The interactive invention of a top New Zealand hairstylist is set to transform salon visits here and overseas.

Richard Kavanagh's smart mirror allows customers to shop for their style on screen and provides salons with a valuable business tool.

The world first device, known as Piiq, has been dubbed "unbelievable" and "really cool" by reality TV star and hair industry training guru Tabatha Coffey.

Global beauty giant L'Oreal is poised to roll it out to 1000 of its affiliate salons in Australia. Then US and European markets are targets of the business co-founded by Kavanagh and a former Telstra IT executive, Richard Matthewman. A separate distribution deal into five Asian countries is being negotiated.


Sydney-based Kavanagh was back in his hometown this week to oversee installations in three Rodney Wayne salons in Auckland. He is the chain's creative director.

Clients at the Fort St, Albany and Botany Downs salons will be the first, outside trials, to experience how far an initial idea to marry technology, service and sales has come.

"I'm a hairdresser, I don't know anything about electronics, but I built the first prototype myself," Kavanagh said.

After two years of development, including working with tech experts in Korea and China, Piiq is now patented in the US.

The consultation system connects a tablet used by the client and stylist to the large smart mirror and LCD screen in front of them.

The mirror's in-built camera and flattering integrated beauty lighting gives a 360 degree capture of the client's finished look. Selfies can be taken and shared on social media, automatically tagging the salon.

Before that, clients select a face shape, see recommended celebrity style matches, and can shop for suitable products. The information is stored for easy visual recall on return visits, making recreating looks easier.

The upside for salons is that digitally savvy customers who enjoy the communication process are more likely to buy products and to return.


L'Oreal NZ professional products general manager Mike Bruce, told the Weekend Herald: "I see this technology in every salon, in every country."

The innovation had the ability to transform how stylists and their clients interacted and by modernising consultations, stylists - not known as being strong at sales - would be better placed to upsell and increase salon profitability.

With New Zealanders being early adopters of technology, he was convinced other salons would be eager to follow the lead of industry pioneers like Rodney Wayne.

Kavanagh says about 50 salons locally have already shown an interest, but for six months Rodney Wayne will have it exclusively.

A trail of Piiq by Andrew Cobeldick, named Hairstylist of the Year at the 2018 NZ Fashion Hair Awards, resulted in more than 60 per cent of his Wellington clients leaving with product.

The global industry standard is under 10 per cent. Cobeldick said clients loved the "fun" consultation and he quickly gained a better insight into their stylistic preferences. He also believes Piiq, like the best tech gadgets, will take off.

Kavanagh and his business partners are already fielding interest in their company, Piiq Digital, from venture capitalists.

For now, they are keen on developing its potential themselves and have turned down an offer in the millions - made before sales to salons began.

Matthewman said a key selling point was that the business was structured much like a cellphone payment plan, with 24-month service contracts and no upfront cost to the salons.

The partners met at a business forum and clicked, soon becoming convinced they were onto a good thing from the response to early soundings of women in salons. The worst feedback they got, says Kavanagh, was: "That seems obvious, shouldn't everyone be doing that?"

L'Oreal's Bruce said Kavanagh's industry experience and his status as an international artist for Redken was key to the project.

Kavanagh regularly works on shoots for magazines and backstage at the big fashion weeks. The four-time Australasian session stylist of the year also returns annually for New Zealand Fashion Week, this year again helming the hair for designers including Huffer, Zambesi and Stolen Girlfriends Club.

His industry connections have helped spread the word. As soon as he put Piiq on his Instagram, he began fielding calls from salons in the UK, LA and New York.

Kavanagh credits the typical Kiwi "give it a go" approach to getting Piiq started.

"The thing that was tricky was that nothing actually has ever been built that does what we wanted it to do, being a mirror with a heads up display. So we just had to design it."