A decade after launching a company in the midst of a depression, Tev Finger has become a leading businessman and the industry’s favorite talk show host.
Eight years ago, President and CEO of Luxury Brand Partners Tev Finger and his partners Moss Kadey, Daniel Kaner, Todd Hildum, Dan Langer and Jonathan Sharp, transformed their creativity into a new chapter in luxury products, resulting in Oribe Hair Care, and ultimately in LBP, a beauty umbrella that also includes R+Co, V76, Smith & Cult and IGK.
Tev has been proving his aptitude in the world of business for decades, and now, the beauty executive gets to demonstrate his sense of humor in a brand new role as the host of Late Night with Tev Finger. We sat down with Tev to discuss his journey and get a glimpse into the character of this beauty industry professional.
Is there some secret to your business formula?
“The secret to building a business is having an incredible team. Without the original partners, and the addition of Reuben Carranza, Howard McLaren, Thom Priano, Garren, Dineh Mohajer, Jeanne Chavez and Vaughn Acord we would not have made it. It takes a village. When we built Oribe it was very important to have a person, but every brand is different. With R+Co, we had to come up with the market, strategy and money to fund it—there are a lot of elements that take time. It could be a whole year before you sign the document to be in business.“
But all the newer LBP brands took very little time to take off!
“These brands are way more ahead than where I thought they would be. We started at Bumble and Bumble, but left in 2006, when we sold it to Estée Lauder. Even if your business changes, your style as an entrepreneur will stay the same, and we’ve always had a vision of entrepreneurial teamwork. When Daniel Kaner and I moved to Oribe we took that culture there. It’s really the same passion rolled into LBP. The difference is we needed to raise money in LBP to be able to bring about reconstruction and compete on a global level—we are still a tiny company. We’re excited about where we are. We are not a conglomerate and we don’t have VC money, which makes us very much the underdog, but we have to go up against conglomerates even though we’re but a speck on
the grand scale of things.“
What did you want when you created Oribe?
“When we were finishing up our Bumble and Bumble sale with Estée Lauder, I saw that the reaction to Kérastase in the U.S. was, “whoa, luxury, high end!” and the price was almost double Bumble’s. That floored me. After our non-compete ended, Daniel Kaner and I started ideating about what a modern luxury brand would look like. We knew if we ever did something again, it had to be a much higher-end line because it speaks to fewer salons. We love this because we can only have so many really strong relationships.“
Did you know right away you were looking for a celebrity stylist?
“You know the story about Louis Vuitton, Rolls Royce, Ferrari—the most expensive brands need to be associated with a person’s vision. Daniel’s wife, Sonia Kashuk, is a makeup artist and introduced us to Oribe, so it was very natural. The personal connection is important—you always want to do business with people you like. All relationships have their ups and downs, but continuing to try is the key to success.“
Did you ever think you might fail?
“I’ve had a lot of losses, but I never think that I’m going to fail! And there were some great dark moments, including the bank. We raised our first million dollars to launch the brand and then the economy went under. Our money was in an HSBC checking account, where you think your money is safe. Well, it turns out that for the business division, it’s linked to an auction rate market that hadn’t moved in forty years. But after the collapse, they froze our money and it took me six months to get it back. Those were some especially dark moments because there weren’t any sales yet. But if you have a sense humor, the stress doesn’t get to you as much—I remember Daniel and I laughing through the worst of it.”
- And then there was R+Co, which has grown amazingly in the last year.
- “Well, nothing happens by accident. We started building the sister brands, like R+Co, about four years ago when I realized that a brand has to become a brand. From a business perspective, a salon should never have only one line of product. I think you need the range. The typical salon range for a haircut is $50-$100, and I really think there is a lot of opportunity in partnerships. So with a brand like Oribe, we might only speak to 20% of the clientele, but with R+Co being in a different price range, we speak to about 70% of the clients.“
- Another new brand you launched last year is V76 by Vaughn, a new take on the men’s grooming category.
- “Vaughn worked for us at Bumble as a hairstylist—he was “the men’s guy.” He was always doing big names and A-list clients like Bruce Springsteen and Bill Clinton. Interestingly enough, barbershops were becoming kind of cool, so we decided to aim for high-end salons and then barbershops. Something you might not know about Vaughn is that he is the nicest person in the world.“
The success of Late Night With Tev Finger is really phenomenal. Why a TV show?
“We realized that the salon role is changing and wanted to create a format so that we could understand it. And let me tell you, the fun part about the show is that I learn every single time that I host it. I love the history of the industry—documenting what works and what doesn’t has become like a hobby for me—and I ask the same questions over and over because I can get 20 different answers. For me it was important to do the show without connecting it to our brands to keep it from becoming competitive. I didn’t do this to compete with other brands. I am very uncomfortable when the world is changing and I’m not changing with it. So about a year ago, we realized this and started looking around. Commission salons used to dominate, and now we see many of them switching to hybrids, suites or rentals. I know the famous hairdressers like Sassoon and Toni&Guy—we know all the lineages out there, and there are some incredible ones—but what excites me is the new young generation of stylists who will take something from the past and reinvent it for the future. Platforms like Butterfly Circus, Mane Addicts and The Hair Nerds also caught my eye because something exciting is going on with their education. There’s the old world and the new world, and I don’t think one is better than the other. I think there is room for both.“
A MAN WITH A PERSPECTIVE: “The outside world looks at beauty like a mom-and-pop shop. But, in reality, this industry has some of the most incredible business people and creative talents out there. Hairdressers are the ones who change looks and instill confidence for the entire population, and people often forget that. It has been my personal mission to constantly elevate this industry.”