Preferred Treatment: Moroccanoil’s Carmen Tal

by Paige Reddinger

Since launching Moroccanoil with the wildly popular Moroccanoil Treatment, co-founder Carmen Tal has grown the brand into a beauty empire. The products—everything from shampoo and lotion to body soufflé and, most recently, sunscreen—are now available in more than 60 countries and can be found backstage at Fashion Week. We caught up with Tal in her Manhattan offices to find out how Moroccanoil made its mark.

What did you do before you founded Moroccanoil?
I was in fashion, working as a store manager and buyer for Ogilvy in Montreal. After that, I owned a salon in Montreal.
How did you discover Moroccanoil?
My ex-husband and I have always been very entrepreneurial. When we traveled to Chile or to Israel, we were always looking for things that we could bring here. We just had that merchant mentality. I had the amazing blessing to fall upon this amazing product while I was traveling in Israel nine years ago, and so I decided to bring it to Canada. Because I didn’t have the business expertise that my ex-husband has, I asked him if he could help me with launching it. It took me about six months to convince him that it was the right thing. That early product I discovered is what really launched the whole company.
Is the product you discovered in Israel very close to the first product you launched?
Yes, it is. The Moroccanoil Treatment is the signature product in the brand. To be honest, I think it’s the product that you can’t live without. It’s the only thing that you should never miss, because it does it all.
How did you end up in New York?
Most of the business we were doing was in the United States. We had our PR and advertising in New York, as well. You know, everything happens here, so we were ultimately faced with the decision of moving to New York and, indeed, it was a good decision.
Do you miss Montreal?
We still have an office there and actually I just came back from there two days ago. I spend two months there every summer. It’s a lot cooler, and there is less humidity. I have many friends and family still there. We’ll pack the car and take the dogs and go out to the country.
The business has grown exponentially since you launched. How did you do it?
In the industry, everyone talks about how a brand evolves or comes into the market and, apparently, the industry has cycles and every 10 or 20 years somebody comes up with something that could revolutionize the industry—and we were the lucky ones. We came up with a revolutionary way of infusing products with oil in a world where no one really knew about treating hair with oil. We had this amazing product, so it was a natural evolution.
What kind of feedback do you hear from clients?
People talk the most about the fragrance. It’s unique because it’s unisex and it’s a little bit sexy, and it’s something you never get tired of. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten onto an elevator and people say, “Oh, my God, you smell so good. What is it?” Plus, what we state about the performance of the product, it really does deliver. Because we are a privately owned company, we really make sure that there is integrity in everything we do. Today the consumer is so well educated—they read about the ingredients and research the product. You cannot hide.
Is the fragrance part of the reason you decided to launch products for the body as well?
It was the first thought. People have said they also put the oil on their body, because they love the smell and the texture. We constantly get e-mails from people and from our salon partners and the distributors telling us we should make something for the body. We had been busy chasing our tails trying to figure out how to grow the hair portion of the business, but we decided to do three products for the body, and it has been a success. The argan oil in the product has been a very important ingredient for the industry, so it seemed like a no-brainer to launch the product for the body.
What is your own beauty regimen?
I exfoliate once a week at night with the Moroccanoil Body Buff. After I shower, I use the Moroccanoil Body Soufflé daily. It comes in different scent categories (Fleur D’Oranger, Fragrance Originale, and Fleur De Rose), so I alternate depending on my mood.
Do you wash your hair every day?
I wash my hair every three days, because my hair is very puffy and I have to blow-dry it. My hair is a bit unmanageable, so I experiment with everything that we create. I’m the first guinea pig. If I could go to the hair salon every day and have it blown out, I would.
When did you realize Moroccanoil had become a big hit?
The precise moment actually happened at the Javitz Center in New York. We had originally decided to go professional [into salons] instead of going retail, and to go professional you have to go to trade shows and there’s a certain way to do business. We were really clueless about what we were doing, because neither of us comes from the beauty industry. We had just one product, which was the Moroccanoil Treatment, and we were doing demonstrations on people and they were just so blown away. We weren’t even thinking about selling. This was six months after we imported the first shipment to Montreal. We had everyone wanting to buy it and even a distributor approached us and we just thought, “Wow, this is crazy!” That was really an emotional moment.
How did the business grow from there?
We are less than 10 years in the making. In short, we grew really fast and it’s so amazing how much we continue to grow. We are now available in more than 60 countries worldwide. We like to believe that it’s due to a combination of having the right product at the right time, capturing the hearts of the stylists and consumers, and having the right team in place to help us grow—or else it’s simply a blessing. Either way, we are extremely grateful.
Who were some of the early fans of the brand?
I think the people who really propelled us forward are the celebrity stylists. I can’t name names, but there were a couple of celebrity stylists who brought the products to their clients, and people just started talking about it and it just became almost viral. But it was really organic. The first year we didn’t even have a PR agency because we were so busy trying to figure out how to handle the demand. The celebrity stylists were just contacting us directly.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is the face of your new Inspired By Women™ campaign. How did you choose her?
She’s very womanly and a beautiful girl. We worked with her previously, and we really liked her. She’s an elegant, timeless beauty.
The Moroccanoil Treatment is still your best-selling product. What’s the second best?
It’s the shampoo, because that’s an everyday necessity and it leaves your hair smelling so nice.
This summer you launched the Moroccanoil sun-care line.
Argan oil is a natural sun protector. We know that women in Morocco have long been using the oil to protect their skin from the elements, so it was an obvious choice for us to launch a sun-care line. We have always been inspired by the Mediterranean, and the Sun Collection reminds me of when I was a teen and going to the beach with my friends and feeling happy and relaxed.
What markets are the biggest for you outside of the U.S. and Canada?
Some of the markets that are big outside of North America are Australia and the U.K. Both have really embraced the brand. But even in Scandinavia, Latin America, and Asia, they love the product.
Do you go to any shows during Fashion Week?
Yes, we usually do about seven shows every season. We do Marchesa, Zac Posen, Monique Lhuillier, Altuzarra, Cushnie et Ochs, Pola Thomson and DelPozo. In Milan, we’re doing Missoni and Costume National. In Paris, we do Barbara Bui and Alexis Mabille. In London, we do Temperley, Kristian Aadnevik, and we’re doing a new show this season called Osman. We’ve done Burberry in London before too. We’ve got great shows. I think we fit very well in the fashion world.
What’s next for the brand?
I can’t tell you exactly what it will look like yet, but we are planning to launch products for people with curly hair. We’re all born different and treat our hair differently, so we need to create products that facilitate our clients’ lives. Curly haired people are the ones who suffer the most, because their hair is harder to treat, but we have been working for about two years to create some products for treating curls. We’re aiming to launch in fall 2016. There’s nothing new about having a product for curly hair, but we are coming up with a new technology that will be really special.

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