An outgrowth of illustrator Dana Bly’s artwork celebrating bold Black women, Pardon My Fro will roll out to select Walmart stores and online in January.
The brand’s assortment at the massive chain will include haircare products Moisturizing Hair Milk, Curl Enhance Conditioner, Detangler Leave-In Conditioner, Edge Slayer, Mousse and Growth Oil. Makeup is in the product pipeline.
Pardon My Fro is a participant in Walmart Start, the accelerator program focused on finding the next big names in beauty. Walmart has stated it aims to identify brands through the program that fill gaps in the market with their prices or innovations. Along with Pardon My Fro, The Hair Lab, Dossier, Undefined Beauty and Paintlab are in its inaugural cohort. Walmart solicited Bly’s application to Walmart Start. “The artwork really spoke to them and also the mockups that I did for the hairline,” she says.
Bly began illustrating while toiling at a corporate job in 2009, the same year she was inspired by the natural hair movement to chop off her hair and move away from chemical processing. “I would always help my friends to design wedding and baby shower invitations,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do something more than just working a nine to five.”
Bly’s illustrations gained steam after she created a design for influencer and Meta marketer Christina Brown. She started Pardon My Fro with prints and note cards sold at pop-ups. She eventually graduated to home decor and launched a shower curtain that went viral in 2015.
Pop-ups, collaborations and Facebook advertising have help spread the word. Bly recently partnered with the Black Hair Experience in New York and made an appearance at Essence’s Music Festival. “People love to see the merchandise online, but they also love to touch it,” she says.
Haircare wasn’t exactly on Bly’s to-do list. Before the pandemic, Horizon Beauty Group, the beauty marketer and distributor strong in the fragrance segment, approached her about investing in Pardon My Fro. The company had seen the shower curtain and inquired about whether Bly was interested in a haircare line. “‘With the name itself, you really should have one,'” she says they told her in an early conversation.
Bly wasn’t immediately persuaded by Horizon’s offer and demurred its overtures at first. Once the pandemic occurred and salon closures forced people to fully care for their hair at home, however, she reached back out to the company. Still unsure about giving away a piece of her business, she entered into a good-faith arrangement: If Horizon Beauty got her brand on HSN, she would go forward with its investment.
Pardon My Fro debuted on the Home Shopping Network in 2021 via Zoom from Bly’s hometown Charlotte. She was forecast to sell 14,000 blankets and pillows, but ended up selling 69,000. Pardon My Fro’s haircare line was conceptualized shortly after, and Bly struck a deal with Horizon. She retains 51% ownership, and Horizon has 49%.
In keeping with Bly’s signature illustrations, Pardon My Fro’s green haircare product packaging features images of Black women wearing different natural hairstyles. “It was very important for me, when I did this haircare collection, that I was very, very detailed on how the packaging would look,” she says. “I felt like, when you go into Target and you go to the natural hair section or texture hair section, there’s so much beautiful packaging already, so I wanted to make sure that my packaging was really going to hit you in your throat, stop you in your tracks to just be like, ‘What is this brand about? I want to learn more.’”
Black women are expected to be a core customer group, but Bly anticipates the reach of Pardon My Fro broadening beyond them. “I’m thinking about women who may not have curly textured hair, but their kids do, whether they adopt or their kids just have the genetics of having curly hair,” she says. “I feel like the haircare line is going to expand our demographic, and I feel like it makes sense. I’m ready for that.”
The expansive reach dovetails with the evolution of Pardon My Fro. While the name initially came from what Bly describes as her “unapologetically Black” approach and embrace of her “naturalness,” today the brand is about sisterhood and uplifting women of all shapes and skin tones. She says, “I want the brand to be known for being a tribe, and I want to make sure that the artwork I’m designing is bringing joy to people’s lives.”