Meet Moroccanoil's Leading Lady
by vishaka robinson
Chilean-born Carmen Tal’s journey from Montreal salon owner to the head of a multimillion-dollar global beauty has been nothing short of stratospheric. Six years ago she launched a single hair treatment; now a glut of new products are on her immediate horizon, including a line of 12 luxury body care products debuting in 2012.
Her story starts in the inauspicious setting of a now shuttered Tel Aviv hair salon. Having had a disastrous color treatment—“my highlights were orange, and in order to fix them the hairdresser used a permanent black dye; the condition was shot”—but unwilling to have her hair chopped short, Tal opted for an argan oil treatment. The instantaneous results converted Tal, and less than a year later, in partnership with her now ex-husband (who is still the financial whiz of the company), they bought the fledgling Israeli company that imported argan oil from Morocco.
The premise was simple: to bring this under-the-radar ingredient (a byproduct of the argan nut, which is known as a potent antioxidant, rich in essential fatty acids) to the US. Keeping things streamlined, Tal started her brand with just one product, Moroccanoil Treatment, a glossy argan-oil-infused hair unction that quickly became salon shorthand for smooth, shiny locks.
Today Tal concedes there are few limits to her ambitions. “But we don’t launch things because everyone else is doing it,” she states. “We respond to what our customers want.” The company’s move into luxury body care, says Tal, is the result of nagging from brand-fans rather than market research.
.But the story actually goes back further. Tal had cut her teeth in high-profile management roles in the fashion industry before taking a career hiatus to have her three children, now 12, 15, and 17. Rather than return to the corporate world, she took an entrepreneurial gamble, opening U, a small local hair salon, with a close friend. “It was such a learning curve,” says Tal of running a small business, “but it struck me that there was this incredible relationship of trust between a stylist and a client, that this was the perfect place to sell products.”
It was just a matter of time before the right idea fell into her lap. “I was searching,” admits Tal, adding that her intuition is what motivates the majority of her decisions. “When I had that treatment I knew instinctively that this would work, that I had to bring it home. Everyone told me all the reasons why it was a flawed plan, that it was too crowded a market. Even my husband took months to persuade (he’s the Hebrew speaker, so I needed him to push the deal through), but I can be a hardheaded woman when my gut tells me something is right.”
Having grown her team from less than 10 to about 300 in six years, Tal says that internal structural issues have been the biggest concern. “The worldwide nature of our business means that we have people spread across the globe. So bringing everyone together is a challenge.” She’s clearly succeeding. There’s an industrious, family atmosphere in her third-floor marketing headquarters a short stroll from Central Park. Drawings by her 12-year-old daughter, Ariel, pronounce, “This is the best office ever!” Scented candles, which test their fragrances, create a soothing atmosphere in her corner office, and the whole place has been given a glamorous revamp courtesy of Daun Curry, the interior designer who remodeled Tal’s Upper East Side apartment when she first moved from Canada to Manhattan two years ago.
“We wanted to have a beautiful office,” says Tal. So Curry set about creating a “modern palace” befitting the brand’s runaway success: filling cabinets with vibrant Blenko glass bottles; creating a voluminous Swarovski crystal-laced chandelier with 4,000 feet of jewelry chains; and lining floors with a mix of Calcutta gold marble and wide rustic wooden planks.
Of her five- and 10-year plans, Tal shrugs laughing. “I honestly don’t really know!” Just like a trusted hairstylist— she’s waiting to hear what her customers ask for.
photography by sari goodfriend
Gotham Magazine hosted its latest issue featuring the current cast of Saturday Night Live at the Four Seasons Hotel on Monday, February 23.