This Cool Startup Wants to Transform Your Hair Over Time

Caitie Schlisserman
·12 min read

Welcome to our newest editorial initiative, Who What Wear Spotlight, where we'll be using our editorial platform, social following, and ad inventory to turn the spotlight on small businesses that need our support now more than ever. Each week, we'll be highlighting a new fashion or beauty company. If you own a small brand and would like to be considered for the program, please apply here.

With so much uncertainty in the world right now, one thing is for sure: It's more important than ever to slow down and take care of ourselves. "We need our rituals and supportive structures to make us feel whole right now," says Dianna Cohen, CEO and founder of Crown Affair, the direct-to-consumer haircare line that wants to reinvent your post-shower ritual. “People have always taken time to do their hair. It’s just too often out of frustration instead of care. Now is the moment to pause, reflect, and find comfort and joy in these practices,” explains Cohen.

Finding comfort and joy in the small things is something many of us are trying to practice right now, which is the core of Crown Affair’s mission. “Our vision has always been about caring for your hair beyond the salon chair, making haircare a daily ritual, and making luxury products accessible so that people can reconnect with their hair at home.”

Despite the uncertain circumstances, Cohen is staying optimistic. "We're just grateful to be in the self-care category when people are really focused on how they can take care of themselves at home," explains Cohen. "I believe that the time you spend to take care of yourself every day has impact over time. "

We couldn’t agree more, so we jumped at the opportunity to interview Cohen and get the scoop on everything from the inspiration behind starting her business (which launched at the end of January!), her work-from-home style, what things are currently bringing her comfort, and of course, the hair trends we shouldn’t sleep on. Keep scrolling to read our interview, and if you’re able to show support, shop the line of essentials below.

First of all, how are you?

I’m doing well, all things considered. Feeling grateful to be safe in my apartment in NYC with my fiancé. We’re giving back and supporting where we can locally, and every day that passes I realize even more how we’re all in this together. In terms of business, we launched in January and have been navigating the current environment the best we can. We’re a small but mighty team, but we’re grateful people are really focused on how they can take care of themselves at home. For the first time, people seem to be thinking about and reorienting themselves to their relationship with their hair.

Tell us a little about yourself and your business.

I’m the CEO and founder of Crown Affair. I’ve been in NYC for 10 and a half years. I started my career at Into The Gloss in 2012 and was one of the first employees at the mobile-shopping app Spring and the travel company Away. I've worked as a consultant to a number of direct-to-consumer brands including Harry’s/Flamingo, Outdoor Voices, Tamara Mellon, Yumi, Buck Mason, The Wing, and more.

I’ve always had a really focused ritual around how I care for my hair, similar to many skincare routines. After sharing a detailed breakdown of my hair ritual in a Google doc to friends and colleagues, I realized two things: The price point for my favorite products and tools were prohibitively expensive for many, and outside of styling tutorials, there wasn’t a lot of guidance or education around hair-care maintenance or the ingredients out there. While skin and color cosmetics have been democratized over the last decade, so much of the hair category is still selling perfection and is still so rooted in color, cut, and styling.

What inspired you to start your business?

It was apparent that even the most inspiring women in my life didn’t know where to start with their hair. They often relied on blowouts or used disempowered language to describe what they were doing at home. We’re on a mission to make haircare a daily ritual and make luxury products accessible so that people can reconnect with their hair at home. I started with finding product-development partners to design and craft tools and formulas that were an improvement on my favorite products I spent years trying and testing, like the Mason Pearson dual brush. Once we had our first prototypes and samples, I had friends and family test them out for a few weeks. The results and transformations were clear: I knew there was something to build upon and change in terms of how people care for their hair.

How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?

From a leadership and cultural perspective, I miss being with my team and growing together in person. There are great tools and resources to meet and stay connected, like Zoom, Slack, and Asana, but nothing can replicate those unplanned moments of making magic together when a meeting isn’t scheduled. While we launched before the stay-at-home orders, our vision has always been about how you can care for your hair the 60 to 90 days between the salon chair. With everyone at home, people are discovering the power of these tools and healthy formulas to recover any damage and be kind to their hair. There’s something nice about letting your hair and skin breathe a little bit right now.

Some people are finding joy in getting dressed and doing their beauty routine, even if they have nowhere to go. What do you think fashion and beauty can offer people right now? What has it done for you?

Now more than ever we need our rituals and supportive structures to make us feel whole. Why not approach getting dressed in the morning or doing your beauty routine with joy, even if it’s in a more simplified or pared-back way? For me, I find calm in brushing my hair before bed. In the morning before settling into my desk, I do minimal makeup and put on an outfit that’s polished, but still comfy, to fuel that rhythm in my day.

Speaking of fashion, how would you describe your working-from-home style?

My work-from-home style is pretty close to my out-in-the-world uniform: a lot of knit long-sleeve tops from Theory, Gabriela Hearst, and The Row paired with wide-leg silk pants or loose denim. I really love that I’m able to wear more of my vintage T-shirt and sweatshirt collection. (50/50 poly-cotton blends and shirts with holes from the 80s are often too casual for IRL meetings.) On cozier days, I’ll have fun and wear a cashmere tie-dye sweater or a caftan from Out Of Office to mix up with pants or sweats. I do find that I move differently and more confidently depending on what I’m wearing, so my outfit each day is reflective of my calendar and meetings.

Aside from fashion and beauty, what are some things that are currently bringing you comfort?

My daily rituals make me feel whole. I start every single morning with a cup of coffee, The Five Minute Journal, and stretching for 30 minutes. If I make time, I’ll do a Tracy Anderson video or a mat workout before our morning team meeting. Starting the day that way sets the tone. I find that having a wind-down evening ritual is equally as important. Before bed, I always brush my hair for five or so minutes to move the natural oils through my scalp. I follow that with journaling and making a cup of non-caffeinated tea. I’m so grateful to have this time for the consistency of these rituals. I recognize not everyone has this privilege, and it’s opened my eyes to how valuable this time is and made me think about when I would run out early to get to the office or be out late in the evening and not take the time to center and prepare myself for the day ahead.

What are your favorite brands?

The Row, The Elder Statesman, Côme Éditions, Comme Si, Madhappy, Outdoor Voices, Drunk Elephant, Christophe Robin, Bala, Dinosaur Designs, Birkenstock, Claude Home, Rachel Saunders Ceramics.

What’s one hair trend we shouldn’t sleep on and why?

I’m a believer in learning about your hair and how it best fits your lifestyle and daily rituals. But if I were to lean into a trend, I’m here for a simple braid. Depending on your length and texture, the braid style may vary, but there’s something cathartic about the braiding process and seeing improvement the more you practice. It’s also a great protective style to extend your non-wash days and a nice way to add texture and body to your style when you take them out. When you do braid, I recommend using a silk scrunchie to be softer on your hair.

Shop Cohen's Favorite Products:

Crown Affair The Towel ($45)

"The Towel was designed to protect your hair when it’s most vulnerable—when it’s wet. Wet hair is more prone to breakage, and the abrasive texture of a regular cotton towel can create further damage. Our towel is made from a custom waffle microfiber that gently blots moisture from your hair and dries it in a fraction of the time. And because we know you’re busy, our patent-pending design includes a unique shape to wrap all of your hair and a secure elastic strap to keep things in place so you can live your life (and even sneak in that morning meditation) while it dries. After using most towels on the market, I wanted to design one that improved upon where everything else fell short: It's long enough to cover all of my hair; a beautiful design that doesn't look like "as seen on TV;" has a more secure strap instead of a button or turban style; and has a more absorbent texture than the car-towel matte fabrics out there."

Crown Affair The Oil ($40)

"A mix of traditional and modern Japanese ingredients, The Oil is formulated with smoothing tsubaki seed oil and hydrating meadowfoam seed oil. When it comes to our formula philosophy, we believe less is more. Our lightweight hair serum is made with just five ingredients for deep hydration, heat protection, and reduction of unwanted frizz, the appearance of split ends, and flyaways. We worked closely with chemists to develop NeoClean, a unique blend of an emollient ester and a clean polymer, both made in Japan using proprietary processes to achieve ultra-high purity. We collaborated with our fragrance house to develop our signature Crown Affair scent, with top notes of Italian bergamot, yuzu, and lemongrass and base notes of amber and wood. I wanted to develop an oil that was like a serum and free of drying cyclopentasiloxane, which is the lead ingredient in so many of the most popular options on the market."

Crown Affair The Brush No. 001 ($62)

"This is where it all started: The mission to see if we could create a version of the $200+ brush I had been using for years. After collaborating with a range of vendors across Europe, we finally found our partners in Italy when they designed this brush that has the power to transform your hair over time. For my hair type, I swear by using a dual-bristle brush for shinier, healthier hair. The Brush No. 001 features a combination of boar and nylon bristles and a specially designed cushion to protect your scalp as you brush. The shorter boar bristles distribute natural healthy oils throughout your strands, preventing them from becoming dry and brittle, and protect your scalp from oxidative damage. The longer nylon bristles gently stimulate your scalp to increase blood flow, keep your follicles healthy, and add volume at your crown."

Crown Affair The Comb No. 001 ($36)

"I believe in detangling and caring for your hair throughout the day—the way you would spray a face mist or use an oil-blotter on your skin. It’s important to give your hair love often. Hand-carved in Switzerland from 100% plant-based cellulose acetate, this comb is designed to last, made from a renewable resource, and is 100% biodegradable, unlike that plastic comb you may have bought at the drugstore. Keep it on hand for daily detangling, a midday refresh, or a scalp massage while you wait for everyone to join your Zoom meeting."

Crown Affair The Comb No. 002 ($38)

"A tool pretty enough to be put on display, but strong enough to get the job done. We designed our comb with widely spaced teeth to gently detangle without breakage and a sturdy handle for in-shower grip. Use the rounded tips to lightly massage your scalp, which helps to clear away dead skin and increase circulation to nourish your roots and promote growth. I like to keep The Comb No. 002 in my bathroom for distributing product in-shower and detangling after. Like The Comb No.001, it’s also hand-carved in Switzerland from 100% plant-based cellulose acetate."

Crown Affair The Set ($220)

"The Set has everything you need to begin your new ritual, including The Comb No. 001, The Brush No. 001, The Oil, The Towel, and a reusable keepsake box milled by craftsmen in the Lake District of England. The Set also includes an exclusive, limited-edition silk scrunchie and a three-minute hourglass timer as a friendly reminder to take your time. The combs, brush, and towel come with reusable cloth pouches for easy travel."

Up next, this is the coolest online store, period.

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

Read More from Who What Wear