Interview with Nilam Holmes-Patel
The High Definition co-founder and chief executive tells Amanda Pauley about opening the first franchise salon, launching a nail system and cracking the Indian market.
To say 2016 is a big year for Nilam Holmes-Patel is a bit of an understatement. At the tail end of last year, she rebranded her company HD Brows to High Definition Beauty to reflect the business’s plans to launch a wider offering than brows and make-up. Six months on, she tells me the rebrand has been well received, by both clients and consumers. “They love the new logo and that we’re High Definition – they don’t have to ask what the HD stands for anymore,” she says.
This new direction was born out of need, with HD stylists wanting to learn treatments such as nails and waxing, but in the High Definition way. “We’re offering a wider range of beauty services. We've already got waxing training going – depilation courses that include hot and warm wax systems – and we’re developing a lash system that will include tinting, lifting and extensions,” she says. “We’re also launching a nail service at the end of the summer.”
The nail system will be similar to High Definition’s brow service in the sense that “it’s not just a treatment, it’s an experience”. The system will have three levels – level one will be manicure/pedicure; two a gel system; and three an acrylic system, which will be available in the form of either sculpted acrylics or tips. Every product used in the system will be manufactured by High Definition and she teases that the nail polish range will include “the colours that everyone always asks for”, including “Nilam Red” and “Pearl Nude”. The training courses will launch this summer, with stylists able to start booking themselves onto courses that start from September.
Business of beauty
High Definition has also opened its first franchise boutique in Notting Hill, London (July 1). The 1,500sq ft site is spread across two floors. The upstairs has “the social atmosphere and speedy services such as make-up, brows and nails, while downstairs is the quiet area where body and skin treatments will be carried out,” says Holmes-Patel. The skin treatment menu includes the brand’s speciality Collagen Wave Ritual, which uses ultrasound and radiofrequency to generate collagen and elastin within the deepest layers of the skin. A third of the store is retail display, giving clients the opportunity to buy the products used in treatments.
“Our ethos is it’s a one-stop place to have everything done, but we’re a results clinic,” she says. “We’re not so much into your holistic and pampering treatments, it's more of a destination where you go to get everything done and see tangible results.” The franchise model is a turnkey package that includes everything from the shop fit with bespoke furniture to staff training. “Most enquires come from people who want to own the whole boutique system – stylists who have built a career from being an HD Brows stylist or make-up artist,” she says. “Ideally, we’re looking for people with a passion for the beauty industry, who take risks and have some business acumen.”
A second franchise will open in Manchester at the end of the summer and another four are pending, but Holmes-Patel says she won’t open more than six a year. “From opening the first franchise I’m noticing I need to spend more time on the training side. Even though we’re recruiting stylists that are already trained in the industry, it’s converting them to be High Definition therapists that has been the biggest struggle – to get them to the standard I need to offer my clients. In our boutiques, therapists must be able to do every single treatment – to offer the full service." Holmes-Patel's own salon, DermaSpa in Milton Keynes, will also be rebranded to become a High Definition boutique this year.
Overseas expansion is also at the forefront of the business, with the brand recently launching into India. “India is a market where brows are the number-one beauty treatment. So, we’ve partnered with MyGlamm, one of the main companies out there," she says. “MyGlamm is in the process of educating the Indian market into having waxing for their eyebrows, as well as threading, and how to use make-up on their brows.” MyGlamm has 200 brow stylists and therapists, many of whom have already been High Definition trained.
The brand launched into India in October and has been doing well, with rave reviews in high-end publications such as Vogue India. “At the moment, the brand’s only available in Mumbai and Pune and the standalone store won’t happen for a good 18 months to two years,” she says. “What I didn’t want to do was to franchise the academy system. I didn’t want distributors having the training because then it becomes second-hand and would be harder to control.”
The brand will also be launching into the Russian market with a partner called Authentica – which has 11 franchised salons and more than 100 independent salons in its network – after spotting a gap in the market. “They don’t have brow bars as such out there but people want a service and treatment that’s branded. We’re giving them the educational tools to create perfect brows. Authentica is also looking into having a High Definition standalone.” she says. The brand will host a pop-up launch in the country at the end of July, which will be its introduction to the press.
As part of her five-year plan Holmes-Patel is looking to introduce male grooming into the brand’s services and is working on a male-focused product line which she tells me will take at least 18 months to get right. “20% of our clients are now male and that’s for everything from hair removal to skin treatments. They’re taking care of themselves a lot more, focusing particularly on their eyebrows and the shape of their beards,” she says. “One of the products will be a BB cream – something with protection and slight coverage, but not detectable.”
She also wants to expand the brand’s global reach even further. “I would like to enter the East Asia market in countries such as Korea and China because no one really has brow-shaping out there. They spend a lot of money on filling in their brows with products but don’t have the treatments. I would like to educate that market.”
Images L–R: CEO Nilam Holmes-Patel, the frontage of the Notting Hill franchise salon and some of the new High Definition nail products.