When I talk with Dublin native Andrew Fitzsimons, I'm not sure what to expect. With almost half a million followers on Instagram, Fitzsimons is one of the foremost examples of beauty professionals who work with celebrities – he counts Kim Kardashian as one of his clients – and go on to become celebrities themselves. It used to be that the "glam squad" behind famous faces (and hairstyles) were unknown entities. Now, they are influencers in their own right, and where you have influencers, the brand deals and endorsements follow.
Fitzsimons has just brought out a vast hair range with Penneys, and it's sort of a shocking move. Saying precisely what I'm thinking, Fitzsimons volunteers: "The majority of my counterparts have partnered with luxury brands to launch expensive products."
When I ask why he hasn't taken this well-worn route, Fitzsimons, who is now based out of Los Angeles and whose styles can regularly be seen on Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and models such as Bella Hadid, chuckles. "We didn't have money when I was growing up," he says. "Like a lot of Irish people, I have huge affection for Penneys. It's where my mum bought all her clothes. I grew up with Penneys and it was a real resource for me."
He wanted to create high-quality hair products that are accessible to everyone, he says. The products are designed to feel luxuriant and to equip people to style their own hair.
I was circumspect, as usual, until I saw the No Mark Hair Clips (€2.50 at Penneys stores nationwide). These clips are a staple of every professional backstage at fashion weeks. They allow you to clip hair back while doing makeup or styling, without leaving ridges or bumps. The Small Silk Wrap Bobbin (€2.50) is also lovely – smooth and kind to hair, and reminiscent of a brand that sells packs of similar hair ties at roughly 18 times the price.
If you want to try the range beyond the accessories, I suggest starting with the the Repair Hair Mask (€4), which is rich, softening and luxuriant. Fitzsimons tells me he has been quietly testing the range on celebrity clients for over a year, and if the products’ recent appearance on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram stories doesn’t qualify as an endorsement that will cause riots in Penneys stores, I don’t know what will.
When I press him to pick favourites, Fitzsimons admits to using the Luxe Hair Oil (€4) constantly to achieve a glassy, high-gloss finish on perfectly sleek styles. If you're taking the opposite route, he says "and you want a tousled, textured finish, the Primark X Andrew Fitzsimons Textured Volume Spray [€3] is Kate Moss sexy texture in 10 seconds." The price and quality of the range makes it well worth checking out – if you can fight your way through the crowds.