Inside the Brand: PHYTO SPECIFIC

The science behind PHYTO SPECIFIC products lies in plant extracts. It is a premier brand for women with curly, coily—and even relaxed hair, who desire products that address their very specific hair care needs. Born of French brand PHYTO, PHYTO SPECIFIC is sold in over 750 professional salons, as well as luxury retail channels including Sephora, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and ULTA.

How and when did PHYTO founders recognize the need for products catered especially to textured hair?
Patrick Ales, founder of PHYTO, has worked with hair for decades – first as a renowned Parisian hairstylist in the 60’s, and now as a pioneer in botanical hair care. Over 20 years ago, he had a vision to extend his botanical hair care range to include scientifically advanced formulas exclusively designed for textured hair, calling for extra moisture and delicate care. In pursuit of developing a line exclusively for texture, he sought the knowledge of African-born Dr. Fatou-Batchilly Plat, Doctor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry and Director of Research and Development at the Phytosolba laboratories in France. Together, they created a complete treatment and styling line, including a revolutionary non-lye relaxer without the use of harsh chemicals. The first collection debuted in 1998, delighting women who craved high end, high performance products that addressed their specific concerns. PHYTO SPECIFIC was born.

Today, the PHYTO SPECIFIC product line remains a must for those with curly, coiled or relaxed hair, the only professional hair care system boasting high concentrations in pure plant extracts.

What was the catalyst that catapulted the PHYTO brand into select salons and department stores?
Patrick Ales is first and foremost a stylist so it only makes sense that PHYTO and PHYTO SPECIFIC is sold in professional salons. However when the brand first debuted in the United States, Mr. Ales also saw the importance of the department store distribution channel in this market. Therefore, he pursued both distribution channels. Today, the brand is sold in over 750 professional salons as well as Sephora, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and ULTA.

What has been your most popular product to date?
For PHYTO, Phytophanere dietary supplements for hair, nails and skin is the #1 selling product. For PHYTO SPECIFIC, the relaxer is a best seller, with it being #1 best-selling relaxer in Sephora. However worldwide, PHYTO 7 daily hydrating cream is quite iconic. PHYTO 7 was one of the first products Mr. Ales ever created in 1967, and it’s still on the market today. The formula has never changed.

Tell us about the PHYTO Universe beauty oasis concept. Are there any plans to expand it to other cities?
PHYTO Universe is the flagship location for all of the Alès Group brands. Situated in the heart of midtown Manhattan on the third floor of 715 Lexington Avenue at 58th Street, the center designed in conjunction with French architect, Anne Gernez, is the artistic dream of Patrick Alès.

His life-long mission: To treat the hair, scalp and skin with the utmost care and respect.

His vision? Create a destination where consumers and stylists alike can immerse themselves in the “universe” that is PHYTO: Plants.

Nature reigns at PHYTO Universe. A visual masterpiece that was inspired by Place Vendome, the 6000 square foot space is high tech modernity with a twist of understated Parisian elegance. The focal point is an indoor, two-sided 2850 square foot “vertical garden” created especially for this vertical city. The tropical plants flown in from the Amazon, French Polynesia and the Caribbean, are tolerant of low light to create a serene hair “sanctuary” designed to evoke a sense of harmony in a fast paced world. Patrick Alès consulted Patrick Blanc, a member of the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) and the inventor of the vertical garden concept to create New York’s first vertical garden of grand proportions! A beautiful statue flown in from Belgium and created by artist Rita Jordens, stands tall in front of the garden and is a welcomed touch of European charm.

The center features two diagnostic stations where PHYTO experts analyze the hair and scalp with a “hair scope.” The scope magnifies the hair and scalp 200 times in order to properly diagnose its health and for the experts to prescribe targeted solutions. This is a free service!

Antique wood shutters taken from a 14th century French chateau (they were in existence even before the discovery of America!) separate nine private cabins. Each space guarantees intimacy and relaxation. Clientele may choose from a variety of luxurious treatments from PHYTO and PHYTO SPECIFIC. All products are formulated with pure plant extracts, essential oils and aromatic botanicals to hydrate, illuminate and nourish the hair and scalp. In addition, there is an aesthetician on board offering facials, body treatments and waxing with Ales’ phyto-cosmetic LIERAC Paris skincare.

There is also a PHYTO Universe in Paris, but it’s much smaller and quite different than the one here in NYC. There are not further plans to expand PHYTO Universe in the United States, as the brand does not want to take away from their salon business around the country.