Most people expect celebrity hairstylists to come out with their own wet line the way they expect celebrity makeup artists to drop a collection of colored cosmetics with a cult favorite brand. But when you’re the man behind Rihanna’s famous mane (and the hair at the recent Savage x Fenty extravaganza), then people should expect the unexpected.
While Yusef Williams can appreciate a great styling product, he understands the need for proper tools to get that hair just right. So in February he launched The Y by Yusef, a collection of hair tools that includes combs, brushes, edge tamers, and pretty much anything you need to style any hair type.
“I found myself doing an overwhelming amount of interviews about [my] tools, but it was weird,” Williams tells ESSENCE. “So I thought, how do I come up with something that’s super cool to where every woman can have these things at her fingertips and know exactly what they’re for? These are essentials. They work, they’re durable, they’re affordable.”
Poised to unleash these styling must-haves alongside a styling course called the Y Sessions, kicking off in New York City this spring, Williams was ready for absolute hair domination. Then COVID-19 made its way to the United States and life as we knew it came to a halt. Launching during a global pandemic can throw off the momentum of even the largest beauty brand, so for a new line it was almost a non-starter.
Luckily, Williams is as flexible as his elastic kit, and was able to pivot with the classes and marketing the new capsule collection. There was no big launch party, and promotion has been organic and word of mouth, which in today’s world of beauty is still social media. But the one thing he has working in his favor the most is the high quality of his tools.
“I really busted my ass making sure that things were properly made,” he says. “It wasn’t going to be damaging to the hair. It was going to be durable. There were no brands out there that I could even compare [the collection] to. So it was just me on my own trying to make sure that things worked.”
The tools are clever, as Williams thought about their functionality in the process of doing hair. Brushes and combs have hidden pins so that you go from parting to detangling to braiding or curling with just one tool. The same way he researches the origins of an African ancestral hairstyle before putting it in an editorial spread, he thinks about how he can maximize the use of one tool by adding simple enhancements.
“It makes it easier to not have so much in your hand. It’s just like I had to think about everybody; the professional and you guys at home doing your hair,” says Williams. “So it was just like put two things in one and it makes it easier to use it.”
It seems simple enough, especially if you’re a hairstylist. But if you really think about it, most of your styling tools probably don’t work that way.
Williams also thought about the details down to ensuring that certain products had a titanium barrel for us type 4 hair girls that would have it no other way. And he made sure to include a variety of bristles, finishes, and clip sizes so that all women (and men) have the options to take the simplest styles to the next level.
It’s what he calls hair with street cred.
“I’m always trying to make things accessible and cool at the same time. Because I feel like hair is just icing on the cake,” Williams explains. “So if your hair is going to be pulled back in a ponytail there are things you can do to give it that push. That street cred. You can do whatever you want and you can go into any room. So that’s why the tools are designed to create different things like the baby hair, parts, smoothness. Hair with purpose.”
Anyone that can make exposed wefts look haute is someone we can trust with our hair. We’re still hoping to get those Yusef wet products (clears throat), but in the meantime we’re excited to start styling like a pro so we can walk like Rihanna. At these affordable prices, we can shop the collection guilt free. Quarantine or not, now no one has to put up with bad hair days anymore.
Shop The Y by Yusef Collection
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