Dianna Cohen is the founder and CEO of Crown Affair, an incredibly chic and clean hair care brand rooted in ritual. Through product and brand messaging, Crown Affair is changing the self-care narrative. We spoke with her about her career, finding whitespace, building a brand, and her haircare ritual.
I moved to New York eleven years ago to attend NYU. I came here thinking I wanted to work in fashion and work at Condé Nast, but the world was changing quite a bit during my college years. The internet was becoming a very real thing. The way people were shopping, behaving, sharing, and discovering was changing at a quick pace. I had done internships with different designers, but by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to work in a fresh, digital space.
My first real job out of college was at a mobile shopping app called Spring, which was a direct-to-consumer platform to simply shop on mobile. There were over 300 brands using the platform when we launched. That experience totally opened my eyes to how people shop online and what they were sharing. I discovered many things on mobile. It was so cool to work across so many brands in the early days of what direct-to-consumer is. As we look back now, Warby Parker had been around for a few years, Harry’s had launched, Outdoor Voices was very new, Emily Weiss and Henry Davis were just launching Glossier, so it was a really exciting time in the consumer brand industry back in 2013-2014.
I’m obsessed with haircare and beauty products. I’ve always been the haircare nerd out of all of my friends. I’m the person people come to when their hair is changing, they’re getting older, or they’ve just had a baby. I’m the one they come to switch to products with no sulfates, they’re trying to grow their hair out, etc. I think hair is such a huge part of our identities and how we move through the world and I’ve put a lot of time, care, and energy into creating my own ritual. I’ve been working on Crown Affair for two years and so much of the learning in launching the brand came from these great career experiences.I’ve being fortunate enough to work with these amazing founders in the consumer space and launch brands that really have become a part of so many people’s self-identities.
It all started through conversations with friends. I sent a Google Doc out with my ritual and people responded. It became so clear how little guidance there is in this category. Other categories in beauty have been democratized over the last five to ten years and haircare had always felt like it was really behind. I noticed that there wasn't a brand I identified with in terms of how I use products and talk about hair myself with my peers, and that's how Crown Affair started.
I started to work on the oil. My three favorite hair oils, which are great oils, all have cyclic silicones in them, an ingredient that can be really harsh on your hair and actually dry it out over time. I wanted to create something that worked and that was better for you as well. We launched our hair mask recently with the same approach of taking all the benefits of the things we love and innovating them by using much cleaner ingredients and molecules. There’s so much innovation that has happened in the clean space. We’re really excited to bring to the market and really find that matrix of luxury and efficacy. I want my hair care ritual to be rooted in something that I really trust and feel proud to do.
I made a hairbrush, which is an OG product. I would recommend to people a Mason Pearson hairbrush. Is a great, beautiful, hand-crafted product as well, but it’s 200 dollars and for a lot of my friends that seemed crazy. So it started as a fun project where I tried to reverse-engineer this hairbrush to make it the same quality and so much more accessible. I eventually gave samples of the brush to friends who had a range of different hair types to try out and so many told me it transformed their hair.
So often, we can forget that simple rituals and acts can be really powerful if you take care of your hair daily. I’m totally here for balance. I love blowouts, I use hot tools occasionally, but it’s important to take the time to nourish your hair daily, in the same way that you put lotion on every day, cleanser, moisturizer or whatever it is. Sometimes our hair can be a little forgotten.
The brand is built on the feedback of friends, peers, colleagues, and mentors. This has been a really intense year for so many people, for so many reasons. It’s amazing to hear others tell me that they were able to take ten minutes to slow down and take care of themselves. That’s what this brand will always be, rooted in ritual. I want to bring back the care and ritual peace, the feeling of looking forward to being in the shower. If you’re lucky to be at home right now, this is an amazing time to put your phone in the other room, slow down, be with your thoughts, and take care of yourself. There’s so much power in that.
My hope is that people see Crown Affair, discover it and decide to get to know their hair. It’s not necessarily about us having the solutions for everything, it’s about inspiring people to pause and reorient themselves to the way they care for their hair. There’s an entire universe in your head, and is such a reflection of your wellbeing. Even before we were at home in a pandemic, that has always been our mission and will continue to be at the core of who we are.
Founders and innovators can be heroes, but behind every innovator is a levitator, a person who makes everything come to life. Naturally, that's very much where I light up, which is why I’ve been working with consumer brands for the last eight years. It's definitely a shift to have my own brand. I felt ready to do it for myself, but when you are creating your own social strategy it's such a different approach...you're in the nitty-gritty of it all. It's been a great exercise to step away and think about how Crown Affair is very much beyond me as well. This brand is my heart and soul and some of the visual references have been living with me and on Pinterest boards for over a decade. Sometimes I have to pretend this isn’t my company and approach it as if I were on the outside of this. It’s about finding the balance.
The first thing is surrounding yourself with people who are rock stars in all the things that you’re not good at. I always joke that it's like an Avengers scenario. One person can’t take on all of these things. That means finding your superpowers and then finding people who have the superpowers you don't have. We’re all really good at some things and pretty okay at other things. I think everyone has imposter syndrome to some extent, but I feel really lucky and confident in the things that I have brought to life. If you take time to do the work, at the end of the day it shows for itself.
Seedling has become one of my favorite parts of what we do every week. We launched it a bit after COVID-19 really hit and the lockdown began. We started by contributing a portion of our proceeds to No Kid Hungry, but I knew that there was a way for us to give back that felt even more authentic than just a donation. Mentorship has been a huge part of my upbringing and career. I am so grateful to have peers that were asking how they could give back in a more tangible way. I was talking to our VP of Operations, who’s also really passionate about mentorship and coaching, and we decided to create our own mentorship program where we pair graduating seniors, who are filled with uncertainty as they graduate right now, with people who are slightly more seasoned in their careers. The first session and pilot program was incredible and I’m still in touch with so many of those women. It’s amazing to have this as an extension of our universe and such a meaningful part of our DNA. We're launching our second season in a couple of weeks. I think we have a couple of hundred applications to go through, and it's going to continue to be something that is a part of who we are.
My favorite thing! I have type 2 hair--it’s really dry at the ends, and it can get really oily at the roots. I wash it every three-ish days depending on what I’m doing. I brush my hair every evening for three to five minutes from root to tip to move the natural, healthy oils through my hair. It gets a little floofy, then it settles down and the crown has more volume. It’s nice to detangle and smooth my hair that way, and then sometimes I’ll sleep in a braid and use one of our silk scrunchies to tie it off to prevent breakage.
Read about Dianna’s full ritual here. She says the secret to great hair is “in the post-wash magic of it all.”