Blow founder Fiona McIntosh on ageing beauty

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Blow founder Fiona McIntosh on ageing beauty

Post by marieprom » Tue May 23, 2017 8:08 am

In the provinces, though, a different “done” look prevails: “you get bigger hair, more make-up, HD brows”.

McIntosh would know. As the former editor of Elle and Grazia who co-founded Blow, which has a rapidly expanding “Uber for beauty” app, as well as beauty bars in Covent Garden and Canary Wharf, she has the ideal window into female grooming.

The app launched in London before expanding to the Home Counties, and then Manchester and Birmingham last week. An international launch — “somewhere in Europe” — is pencilled in for early 2018, as well as a national roll-out. The expansion will be funded by a recent £3.5 million investment by Unilever.

Blow has also just hired a new CEO, Brian Hickey, who was previously a regional director at takeaway titan Just Eat. “We can learn a lot from the food industry, which is streets ahead of the beauty industry in technical innovation,” McIntosh explains. “We needed someone who could take Blow to the next level. For all young businesses, the make-or-break part is scale.”

We meet at Covent Garden’s Blow, where one customer is having a manicure, another a blow-dry, and a third her make-up applied. But despite the demand, McIntosh says Blow won’t open any more beauty bars. “It’s all about the app. ‘On-demand’ started exploding, with Deliveroo and Uber, so we thought we could do this in the beauty space, delivering expert services fast.”

The original beauty bar idea came from her trips to New York Fashion Week as an editor. “There you could get your hair done in 30 minutes, so the concept was bringing the fast blow-dry to the UK.” That expanded into make-up and nails. “I have two kids and work, so I have zero time. We all love to go to a spa and listen to whale music, but who has the time for that? This is about fast beauty.”

She realised the way to make this even faster was to deliver services to clients’ homes. “It saves most people about 90 minutes. You’re not travelling there and back, you’re not waiting for a stylist who’s finishing a phone call to plan her Friday night out. They’re in and out.” The first appointments are at 7am, so you can have a blow-dry before that 9am meeting.

The 300 nail technicians, masseuses, hair stylists and make-up artists on the app are all freelance but it’s a “curated marketplace” — they’re trained and vetted. “They have to be really good — we only take about 10 per cent of people who apply.”

There are actually two apps. One for stylists, which helps them find jobs and organises their pay and tips, and a second for customers, allowing bookings and cashless payments.

“Some women don’t mind who turns up, as long as they’re there at 7am,” says McIntosh. “But then there are others who really bond with a stylist, or want someone who understands their hair. There are people who can blow-dry my hair really well, and others who just don’t get it. I don’t want big hair — I want it softer. That Kensington helmet hair makes you look 20 years older.”

In London, Blow has always catered for a diverse clientele. “Arabic and Russian women want something very different. The look would make you feel like a Eurovision Song Contest winner — it would all be too much but that’s exactly what some women are after.”

Her own beauty regime is simple. She recommends Alpha-H Liquid Gold once a week, a good moisturiser and says the secret to good skin is a primer — such as Laura Mercier’s — under foundation. “It makes you look all glowy, rather than that cakey, powdery effect.”

Generally, a more natural look is in vogue now. Hair extensions, she says, are falling out of favour. “Now it’s more of a healthy hair look.” On the surgical side, facelifts are becoming less severe. “I think there’s more of an acceptance of ageing too. I love the Brigitte Macron look.” She laughs: “But then it does take a hell of a long time to get ready in the morning, the older you are.”

In contrast to her daughters — the youngest watches YouTube tutorials and is expert at applying make-up — she thinks older women are often “all at sea about what to do”, hence the need to call in the professionals.

McIntosh is a big believer in the power of grooming to lift the mood. She and a group of friends — “all hovering around 50, feeling old” — went to The Ned in its launch week. “You know you’re going to walk in and everyone is going to be completely flipping gorgeous and 25. We’re not in denial, we’re not trying to compete, but you want to look the best you possibly can. So they all came round to my house and we had our hair and make-up done.” She smiles. “It puts a spring in your step.”Read more at: |

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