Baby hair fashion styles can be traced back to the 1920s flapper days of Josephine Baker, who has been credited with popularizing the style amongst Black women. It has been part of the black and Latinx culture for almost a full century, and the style continues to be relevant in today’s beauty landscape. We’ve seen celebrities and baby hair aficionados sporting this cultural phenomenon such as Yara Shahidi, FKA twigs, and Queen Rihanna and now other celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry to name a few, are catching on as fans of our culture.
Even with such cross-culture appeal and broad adoption, the most common way to manage these fine-textured hairs along our hairline is to use an ordinary $3 toothbrush, found at any neighborhood grocery, convenient, or beauty supply store. Ever wonder why there isn’t a specially designed beauty tool that can make the styling of baby hairs not only easier but as well give play to creative hair statements and styles?
Baby Tress has resolved this challenge with the creation of a thoughtfully designed edge styler that can comb to separate and smooth, brush to swoop, shape, and define, and ultimately style with a pointed tip for the finishing touch of detail. This perfect beauty tool not only serves the black and Latinx communities and creates a forceful statement for fashion and beauty representation but helps you explore and elevate your individuality at the same time.
We chatted with San Antonio native, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Shannon Kennard about her insights on growing her business and why this $15 beauty tool is such a necessary accessory in everyone’s everyday beauty ritual.
MN: So, tell us about your background. How did Baby Tress transpire?
SK: So, I grew up in San Antonio and I went to the University of North Texas, just north of Dallas. My background is actually in fashion merchandising. Originally, I thought I would be in fashion. I don’t even know that much about fashion to tell you the truth [laugh].
I moved to New York almost seven years ago. I did a few different things there. I worked at a buying office for a minute. I spent a couple of years in PR [Public Relations], which is really how I got here. Through PR, I was doing a little bit of digital marketing and then from there, I started doing social media and then that morphed into freelance social media.
So, at that time when I was freelancing, my best friend met the owner of Mama Tress, Hannah [Choi], who is my co-founder. She just needed a model at the time. With Mama Tress, we are in the black beauty supply niche. At the time, Hannah was just forming the agency and initially, she was going to introduce me to one of her current clients.
The idea for Baby Tress came from us having a brainstorm idea for one of our clients. We were just discussing like different products, things that we can brand, put a little logo on to give away as little freebies. Our clients are specifically hair & beauty brands. They do braided hair, weaves, wigs – things that you would normally find at a beauty supply store. But the idea of the edge styler brush came up.
We were thinking what’s something that people would actually use. Like you don’t want to just slap a logo on something stupid and they just throw it afterward. We wanted it to be useful but still branded. The idea of an edge brush was thrown out by somebody on the team. And from there, the conversation kept coming up. We did an initial search just to see what kind of edge brushes we could put a logo on. Everything was toothbrush adjacent so it was kind of just like eh, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t work.
Personally, for me, toothbrushes are just what you use. That’s how it always was, and they are edge brushes, but it’s just a toothbrush. And during that conversation, it is was kind of a question of this thing like well wait, why is it like that? Like, why are we still using toothbrushes after all this time? Hannah brought this up like why are there so many?
That’s when we kind of came up with different product features. The idea of the edge styler being double-sided, with a bristle side and a comb side. The idea for a pick at the end is really important. The angle, the shape of the brush head, all of these things are important as well.
As we kept gaining momentum with the idea, it just felt very organic. We sat down and kind of like did a rough sketch. None of us are artists by the way haha! The brush pretty much looks like what we set out for it to look like. From there, we had access to a 3D printer for free. So, with our sketches, it helped us create the foundation of the actual product. We sent the sketches to the factories and had prototypes made and now here we are with the brush!
MN: Why did you feel like this particular beauty product or tool was so important in our current fashion industry?
SK: We are in a beauty niche. And one of the things that we do in the agency for our clients, we’re really trying to change the customer experience. So, I’m sure you’re familiar with beauty supply stores…
In my experience, I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve been to a lot of places. And the beauty supply store has not changed since I can remember. The products themselves haven’t really changed since we can remember. And this industry serves black women or black people in general but it’s primarily owned by Korean-Americans.
But we found that there is a huge disconnect between the people who are making the product and the consumer. So, what happens is, the store experience is very negative. The people who work there aren’t very knowledgeable about the products that are being made.
With the agency, we’re connecting the dots between the owner, specific brands that are very established, and the customer. With the inclusion of social media content creation, copywriting, branding production, we do a bunch of things.
We feel like Baby Tress is necessary because again, all this time of hairstyling, it really became big in the 90s. It started with using a toothbrush but this is like a skill. Some people are like insanely good at doing it but it’s like why you do you have to use a toothbrush? Why not create something that was considered? We put a lot of thought into how this brush would be used. Overall, this is something that we want to see a shift in the black beauty niche.
We want products to be made that are not considered just slapping them together because maybe it was something that a celebrity wore on Instagram or any social media outlet. It’s about elevating the ritual. Our mission for Baby Tress is how we create tools to inspire women of color to elevate their beauty rituals. We put a lot of care into our hair. That’s just a part of our culture. And we want the tools and the products that we use to reflect that; they should look like that.
MN: How do you feel about the current landscape of modern industry when its engagement with communities of color? Do you believe it’s progressing to more diversity or a near-term trend of our times?
SK: I feel two ways about it. On one hand, there’s a lot of work to be done, but through Baby Tress, we’ve met so many hairstylists and entrepreneurs, like women who have beauty supply stores that we didn’t know about in different states and countries. So, I feel like a change is happening and there are brands out there with a similar mission to ours, elevating this so-called [beauty] niche. But again, there’s still a lot of work to be done that a lot of brands don’t have that connection — they don’t hire anyone to consume their products to create the products. So then, it’s still way off.
MN: What are your highest hopes of fulfillment for your consumers in Baby Tress?
SK: We hope that when people are using our product that they’re able to – we want it to be like a nice experience at that moment. So, when you’re doing your edges, you need to focus. You can’t be doing a million things at once. Like you need a few minutes where you can just stop and take care of the details. In a way, it’s like taking your ritual into your own hands. You kind of become your own artist in a sense. And we love the idea of beauty and self-care. And that’s what we want people to take from this. It shouldn’t be another random tool that you just bought and you’re just going to throw it around. But one thing you care about is yourself ultimately.
MN: Now that you’ve gained like a substantial following and gained celebrity endorsements and praise as well as the trust of everyday consumers buying your product, how does it make you feel?
SK: I feel validated in a lot of ways. But I think it just feels really good to have an idea, to be able to go for it, because we do also understand that, you know, people have ideas but maybe they don’t have the resources. We have so many available to us and like to see the reaction of people that we’ve met–we’ve met so many female entrepreneurs. We have like, Tyra Banks found us. A year ago, we were at a pop-up shop space and she like randomly stumbled upon us. And then we met with her people. Ciara and Ella Mai use our product as well and we’re like ‘How did you found about us?’ It was very humbling. Our favorite part is when people use our product and their faces light up.
And, of course, some people are gonna be like, what is this? Is this a toothbrush? But people who are like, ‘Whoa, I can’t believe this didn’t exist before’. And it just feels good to create something that people care about and what they want in their life and that they’re willing to spend the time and the money.
MN: Is there any special celebrity, or your own icon, that you would love to have to use your edge styler?
SK: Oh, absolutely! Listen, I want Solange to use it. Michelle Obama needs one, like everyone! Everyone should have one but those two, I would lose my mind!
MN: Where do you hope to see Baby Tress in the next two to five years?
SK: I would like to see us with more international retailers. So, we have a retailer in the UK who they ship to a few European countries. But I would love to see the brush in more areas of the diaspora. We really want to make sure that we are speaking to Latin consumers too, because they live everyday here [New York] and they do amazing jobs. We want to make sure we’re really speaking to the community of the product.
Want to know more about Baby Tress and it’s innovative edge styler?
Check out their video below and website. #MoreThanAToothbrush
Featured photo: Baby Tress