Olivia Garden Ambassador Sean Michael Provides an Inside Look into the Making of the SuperHP Dryer



If there’s one company that knows exactly what hair tools salon pros actually need in their lives, it’s Olivia Garden. Everytime they launch a new product, they always manage to come through with the most cutting-edge salon tools to help stylists not only elevate their styling experience, but also achieve the most incredible hair goals for their clients. Take for example their latest innovation, the SuperHP Dryer

After recognizing a need from stylists for a higher powered dryer, Olivia Garden set out to create a sleek, lightweight, and powerful high-performance tool that is meticulously crafted to meet hair pros’ expectations. To no surprise, the brand fully succeeded on that mission. And, as a result, stylists have been seriously hooked on SuperHP Dryer and its groundbreaking features—like its temperature-regulated airflow and one-of-a-kind accessible dual-filter—since its release back in March. 

If you’re as obsessed with the SuperHP as we are, you might be wondering what really went into creating such an innovative hair tool. To find out the answer to this question and a few others, The Tease spoke to Olivia Garden Ambassador Sean Michael to get insight on the research and development of the SuperHP as well as his involvement in its testing. Ahead, hear from Michael as he shares the stylist feedback that inspired some of the SuperHP’s key features, the major role stylists played during its testing process, and what he loves most about the dryer.

The Tease: What gaps did Olivia Garden see with current dryers on the market that they wanted to address with the launch of the SuperHP Dryer?

Sean Michael: So, that’s kind of what Olivia Garden is all about. They try to find the gaps in the market and they try to fix it. So, it’s always about connecting with the industry—whether it’s from industry leaders or the normal Tuesday through Saturday stylist. They’re trying to get to know the industry and get to know the stylist. I think that’s like the secret sauce of Olivia Garden. In this situation, the gap that I believe that they started to really notice was the market was asking for a powerful, quiet, and  lightweight blow dryer. There was something that was powerful, but it looked like a sledgehammer. There was something that was quiet, but it wasn’t powerful enough. So, I think that’s kind of where the magic started to happen.

What sort of insights, concerns or feedback were stylists bringing up during the early brainstorming sessions for the dryer?

Michael: Like I said before, I think the biggest thing that stylists were looking for was a lightweight, quiet, and powerful blow dryer at a reasonable price point. So, the SuperHP is $299 [editor’s note: the SuperHP Dryer retails for $299 for consumers and $249 for pros]. It comes with a three brush set. It comes with the diffuser, which I was obsessed with and really focused on during the design process, and a nozzle as well. It comes with a whole lot. For me personally, when I was in hair school, I would go to these distributors and I would pick up a blow dryer. And, I would be super excited. I would open up the box and it doesn’t have a diffuser in it and like the cords are really small. I was like, “Oh, you have to buy the diffuser separately.” So, I said to Anne [Maza], who runs the show, “Anne, [the blow dryer] needs to come with everything that you’re going to need. It can’t be like a, you know, add-on service.” That’s not what people want. They want to buy it and they want to use it. We need all the tools in there to make sure that they can be successful with the blow dryer. 

How much did the input from stylists, like yourself, end up impacting the creation of the SuperHP Dryer, during the research and development stage?

Michael: The process for the research and development stage is pretty simple for the most part. With building the SuperHP, we had three real focuses: quality, practicality, and affordability. So, how it would work is I would receive a prototype and I would use it for like a week or two. Then, I would record myself. I would set my phone up and I would record myself with it—like, in my hand talking about it. And I would send that off. [The video] would be anywhere from one minute to like five minutes of me describing what I like and what I don’t like about the blow dryer or about the changes. So, they would basically take that information and then they would go back to the drawing board to figure out what is possible and what is not possible. They’ll reach out to the manufacturers with the changes they want to make. Then, they would make it and bring it in-house to test it. And then they would shoot it off to me. It would probably be every couple of months that we would get a new blow dryer, but during that time, I would be using the blow dryer every day. 

There would be certain things you would notice as time went on. For example, when I was blow drying for the first time with the first prototype I had, I noticed that when I was blow drying I put my thumb in a specific spot. It would just naturally happen—I didn’t try to do anything. So, I started to notice my thumb was always in this one spot. I said this in a video and was like, “Hey, I don’t know. I’m holding it like this for the most part. I don’t know if that means anything. I don’t know if anyone else is doing that.” And then what did Olivia Garden do? They made a divet in the top, so there’s a spot for your thumb for a little bit more control. No one would even think about that. No one even sees that when they look at the design, but that is what that’s for. That’s why I think Olivia Garden has the highest quality products. It’s not just people coming in and testing for three hours and asking like, “How did you like it?” or, you know, “Write down what you like and what you didn’t like.” I mean, this masterpiece took three years. And I used it every single day, so I was able to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like. And, we fixed everything that I didn’t like—from prototype one through seven. So, it’s super exciting that it’s on the market finally.

The SuperHP was inspired partly by a silent blow dryer originally created by company founder Jean Rennette in the 1970s. What elements of the SuperHP Dryer honor that original design and, on the flip side, what elements were influenced by current innovation and trends in the market?

Michael: The SilenceHP was released in—I want to say it was 1979? What I like to say is that the SilenceHP walked so that the SuperHP could run. It was definitely an inspiration. It was like, we need to recreate something for the modern hairstylist. So, you know, the very sleek nozzle of the SilenceHP is very similar to the one in the SuperHP. But, a lot was influenced by today’s modern hairstylist— the elements like the dual filter design, which basically has two filters (one on the inside and one on the outside), a self-cleaning function, an ionic generator, and then,what everyone wants, a nine foot long cord, which is incredible. You know, 1979 was over 40 years ago, right? So, times have changed. Technology has changed. The industry has changed. But, I think one of the things that hasn’t changed is the way that Olivia Garden creates these innovative products and these innovative tools for hairstylists of the time period. The SilenceHP was something that no one had before. It was something that was unheard of. It was something that the industry needed at that time. The SuperHP is what we need now.

Walk me through what the testing process looked like for the dryer. What kind of tests were run? How many rounds of testing were held? And, what sort of things were prioritized during the testing process to ensure that the dryer would be safe and effective for stylists and their clients?

Michael: The testing process is generally pretty simple. I would get a prototype. I would try it out for a week to three weeks and I would send over a video. They would take my video and whenever they did like meetings or Zoom calls, they would throw my video up. Everyone was able to watch it, get insight on what I was thinking and what I saw for the future of the next prototype, and then I would receive the next prototype. For example, with the second or third prototype, there were these buttons that I couldn’t deal with. I was like, “They weren’t going to work and people were not going to like them. It was just not a great user-friendly experience.” And so they sent me the next prototype and they were like, “Okay, we fixed the buttons. We added a lock button. How do you feel about it? Make sure you’re really focused on these things while you’re testing this new prototype out.” But, for me, the overall stylist experience was my main focus because I work behind the chair. I get it, right? I want the blow dryer to work and do its job and just be, you know, the easiest tool to use in my station.

 So, I would focus on the buttons being way better, but also ask things like, “Can you push them in a little bit more? I still kind of feel them on my fingers.” And, then they would push them back and I would get a new prototype. With the new prototype, it was, “We fixed X, Y, and Z that you and the other testers were talking about and we want you to pay attention to that while also seeing everything as a whole. So, that was kind of how it works. [Olivia Garden] doesn’t really do—they’re not like, “Bang this up against a wall and do all these things.” They do all of that in-house. I mean, maybe if it accidentally happened and I dropped something, I would say, “Oh, this didn’t work out or this didn’t do this.” So, there was this thing with the nozzle or the diffuser. One of them has a little lip for them to connect into the actual nozzle of the blow dryer. And there were a few times where my nozzle would fly off across the room in the middle of blow drying. So, I’m like, “We need that lift to be a little big big—like a little big longer, so we can really get in there and lock in. Now, they’re absolutely perfect. But, those are some things where they’re like, “Alright, we fixed the nozzle. How is it working now? Do we need to go into the actual nozzle of the blow dryer and fix that little lip and make it a little bit larger? So, there were a few times where they were very, very specific on certain things. Other times, they were like, “This is basically where we’re at right now. We’re at a really great place. We fixed everything that we were talking about. Is there anything else as we are getting kind of closer to the end?”

In your opinion, how does the SuperHP Dryer help to elevate the overall blow drying experience for stylists and their clients?

Michael: Every time I pick up my blow dryer now, my loyal clients are super excited. They kind of know I’m testing out blow dryers. They’re like, “Oh this is the new one.” But, with my new clients, anytime I take this blow dryer out, they’re like, “Oh my gosh! It’s so cute. It’s so sleek-looking. I’ve never seen a blow dryer like that. I love it!” I literally hand it to them because I’m like, “This is so lightweight.” And so, once I put it in their hand, they’re immediately like, “Okay, where do I buy this? How do I buy this?” 

From a stylist standpoint, I think it allows you to not really skip a step during your appointments. You can still have your conversations. You can still keep that intimate experience with your clients, while making it a better place overall. From a client standpoint, it just creates a natural environment that everyone is able to relax in and be intimate with their stylist.

Lastly, what tips do you have for stylists when it comes to using the SuperHP Dryer, not just working with clients, but also in their everyday life?

Michael: I would probably have to say that one of the biggest focuses for me, personally, when I was doing this blow dryer is something that I have alway said to Olivia Garden: “If we are not going to make something better or fill a gap, then there’s no reason why we should be putting this product. So, one thing that I had such a hard time with for so many years was diffusers and the low setting on airflow. And I guess we can also pull in the low setting on heat. So, those were my big three and I was very specific on how I wanted the diffuser to be. And, I think they really leaned in on me during this process because I have a ton of curly hair clients—I specialize in curly hair. With most diffusers, they make the hair frizzy or it’s too much airflow, or it’s too much heat or it’s blasting the hair. I remember with probably one of the last prototypes, I was like, “The lowest setting on the airflow needs to drop lower. It’s still kind of blowing and blasting the hair. We need to drop it down.” The diffuser [on the SuperHP] I would say is like, chef’s kiss. I would say that it’s probably the best feature on that damn thing. But, I would say dropping your heat and airflow down to the bottom—the lower setting—and using that on curls is going to give you the most defined curls. That would be my tip for stylists.

For more insights from Olivia Garden Ambassador Sean Michael, be sure to follow @seanmichaelhair on Instagram. And, for all things Olivia Garden, make sure to follow @oliviagarden_int on Instagram.

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