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Garden Party

Olivia Garden celebrates 50 years of innovation and worldwide expansion—while remaining a true family affair. —TRACY MORIN

When Jean Rennette, a schoolteacher and a pro waterski instructor with a business bent, met wife Micheline, a hairdresser and esthetician, the family (and beauty biz) would be forever changed. The Belgium-based couple founded Olivia Garden in 1967, with Jean selling high-quality synthetic wigs and hairpieces (cut, colored and styled by Micheline) to salons. But when wigs fell out of fashion in the ’70s, Jean pioneered his own liquid product line. “From the start—and to this day—we wanted to introduce cutting-edge, environmentally friendly products,” notes Anne Maza, VP of sales and marketing for Olivia Garden (and daughter of Jean and Micheline). “We always launch something that brings a solution, making something better, different or unique for a good reason.”

The company made a moxie-fueled move stateside in 1985, intent on reaching new heights in a major market. Starting from scratch in the U.S. while maintaining the European business required arduous work—even from the Rennettes’ teenage children, who helped out with typing and accounting after school (30-plus years later, both now run the day-to-day operations with parental input). A passion for painstaking research and development led to explosive growth and newfangled designs, including Olivia Garden’s first high-end brush line; the company would later pioneer ceramic and ionic technology. “Since my mom worked 8 to 10 hours a day in the salon, every product is designed for the hairdresser,” Maza explains. “We want to help them work quickly, efficiently and comfortably, with the latest technology.”

In the aughts, the company celebrated more firsts: a new apparel collection, eco-friendly bamboo brushes, shears with an industry-first trade-in program. More recently, ever-expanding brush models have adopted nanotechnology, extreme-heat-resistant surfaces and scalp-massaging designs, among others. But Maza insists the best is yet to come: In 2017, the company is introducing education to augment its brushes and shears (think styling and cutting classes), plus a new lookbook that she promises “reaches a new level of artistry” with step-by-steps, and initiatives including behind-the-scenes beauty for major events like New York Fashion Week and the Oscars. “We’re also looking to expand even further with new, awesome products,” Maza enthuses. “2017 is going to be a big year for us!” 

[Images: Olivia Garden]

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