Howard McLaren was 16-years-old when he saw his sister completely transform after chopping off her long hair.

He put his plans to pursue an engineering degree on hold, fell in love with the artistry of cutting hair, and hasn’t looked back since.

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Howard founded professional hair care line R+Co (which stands for Rogue and Company) in 2014 along with fellow hairstylists Garren and Thom Priano. Since then, the company has made an incredible name for itself as one of the most iconic hair collectives in the industry, which allows a space for members of the hair industry to come together to collaborate on products and learn from industry professionals through events. They say they’re responsible for “the most forward-thinking, rule-bending hairstylists in the business.” Their collective is made up of both editorial and salon stylists plus, educators stretching from stellar product knowledge to the fundamentals of styling.

R+Co is always pushing to launch the latest in hair care innovation and styling. Some stylists within the collective even have their own lines within the R+Co brand, like Ashley Streicher, the celebrity stylist responsible for the popular SunCatcher Power C Leave-In Conditioner and Dreamhouse Watermelon Wave Spray.

While many hair care brands focus on a single stylist and founder, R+Co wanted to branch out and be a voice for all stylists. They understand that being a stylist means you have a signature style that you bring to clients, which means you often have something that you are known for.

“Some are great at dressing hair, others are best at men’s grooming while some focus on cutting,” explained the founders to Modern Salon. “Our goal is to create a super line where each product is a hero and shaped by the perspective of a category expert – or collaborated on to nuance it to be the best in the world.”

The brand story

Aside from being the co-founder of the company, Howard also serves as the creative director. If you’ve seen even a single bottle of anything from R+Co, the design certainly stands out amongst the other pale pastel bottles on the shelf. From the artfully-designed label to the way the product dispenses, everything about the product tells a story.

Before R+Co, Howard worked at Bumble & Bumble in brand development handling everything from product development, to shooting creative campaigns, and building education for brand partners. He believes Bumble & Bumble was able to set a new standard in the industry when it came to education, but after 25 years there, he knew it was time to move on from the brand and start his own.

Humble beginnings

Howard says their main challenge when they were starting out was keeping costs down. They used stock packaging and designed the labels themselves so they could put as much R&D into the products and make the formulas as efficacious as possible. Keeping costs down also allowed them to sell at an affordable price point from the very beginning.

Howard notes the other big challenge was encouraging hairdressers to get back to the basics of hairstyling, “trying to get hairdressers to go back to being hairdressers – to the craftsmanship, the artistry.”

They were eager to help these hairdressers keep up with the demand of new customers, doing whatever it takes to form those relationships and make them last. “Today, consumers want to know who is making these products and why – transparency is important,” says Howard.

The products

The R+Co website notes they’re all about an experience. “The packaging and fragrances were designed to enhance that experience and evoke a feeling, place, style or attitude. You’ll know just by looking at a bottle or tube what a product is meant to do, and the subtle yet sophisticated fragrances—meant for both men and women.”

Their products are meant to deliver immediate results, keeping hair and scalp health at the forefront of it all. Every single one of their formulas are color-safe, heat and UV protective, vegan, cruelty, and gluten-free. They never use parabens, sulfates, or mineral oil.

You can feel completely confident in using anything from R+Co, knowing it’s healthy and safe to use and that it will bring salon level results. They also understand the importance of sustainability and recycled packaging in consumer industries. Their most recent launch is called R+Co Bleu and every single bottle in the collection is made with 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. It’s something they’re looking to expand to the rest of their products as the availability of PCR plastic in different colors, shapes, and mechanisms increases.

Something that still surprises Howard about R+Co is how quickly the brand was able to grow while conquering the challenges of creating vegan hair care products with the best ingredients possible. His best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the beauty industry is to “bring hybrid products based on classics, to bring classics into the future. Bring a brand that people can follow and get excited about.”

TDLR;

  • Career hairstylist Howard McLaren founded R+Co in 2014 to make education throughout the hair care industry accessible and to honor and celebrate everyone’s styles and expertise.
  • Howard worked in brand development at Bumble & Bumble for 25 years before branching off to create R+Co, a brand for stylists, by stylists
  • Expression is of utmost importance to R+Co, which allows stylists and educators to create signature product lines under the R+Co brand
  • R+Co products are vegan, cruelty, and gluten-free formulas free from parabens and sulfates

Check out R+Co on Instagram to keep up with their innovative hair care line, or head to their on-site blog to learn more about how to use their products. Plus, you can read from their Good Hair Diaries series, take in tons of hairstyle inspo, and learn how to get the look.

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