unravel the hair and style it differently. So many factors need to be considered. The know-how to achieve all these requirements was not easy, but Janet Collection has the extensive experience and advanced technology to make hit braids and twists. Last March the success of Mambo set a sales record in the company’s history, and only the sky’s the limit.
Hair Talk with Chang Moo Lee, CEO of Janet Collection
Travis Johng: From the synthetic hair J-Body, lace wigs, and bundle hair to today’s Mambo, Janet Collection has made bold investments. It seems that you were confident in Mambo and invested boldly again. Where did you get that confidence?
Chang Moo Lee: Janet Collection has had a braid specialty for a long time, but because of the popularity of our lace wigs and bundle hair our braid specialty was not fully shown. Janet Collection has been leading the braiding market since P.P. braids. In the early 90s, we developed Knot S-Curl and Knot Zizi and around in 1995-1996 we released Marley Braid, Afro Kinky, and Combo Braid ahead of other companies. I’ve studied African American hair for the past thirty years, and Mambo was a by product of my passion for braid styles.
Johng: Compared to the past braiding market, what’s different in the current market and where is it headed?
Lee: In the past the trends didn’t change fast. The style that was popular in New York became popular in other regions a year later. However, SNS is the main medium to spread trends these days; if one style becomes popular, that spreads nationwide instantly. It’s not easy to supply to meet all the demands at once, and the life span of a trend is shorter than before. That’s why forecasting for future products is very important.
Johng: Since Mambo became a trend, similar products were copied and released to the market. For retailers who have limited display and stock space, choosing the products and how much to order is always a hard question. Any advice for those retailers?
Lee: It’s true that many copies were released after Mambo. PP are used in some copies to compete with a cheaper price. If mixed with PP, braids can’t maintain their shape, which disappoints consumers tremendously and discourages buying desire. It’s a serious matter.
Johng: Janet Collection recently released Mambo targeting male consumers. Considering men don’t wear braids that much, I think it’s another bold move to create a hair line for men.
Lee: I got the inspiration for men’s hair when I was watching a Super Bowl game and saw one famous football player wearing long braids. Mambo Faux Locs for Men is similar to Mambo Faux Locs for Women but has slightly thicker locs. This product was made possible thanks to the Janet Collection team that always tries to think outside the box. Creating new trends and satisfying consumers requires bold investment and marketing efforts, which our company has been doing. Janet Collection will continuously try to satisfy customers with innovative ideas and styles.