KEASH LDN has been constructed to eradicate the preconceived notions surrounding braids & the culture within black hair salons. From what began in 2014, in a kitchen in Dalston, KEASH is becoming the go-to hair brand for all your creative hair-styling needs. I spoke with CEO of KEASH LDN, Taiba Akhuetie, about the inspiration behind the brand, the high points of building something from the ground up & challenges that come with being a representative of women with businesses in London, despite the many obstacles they may face.
CECEVELLI: What would you say your biggest challenges have been so far?
Taiba: Being approached by brands to do life changing collaborations and then being told they won’t be going ahead with it has been a difficult challenge to face. Of course, I completely understand these things can happen and I don’t at all take it personally but it’s a huge blow when you have prioritised developing ideas that don’t end up coming to life.
C: How hard have you found it being the CEO of an entire company? Is this your first time?
T: Yes, it’s my first time being a CEO of a company and it feels amazing. I have always been a boss so being a CEO for me felt super natural. It isn’t easy but I enjoy a challenge.
C: Which celebrity client has been your favourite?
T: Burna Boy, he’s a don!
C: Aside from the regular plan of opening up a KEASH salon, what are your other plans for expansion?
T: Being such a creative who is constantly coming up with new ways to use materials in hair, a future goal of mine is to work on big billboard campaigns, music videos and exhibitions. I see myself being an ambassador.
C: I don’t believe you’ve reached your peak yet because progression is infinite, but how did you adjust to all the attention/fame from your peers & strangers when KEASH reached its current peak?
T: Gaining more and more attention reinforces my confidence in myself. No-one puts pressure on me but myself and that’s because I kind of thrive off of pressure; it makes me realise that I am capable of a lot more.
C: What was your main incentive when you decided to start your brand?
T: Braids are a huge part of my culture and although I have never personally experienced a huge amount of negatively towards it; I have seen it and still see it. It has never been seen as appealing to the mass. Society has forced everyone to see one side of beauty and my goal was to change that perception. This meant I also started to except what I was born with and tell the world that my culture is not something to be looked down on. Why are black hair salons seen as cheap and dirty? I wanted to set the bar high because it’s an art and it should be celebrated and appreciated by everyone.
C: How many people did you initially have on your team when you began?
T: Keash started as Keash Braids. It was myself and my best mate who started the brand whilst hanging out in her kitchen in Dalston. We did everything from PR, social media, the website, designing our pop-ups and reaching out to our favourite brands. We started with Instagram and worked our asses off working 24/7 to grow organically.
C: Do you plan to do any special Lovebox designs?
T: Of course, this year is going to be bigger and better than ever. Keash will be offering treatments that we have never offered before at any festivals. Let’s just say we will be the one stop shop for festival hair styling.
C: I am an absolute fan of your inspiration behind the name KEASH, but for those who don’t know, how did you come up with this iconic name?
T: The name comes from the famous TV programme ‘Summer Heights High’ which me and my mates were obsessed with a few years back. It was created by a comedian called Chris Lilley and we use to quote it constantly. He plays various different characters in the show and we all took a particular shine to a character called Ja’mie – a bratty, popular rich girl. In the show Ja’mie and her mates all use the word “Quiche” which is a slang word for hot. She would say things like “OMG I’m so Quiche” When coming up with the brand name we wanted something timeless and something that meant the brand didn’t have to stay in one lane. We scrapped using a word related to hair and went with something silly that if you got, you got but if you didn’t it didn’t matter. We simply changed the spelling and it just felt right.
C: Any future collaborations we wouldn’t expect? For example, can we expect to see some limited edition customized KEASH Nike trainers?
T: With my crazy mind anything can happen! I have too many amazing ideas, but you will have to wait and see what’s to come.
C: Have you dealt with the issue of bigger companies duplicating your vision & ideas without paying any homage? If so, how did you take that? A form of flattery or did it upset you?
T: Yes, this happens constantly. Brands rip me off and take credit or use my work for their own personal gain. I find it upsetting that people have no issues with taking credit for something I have had to work 10x harder for than they have. Saying that, it triggers something in me and forces me to become even more creative. No one can be me, even if they tried.
C: Have any high-end brands or salons been in touch with you about partnering or buying KEASH? How do you feel about that, are you willing to or would you rather stay in complete control of your vision?
T: Of course, brand partnerships are a huge part of what we do over at Keash HQ. I don’t get salons trying to partner as I guess I can be seen as a threat. I definitely inspire other hair salons to up their game. I am very DIY; I don’t have the standard salon rule book and I don’t fit into the same category as the salons you see on the high street. This forces them to think more outside the box in order to stand out from their competitors as they have far more direct competition than I do. It makes me feel special as I stand out from the crowd.
C: What is your hair type? Any personal secret hair care tips for your hair type you’d like to share?
T: I have natural afro hair. I don’t have any secrets as such because everyone’s hair is so different, and some people have to be more careful with products and styling than others. What I will say is that for woman with afro hair, try harder to allow your hair to breathe. Protective styles are not always protecting you if you are constantly pulling your hair or gelling your edges. Find a hairstylist who cares about your hair and talk to them about your hair and what you want to achieve so they can take the necessary action to help you.
C: Does KEASH deal with all hair types and if not, do you have a well-versed team of hair stylists at hand?
T: Yes, Keash is for everyone and we take pride in understanding and learning about different hair types.
Catch the KEASH LDN team at #Lovebox19 in the VIP area offering hair treatments like no other!