Dianna Cohen, Founder, Crown Affair


“I’m a Florida girl, born and raised. I went to a preppy high school that was very sports-driven, but I was always hanging out in the art studio. I would spend my weekends going to random museums or old bookshops. I’ve always been that kid, and that was part of why I wanted to go to NYU. I ended up studying art history because that’s what I loved. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I just wanted to be in New York.

During college, I was very lucky to intern at a number of different places like Valentino and Giles & Brother. Actually, my last internship was at Into The Gloss, which was amazing. During that time, I was invited to a Giles & Brother party at Acme, where I was lucky to meet Ara Katz, who ended up founding Seed. She was the most magical person I had ever met, and she told me she was going to hire me one day—months later, she did. She called me to be the first non-engineer hire at Spring, which was one of the first DTC mobile shopping apps. For a long time I thought I’d end up in editorial, and so working in tech as my first proper long-term job was pretty life-changing in terms of how I thought about building businesses. The DTC e-comm world felt like a whole new frontier; everything was online in a way that felt so different and exciting.

After that, I was really lucky to be introduced to Tamara Mellon, the founder of Jimmy Choo. She hired me to help build her universe and translate her visual literacy of 1970s Helmut Newton into a luxury DTC shoe company. I was a consultant for her for nine months in that go-to-market stage, and then I went to Away, the luggage company. I was the eighth employee at the company, brought in to run partnerships. I did nine partnerships during my time there, all product collaborations with Madewell, Karlie Kloss, Rashida Jones, the NBA, 'Star Wars,' West Elm, Minions, and Pop+Suki.

Looking back, I was most inspired by Emily Weiss. I learned the most about grassroots marketing from Ara Katz, and Away gave me the most direct example of changing the way people thought about a product. We weren’t changing the minds of people who were buying $1,200 Rimowa or Louis Vuitton luggage. We were targeting the people who never thought about suitcases to begin with, and I really got a masterclass on changing consumer behavior.

With all of this in mind, I started my own brand agency called Levitate that focused on partnerships, ambassador programs, influencers, and go-to-market strategies. Outdoor Voices was my first client. Then I worked with Harry’s to launch their women’s line, Flamingo. I worked with a baby food company called YUMI. I helped The Wing launch retail. It was really an incredible time, but a little over two years in, I was like, 'I’m building other people’s businesses.' You just reach a point where you’re ready to put your own thing into the world.

Concurrently, I was seeing changes in my hair because I was stressed. I was starting to see a texture change, and it felt a lot more brittle. That was a wake-up moment where I thought, 'My hair is such a reflection of my inner-self.' It’s this armor and thing I care for daily, which was very different from the conversation happening with hair care at the time. Outside of severe medical conditions or postpartum, people don’t typically associate their internal wellbeing with their hair. As a culture, we’re all about fixing, taming, managing, and achieving a look. Also, a lot of the products that I was using were really great if I styled my hair after, but the formulas were not air-dry friendly. If I wanted something that was luxurious and beautiful, my options were either prestige salon brands or like, pure oils, which do not deliver for fine hair. I can’t just put raw oil on my hair from Whole Foods and think that it’s going to look good.

With my hairstylist Teddi Cranford, who I’ve seen for almost 12 years now, I started to learn about ingredients and rituals that would give me the best results for my hair type and lifestyle. That meant making sure I wasn’t using sulfates and polyethylene glycols (PEGs), and it was really, really hard to find products that didn’t have these. That was the impetus of Crown Affair. I had this whole Google Doc of holy grail products, but they weren’t really accessible to everybody. Outside of the salon channel, which is its own thing, I just couldn’t find anything that I wanted to actually recommend to people that felt contemporary, aspirational, and clean.

Then I went to a head spa in Japan during the spring of 2019, and that changed my life. I was in Shibuya, and I remember thinking, ‘This is the opposite of a blowout experience.’ It was like a facial for your scalp, and they were so delicate with the strands. It really was the first experience I had outside of Teddi where I was like, ‘My hair is this beautiful fiber, and it is silk.’ It made me pick up so many books about the history of hair, and to think about it as the leftover human fur on our bodies and the point of it all.

I was also introduced to tsubaki seed oil on that trip, which is very popular in Japan but not as popular in the States, especially in hair care. For someone like me with fine hair, I need an oil that’s not going to be too heavy on my strands and also allows my hair to be flexible. And molecularly, tsubaki seed oil is much more lightweight than argan oil or coconut oil and some of the heavier oils that we use here in the States. So I fell in love with it.

Crown Affair is all about daily rituals and high-quality ingredients that transform the health of your hair over time. I always say that I feel like traditional hair care is giving us Jamba Juice, and Crown Affair is giving you the Erewhon smoothie. They’re both smoothies, but you really do feel the difference when you feel the textures and ingredients and the quality. And ultimately, the brand is about simplicity, too. You want to figure out how to care for your hair versus constantly fixing, repairing, and taming it.

We launched in 2020, and last February we launched in Sephora. Actually, the first Sephora I ever went to carries Crown Affair, which is very surreal. Having a career in consumer goods for over a decade led me to start this brand, and I don’t take any of it for granted. Crown Affair is the culmination of all that experience and a brand that’s really in my vision and philosophy—and that’s the most rewarding experience.”

— As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Julian Cousins in Miami, Florida on July 17, 2023