Kimberley Cowans is the visionary creator behind SKIMDO. 4 years ago, we met at Ace Hotel London, both excited to share our story, vision and ideas. Of course, it was not long before SKIMDO Original Cream was on our shelf. Over the years, it has been amazing to see many women discover SKIMDO and have their hair experience transformed. On a more personal level, it is a thing of beauty to see Kim follow her dreams in moving to New York to grow her brand. Today, we are excited to share her story with you. Enjoy the read!
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR SKIMDO JOURNEY?
My mother says my standards are too high, and I shouldn't be so sensitive! The cheek! SO, from that we'll extract High Standards and Sensitive, because I can tell you right now that these are vital qualities for creating a product. SKIMDO was born out of rebellion, anger, hope, pride and intuition. I left a job in architecture due to redundancy, and after storming around in a dark cloud for a couple of months, I came to the near end of my homemade hair cream and got a superb rush. I knew that I was going to turn my concoction into a bona fide product. I have a real passion for the process, so the research and development was (and always is) the best part of the journey. The tough bit is realising you can't do it all on your own.
YOU ARE A GLOBAL GIRL IN MANY RESPECTS, GROWING UP ACROSS COUNTRIES. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE AND HOW DID IT SHAPE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HAIR?
Growing up between the UK and Koh Samui was really such luck. I say that because Thailand always soothed the senseless pain incurred by bullies at schools in the UK. My white mother struggled with my hair, but truly did her best to avoid getting notes from primary school saying my hair was too messy. On the other hand, when my Jamaican grandmother beautifully braided my hair, I wasn't used to the tightness on my scalp, so would beg my mother to undo it once I was back home. Everyone tried their best in the west. At school, I was often left out of break-time play groups from age 5, because I had "yukky hair". This is probably when I started to spend time fantasizing in class, which was something that consistently showed up in my school reports as "not concentrating". I would sit and imagine various scenarios where I had swishy hair, and everyone wanted to be my friend. At home in Samui, my hair would be free, in and out of the sea every day and all the ladyboys loved it. They were my friends from childhood and we would spend Songkran together throwing water and powder on passers by to celebrate the new year, laughing our heads off. I thought they were mesmerisingly beautiful and I see now, that we had a mutual appreciation for our differences. Travelling around Brazil when I was 17, really cemented my appreciation for this incredible hair texture. Watching confident girls parading around with massive hair, was a revelation! I thought, yeah, this hair is wicked. I was like the OG Tina Kunakey De Vita, after that. No Instagram back then, of course.
WHY DID YOU CREATE SKIMDO?
I created SKIMDO because I needed a product that didn't exist. Something that lasted all week, that left my hair soft, but not greasy. I wanted a product that didn't smell like a piña colada, and I longed for something in minimal classy packaging that I would happily have on display. Back then, there was no such thing, and I began to realise that I (my hair texture) was being repressed by the leaders of the industry. The buyers weren't buying for me and the brands Bogarting the shelf space, weren’t making.
WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL?
Firstly, it’s made and creatively directed by someone who needs it and uses it. This first edition formula of SKIMDO Original Cream really holds your style for so long, and maintains a superb ‘touchability' and softness throughout - without reapplying and re-wetting. I hate washing my hair because it looks photo shoot ready every time I calculate that I need a fresh SKIMDO. The smell of it is something I will never tire of. It’s the epitome of an uplifting clean redolence. Lastly, the packaging. The Original large one is exactly what I wanted from a hair product. Something that stands firm, that I could use with one hand and that I was proud to display. You won’t see the words “frizzy” “problem” “dull” “difficult” or “unmanageable” on my products. We don’t need that kind of negative chat.
WHAT DOES THE NAME 'SKIMDO' MEAN?
SKIMDO means; incredible curly hair. You use it like this, “ OMG I saw this girl coming off the bus the other day, and she legit had a SKIMDO.” If you’re asking how the word came to be, it’s an amalgamation of my nickname ‘Skim’ and the hair ’do' I have rocked for most of my life. I got the nickname Skim, because I played the part of Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, in a childhood version of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical - CATS. I was so obsessed with my role, that I continued to ‘be’ Skimbleshanks well after our little production was over. My nanny Maurice shortened it to Skim, and I’ve been called it ever since.
HOW DOES ONE USE SKIMDO?
When developing the product and testing it on myself, I used a finger-twisting method that I made into a video tutorial. Since then, wonderful women such as Nia The Light, Shona Vertue and Sofia Ramsay have posted their own tutorials on how they use it for their hair types. The fabulous thing about all this blogging is that everyone’s technique has an audience I have such a deep respect for people taking the time to film, edit and teach my community all the ways we can achieve our best hair days.
YOU HAVE NOW TAKEN SKIMDO TO NEW YORK. WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE SETTING UP SHOP IN A COMPLETELY NEW COUNTRY?
It has been incredible. From the moment I started talking about what I am doing here, I have had interest and support. My older brother was living in Harlem when I arrived, and he and his wife really helped get SKIMDO new roots in New York. Forever grateful for their loan and encouragement. Since they moved to Sydney, I’ve launched THE BABY, and have two other products coming out. Setting up shop in New York has opened my imagination up and teaches me something new and important every day. It’s a tough, tough city with a lot of curly hair! It has been an essential move.
WHO IS SKIMDO FOR?
SKIMDO is for the person who likes good value and the curls of their dreams. People love to talk about how expensive it is, but it lasts such a long time (a big tub), because its concentrated formula means you only need a little at a time, while styling. Whenever it is written about in the press or on blogs TYPE 3 curls is a category where SKIMDO comes out on top. A misconception is that its only for afro hair and brown folks. SKIMDO was created for anyone with thick curly hair, and I get eMails saying how well its working on fine curly hair too. Black, White, Indian, and everyone in between. It’s a product aiming to solve a problem.
WHAT'S YOUR TOP TIP FOR HEALTHY HAIR?
I’ll give you three for the price of one, 1) Don’t dye it! 2) Wherever possible, use big clips when twisting it into a bun, instead of hair ties. 3) Don’t do oily head massages.
FINALLY, WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A YOUNGER ‘KIM’ ON THE TOPIC OF HAIR AND SELF ACCEPTANCE?
Go traveling. See how lucky you are, check out your rich heritage, and listen and learn from the people you meet along the way. You have everything you need to succeed - just trust your intuition and stay curious, kiddo!