The doors to ethical and sustainable hair salon THT – or That Hair Tho – might have opened in Dubai in early 2019, but Co-Founder Kate Darling’s dedication to the cause has been long established.
While it may be becoming easier and easier to rule out animal-derived ingredients from your meals, going plant-based with your beauty choices can be complex. Especially when you have no idea what products are being used when you visit your hair or beauty salon.
This is something Kate Darling, the Co-Founder of THT, wants to put an end to. Having worked in beauty for over a decade with some of the biggest companies, she decided a year ago it was time to make a change. While the Dubai-based salon opened in early 2019, the idea to create a community space that supports vegan-friendly and sustainable products and practices have been at the heart of the brand since its conception.
Talking to A&E, the local businesswomen chats about her own love of beauty and how it began, why it’s more important than ever to invest in sustainable living and the ethos behind her unique salon.
Tell us about the concept of THT.
The concept of the salon is to use ethical and sustainable brands, that are also vegan and cruelty-free. So that’s quite important for us, that we’re supporting those brands here and preventing the industry from using cruelty to animals which is completely unnecessary. Also, it came from the fact that we wanted to have a place where people didn’t feel like a number but more like a friend.
What changes in the beauty industry are exciting you right now?
It would have to be that consumers are becoming more aware of the products they are using. And I think it’s become more important for consumers to understand their products are ethically sourced and they won’t damage the environment, or their face, hair or skin.
From what you can see, how is the attitude towards sustainability changing the region?
The region has shown an increased awareness and concerns for the environment which has played an essential role in organisations and the government to implement sustainability strategies. The UAE has launched the Green Economy initiative that will contribute to the country’s sustainability and preserve the environment for generations to come.
And what does it mean to you personally?
As a businesswoman and resident, this sustainable innovation is exciting. To live in a country that is quickly setting an example for the rest of the world to be more sustainable shows how fast the UAE is growing. In business, we should all be aiming to support a sustainable future and participate as much as we can. Even if it’s just being more aware of our impact on the environment; whether it be recycling, water usage or implementing sustainable products and services.
How is the beauty industry playing its part?
When it comes to the beauty industry, consumers have already gained an increase in awareness to move towards vegan and sustainable products. Through this awareness, there has been an increased demand for companies to introduce biodegradable packaging, remove harsh chemicals and toxins and to produce products in a more sustainable way through renewable energy.
There is still a way to go in the beauty industry with only some brands embracing these changes. With supporting the brands which do promote sustainability, it is my belief, that eventually all brands will start switching to other alternatives.
How does vegan and cruelty-free products play into sustainability?
Vegan and cruelty-free products are extremely important to the environment’s sustainability. We often don’t realise which animal products are actually being used in our products. Collagen, for example, is quite a widely known ingredient, it is a naturally occurring protein found in animal tissue which is usually taken from the fat of cows, pigs and sheep and is commonly used in beauty products.
Animal testing is not only cruel but there is no proof animal skin will react in the same way as human skin. Anything contributing to mass farming has a harmful impact on the environment through water and air pollution as well as deforestation.
What is the main difference in the way products work compared to traditional methods?
Products containing animal by-products, synthetic ingredients and toxic chemicals may still achieve results but it is actually damaging the hair from within. The natural protective coating on the hair becomes stripped away due to the harsh chemicals and additives added to the products, which then leaves our hair susceptive to breakage and hair fall.
Our hair and bodies will react better to those products which are vegan and chemical free as they are far more gentle. By switching to the vegan and chemical free haircare, you will notice a dramatic change to your scalp condition and hair vitality.
What would you say in your biggest achievement to date?
It would have to be actually opening the salon doors after a year of planning and going through architect and interior companies. To finally get those doors open was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences.
And the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
It would have to be learning that mistakes are okay and not everything is going to go your way. Making mistakes – with businesses or whatever – has been the fastest way to grow as a businesswoman and a person.
What do you still want to achieve?
In the bigger picture, it would be supporting more charities through business and contributing myself in that way, for now, it would be opening more salons and getting THT out there, growing and expanding.
Who inspires you the most?
In the beauty industry, it would have to be Sophia Hilton. Not only has she got her own salon but she has an academy and her own social media company now. But the thing that inspires me about her most is her honesty, spreading the truth about the business. She’s not afraid to be herself while promoting her business as well.
Do you have a motto you live by?
In business, it would defiantly be: “If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it.” It helped me a lot to think you can’t stress about things out of your control. You have to let it go and be positive about the future and what you can change.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To stop worrying about what job you should have and what degree you should do – just follow your passion and ultimately it will lead you to something that doesn’t feel like a job anymore, it’s just something that you love to do.
What do you say ‘no’ to?
To negatively and the energy around it. I think particularly in the workplace as it can catch on to other people. I think we should all be positive and optimistic, and encourage other people to be like that.
And how would you like the world to remember you?
I think I’d like the world to remember me as someone who really contributed, whether it be business ideas or in charity or supporting other women. I think that’s how I’d like to be remembered.