Titi and Miko Branch are carrying on the legacy of their legendary grandmother affectionately known as Miss Jessie. As a product of African American and Japanese ancestry, both the sisters faced a myriad of challenges in uncovering proper hair care techniques while growing up. Their grandma Jessie used her authentic yet practical sensibilities to personally develop products for their unique hair type. Today Titi and Miko have harnessed the very same love, care and innovation into a highly successful salon chain and super cult brand.
Clutch: There were some issues last year this time, and it seemed that Miss Jessie’s would longer be in New York. However time has worked miracles and you are back in NY to work your magic again! Is it safe to say, that our two favorite sisters have worked out their differences and we can all look forward to a long and hair-fabulous future with Miss Jessie’s?
Titi: Time has healed old wounds and my sister and I are back at it again. We are glad to be available to our clients again.
Clutch: Where is the new location and what appealed to you more about this area than BedStuy?
Titi: We have reopened the salon in the existing Bed Stuy location. We have not moved as of yet but plans are in the works …Stay tuned.
Clutch: What will happen to the salon in DC?
Titi: The DC Salon officially closed when Miko and I reunited. Amazingly many of the clients who traveled to DC now come to Brooklyn to get serviced.
Clutch: Let’s talk about pricing. That has been one of the biggest concerns with the Miss Jessie’s client and those considering your services. Can you tell us why your prices are significantly higher compared to most African-American hair salons? How do your services stand out from the rest?
Titi: We believe pricing is relative. Our pricing is priced at a rate where our staff feels compensated and appreciated for the work, dedication, love and care that we put into our work. Our client feels this every time they walk through Miss Jessie’s doors to get serviced. The level of work that we are providing is very labor intensive and requires expertise on a high level. Our pricing ensures that we continue to feel good about what we are doing and in turn the customer feels good too.
Clutch: There has been conflict in regards to what is considered “natural.” As a hair care professional and stylist, how do you define the term “natural” as it pertains to our hair?
Titi: “Natural” technically refers to hair that is not chemically processed in any way. However, this line has been blurred. Is someone considered “natural” when their hair has been exposed to permanent color? Or how about when it has been exposed to a Silkener? If we stuck to the strict definition the answer would be “no.” However “natural” hair has become synonomous with a look. And we find ourselves calling hair “natural” based on the look of it. So hair that is chemically processed with a Silkener can still look “natural” or hair that is processed with permanent color still looks natural.
Clutch: Is there a “right” kind of nappy? For example, the hair texture of Lauryn Hill vs. Tracee Ellis Ross.
Titi: Absolutely no “right” kind of nappy. “Nappy” is not our choice of language. We believe that “natural” hair comes in many different forms. All beautiful and diverse. In fact that’s the beauty of natural hair in that it comes in so many different forms and textures.
Clutch: You have created a hair treatment called the Silkener, can you explain what that is and what makes it different than a texturizer?
Titi: A Silkener is a chemical service that was created in Miss Jessie’s Salon by Miko. The purpose of a Silkener is to chemically stretch and smooth a curl, kink or wave. The thought process, the strategy and the end result of a Silkener is what makes it different from a Texturizer.
Clutch: Some of the ingredients in your products: lye and mineral oil are ingredients that the “natural” community has said is unhealthy for our hair. How do you reinforce that your products are not just about styling but are also healthy in terms of maintenance?
Titi: As far as lye goes, we have used lye effectively in our salon for years. Lye has a negative connotation in the “natural” community because for some being “natural” is all about not using a chemical in one’s hair. We get that. Our Silkener service is a chemical service. The reason that people choose the Silkener service range from wanting more manageability to more versatility. It is not an unhealthy option. It’s an option that promotes easier maintenance for natural looking hair.
When we formulated our products we were aiming for performance. Our experience with cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum is that it is considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found (Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, January 2001, page 79; Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2000, pages 44–46). Yes, they can keep air off the skin to some extent, but that’s what a good antioxidant is supposed to do; they don’t suffocate skin! Moreover, petrolatum and mineral oil are known for being efficacious in wound healing, and are also considered to be among the most effective moisturizing ingredients available (Source: Cosmetics & Toiletries, February 1998, pages 33–40). Mineral oil is just one ingredient in our product. The product also has other natural oils such as sweet almond oil, avocado oil, macadamia seed oil, shea butter which are proven to be moisturizing to the hair.
Clutch: Tell us about some of the new products you’ve released this year.
Titi: We’ve released four new products this year including: Stretch Silkening Crème: a whipped soufflé lighter version of Curly Pudding, Quick Curls: a lightweight styler that’s great for looser textures and relaxed hair options, Crème de la Curl: a sulfate free non-sudsing cleansing crème formulated especially for us, dry, parched, tightly coiled, fragile, used and abused curly textures and Crème de la Crème: a luxurious daily conditioner and leave-in styler that’s excellent for dry parched hair.
Clutch: I’m also really excited about the new sizes you’ve released in the Curly Pudding and Curly Buttercreme. How has the response been for you?
Titi: It’s been great. Initially our products were offered in the sizes that were appropriate for the amount of product our client typically uses. The smaller sizes have been great because they give people an opportunity to try the products and actually travel with them.