POV with Dafina Smith, Founder and CEO of Covet & Mane – Stylist Spotlight

POV with Dafina Smith, Founder and CEO of Covet & Mane – Stylist Spotlight

a woman in a white blouse sitting at a desk and smiling

Dafina Smith, CEO of extension brand Covet & Mane

Photo courtesy of Covet & Mane

Long before she brought her talents to the extension space, Dafina Smith’s experiences as a lifelong beauty client and working at her stepfather’s beauty supply company solidified her love for hair, as well as her love for the wonderful stylists who impact our lives in the best ways.

Since founding her NYC-based luxury hair extension brand Covet & Mane, Smith has faced many challenges, but has also achieved many wins. The brand most recently launched its newest innovation, The Coveted Tape, an impressive and lightning-fast new take on the tape-in extension.

In the wake of the launch, we decided to learn more about the sharp woman behind Covet & Mane and discover where her passion comes from. See our Q&A with Dafina Smith below, and visit covetandmane.com to learn more about the brand’s professional extension offerings and education.

Q&A with Covet & Mane’s Dafina Smith

Q: When did you first discover your love for hair?

A: Growing up, I was one of four girls, and we went to the salon every Wednesday after school. It’s such a place of community, and you hear such a range of stories that your hairstylist becomes like your second mom. I loved the community there.

When I was in high school, my stepdad opened a beauty supply. I would work there after school and go on his routes with him to all the salons. I went on to college and worked in the fashion industry, but [hair] always pulled me back in. I felt like there was something so royal and ceremonial about it. I’ve been in love with it since I was a kid; it’s just been such a big part of my life. I love stylists, I love the role they play in our lives, and I love the whole industry.

Q: Tell us about how and why you started Covet & Mane. What does the brand mean to you?

A: When I started Covet & Mane, I really wanted it to be like the Chanel of hair extensions. I wanted it to be something luxurious and prestigious, and aligned with artists who were into craftsmanship—people who respect all of the hours that go into dyeing, weaving, looming and conditioning the hair. They want best-in-class. They’re willing to pay for it, educate constantly and reinvest in their learning. It’s printed on every one of our boxes; our hair is only as good as the stylists who work with it, and the stylist is only as good as the hair that they work with. It’s a very codependent relationship.

I have this mix of a luxury background from my days in fashion, and I understand manufacturing processes, forecasting, quality control…I knew that with those unique skillsets, I could build something reliable, consistent and best-in-class.

Q: When building Covet & Mane, did you face any hurdles that were unique to your experience as a woman of color, and how did you overcome those?

A: As a Black woman in the beauty industry, one of the interesting hurdles is that there can be a big assumption that your brand is only for other Black women. From our onset, I really pushed the message that we’re always going to make sure we accommodate texture, but our brand is for everyone. I don’t like when people say “I happen to be Black.” Being Black and having textured hair is valuable and informs a lot of the brand, but from our team to our vendors, there’s a lot of diversity. We have all different voices; there’s not just one. So that was one thing I wanted to make sure of, that we can be for everyone.

That being said, it’s weird because I feel like I encounter more difficulties being a woman than for the color of my skin. For example, when you go to the bank, you can still get a lot of sexist assumptions. I’m a businesswoman, I’m an operator, I love numbers, and there’s nothing wrong with people who don’t. I just push for getting some respect in the sense that women can be more than the face of a brand. We can understand the finances just as well as we can understand the creative part.

two hands placing a row of extensions onto a woman's head

The installation and removal processes of The Coveted Tape are super easy and fast.

Photo courtesy of Covet & Mane

Q: How did you start to develop the idea for The Coveted Tape? Was the idea more about speed, simplicity, stylists’ desires, etc.?

A: Whatever Brazil is doing, I’m always curious because they’re so multicultural, they’re so experimental and innovative, and I love that. So, two or three years ago, on the Brazilian side of TikTok, I started seeing them doing what they called the “mega tape.” It was a shiny, thick band, and I knew it wasn’t really going to work, but I liked that concept. It was the first time I was seeing people apply that horseshoe shape. That’s what I love about handtied wefts, it just gives that continuous line and looks so seamless. In tandem, I was working on The Coveted Weft.

I started thinking about combining the way that we make The Coveted Weft with a tape into a hybrid. This way, you could color it all the way to the top, it would be reusable, and you can’t see that shiny line. We tested all these little things and had so many different iterations. I found a really great manufacturer in the US for the tape, remover, and microfiber pad. They really worked with us to get it so that when you use the remover, it doesn’t smell bad, there’s absolutely no tape left on the hair, and the microfiber pad keeps the remover from getting everywhere. We got to the point where I said, “Okay, now this is something I would wear.”

I love it because the removal is really easy. Handtied has had its moment for a while, and I think people just want some newness. We were working with a lot of celeb stylists, and they were expressing that they didn’t have the time to go get certified and learn how to sew, and their clients needed something that could be removed quickly. So, once we had the concept and once we saw how excited those stylists were [about The Coveted Tape], we knew we had something.

a profile shot of a woman with a high ponytail

With the Coveted Tape, your clients can feel free to wear their hair up without the risk of tapes showing.

Photo courtesy of Covet & Mane

Q: What are some things you like to do in your free time? How do you de-stress from work?

A: I love walking, I love hiking. I live by the ocean, so I’ll go there as much as possible and listen to podcasts while I go on a long walk. I’m also working towards getting my captain’s license. I grew up in the Midwest; I’m from Minnesota, so I love boating. I’m a little nervous, because boating on the ocean is a lot different from lake boating, so I kind of feel like I’m starting over again. I love going on my boat to de-stress because there are no cell towers, and you really have to be attentive.

My biggest go-to for de-stressing is that I have a karaoke machine. I cannot sing, but I don’t care! I pick three songs, and it’s just another thing where you can be fully present. So that’s my go-to if I’ve had a long day, to just go in the basement and do karaoke.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice that someone has given you?

A: It’s not something that someone specifically gave me, but when I was in college, I read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It was one of the first books that I read multiple times. It’s his perspective on what man needs to find meaning in horrible conditions like the Holocaust. The one thing you can control is your reaction to what’s happening, and balancing that out with being able to be prepared for anything. It’s the feeling of “This sucks, but how I react to it is all that I can control.” It’s one of our last human freedoms. All these things are hard, and hard things never stop happening, but what you get better at is your reactions to them.

a woman in dark lipstick, a dark tube top and a high ponytail posing

The Coveted Tape looks seamless from all angles.

Photo courtesy of Covet & Mane

Q: What is something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?

A: Some people are surprised to learn that I have a dry sense of humor and that I’m funny. Once people get to know me, they start to notice it. It’s not a dark sense of humor, it’s just drier than I guess you’d expect.

Q: What has been the best moment of your career so far?

A: I’ll be honest, some of the best moments of my career have been some of the most challenging, like when you realize that a horrible situation isn’t going to break you, and you’re able to contain it. We recently had a steam pipe burst in our office, a gorgeous new space, and I was away on vacation with my family when I got the pictures. It’s weird to say that was the best moment of my career, but it was, because 15 years ago I would’ve let it ruin my vacation and catastrophized it. Instead, I was like, okay, we’re good. I decided to put it in a box and deal with it when I got back; I told myself that I had a game plan and knew who to call since it wasn’t the first time it’d happened, and that it’s going to be okay. It gets back to that idea of being able to control your reactions to things, and I realized that I could do that.

Q: Who are some of your favorite creators on social media?

A: I’m more of a YouTube and podcast person. I love the podcast My First Million. I’ve actually gotten to know one of the cohosts now, but even before I knew them, it just felt like hanging out with friends that care about business. My mind is super curious about business stuff. I love people who I can learn from.

a before and after shot of a woman with hair extensions

Photo courtesy of Covet & Mane

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