Q&A: Nilam Patel

HD Brows founder Nilam Patel tells Suzanne Bearne why lighter eyebrows will be on trend for 2013 and fills us in on the eyebrow shaping company’s global ambitions.

How did HD Brows come about?

I’ve been working in the beauty industry for more than 21 years. My auntie taught my sister and I how to thread and people would always ask if we could share our method. Then when I was working at Nouveau Beauty Group I started doing eyebrow-shaping courses and other people asked me if I could create my own course. So I started HD Brows four and a half years ago and opened it up to everyone. I thought HD Brows should have its own professional products and then decided to launch retail products.

How was what you did different from existing brow-shaping services?

It’s all about long-term shaping. It’s not just about tidying the eyebrows; it’s about getting the best shape for the face. We offer products so people can still continue to shape and recreate the look at home.

Why do you think HD Brows has been so successful?

There’s never been a private eyebrow-shaping brand before and no one has ever concentrated on the design of brows. There’s been a trend for tweezing, which us Asian girls are great at – we have to be because we’re so hairy! But there’s been little education in eyebrows. We were the first company to offer education and products to create a bespoke shape for everyone. It really helped [our brand] when Katie Price came in as student. She was actually one of our best students! She’s going to come back soon and do a refresher class. I like how everyone is now taking eyebrows more seriously now.

HD Brows training

How many therapists have you trained and what does training involve?

We have trained about 3,500 professionals, of which 200 are based abroad. We are now offering three different training levels for stylists.  We get some that aren’t as great as others so by having levels, we let customers choose a higher graded stylist. We take training back to basics so we have a bit of theory, such as work safety, together with threading and waxing practice. We have taken the traditional methods of waxing and threading and tweaked them. We have 70 trainers across four academies with one trainer per two stylists. We do train mobile therapists but they need particular equipment. For example, they need a specialist chair; they can’t be carrying it out on a couch.

We are launching an app, a bit like a TripAdvisor for brows, so customers can search for HD Brows salons, filter by distance and check ratings and reviews so they can make a better choice. It’s so hard to control quality so this will help customers decide.

You have your own range of products. Are there any plans to expand? 

This year we are revamping all our products. We want to add extra products such as mascara and bronzer as customers are asking for them and stylists tell us that if they had more products they’d be able to sell them. So our full product service will launch in October. We’ll also have a big revamp, which will include our materials and new a photoshoot. It will all be released in October.

What are the common mistakes stylists make when shaping brows?

Some stylists have their own style of brows they like to give customers and then overpluck to give a clean shape. They think they should be changing them as the customer is paying them for a new shape. It’s the worst mistake. We’ve seen the rise of the Scouse brow and they love it in Liverpool. We have a poster for HD Brows; the model has very defined brows and stylists think it will suit everybody, when it won’t. If customers want a bigger brow like [reality TV star] Kim Kardashian, they should go lighter like Keira Knightley.

What trends will we see for eyebrows in 2013?

It’s all about the natural look – the brow fitting in the right place and following the shape of the natural brow. People are starting to go lighter instead of darker. It’s along the lines of a full brow like Keira Knightley has but soft. We will also see people bleaching eyebrows this year to fit in with consumers dying their hair purple, like Ellie Goulding.

Nilam Patel doing HD Brows

What are your plans for the UK?

I’d love flagships across the major cities. I’m in talks with Harrods at the moment but I would really like a standalone HD Brows salon. There’s a brow bar in the West End of London and we’re in talks about them revamping it as an HD Brows franchise. Looking back, I wish I had gone into standalone stores rather than training as you have to rely on stylists this way and have less control.

Do you have any plans to expand further internationally?

We are launching in the US. We’re in talks with [department stores] Bloomingdales and Nordstrom, although we’re not quite ready yet as some products aren’t compliant with US regulations so we’re working on that. When the team and I visited the US last year, some famous people found out and they were tweeting us wanting to see us. We are launching in Bloomingdales in Dubai in February and also have plans to launch in Russia because there is a huge demand there.

Nilam Patel has worked in the beauty industry for more than 21 years and launched HD Brows in 2008. The company has trained approximately 3,500 therapists.