By  on September 19, 2008

LOS ANGELES — From Rankin’s nude photos on the wall to the thumping music to the pretty people in and behind the chairs, Sally Hershberger’s new Los Angeles salon drips sex appeal.

“It’s the beauty business,” declared Hershberger, sitting next to an image of a shirtless Kate Moss with her tresses falling over her breasts. “You want a sense of sensuality, of sexiness — that’s the kind of hair we do.”

Hershberger is adamant the 3,000-square-foot penthouse location, atop Kelly Wearstler’s offices on La Cienega Boulevard, is an antidote to the laid-back bungalow dominant on the L.A. salon scene. Designed by Nicolo Bini with Hershberger, it features contrasting dark Wenge wood and white terrazzo, exposed ceilings, a collage-style light box filled with changeable pictures for inspiration and a sweeping view of the Los Angeles landscape.

“I really wanted the feeling of that New York energy because I like high energy,” said Hershberger, who described the concept of the salon as a “laboratory.” “I just love the vibe of bringing in the city. You can’t do that in L.A. usually. Yet, it feels like California because you see it, which I love.”

In the context of Hershberger’s rise, the L.A. salon is a natural career progression. Hershberger landed at Arthur Johns Salon in Los Angeles before she was 20, and then went on to hone her skills at Armando, where she grew a roster of notable clients. Hershberger became a major force with her name alongside John Frieda’s at the famed Melrose Place destination and at her own New York salon downtown.

After separating from John Frieda in 2006, Hershberger launched her own hair care line, Supreme Head, last January at Walgreens to reach the masses that couldn’t afford her $800 per haircut fee. “When it was time for me to part ways because he [Frieda] sold his business and I wanted to do my own line, I did exactly that,” said Hershberger. “I went to do my own line and do my own thing.”

Hershberger’s ‘own thing’ involved building a business again in the city where her fame catapulted, but in the self-assured New York manner that had become ingrained in her hairstyling DNA. Her long history in Los Angeles — and her success across the editorial, celebrity and fashion worlds — meant that stylists and colorists with prominent names were quickly drawn to the new enterprise.

Colorists and stylists Mark Townsend, Negin Zand, Johnathan Gale, Guy Riggio, Adrian Castillo and Matthew Shields are among those who will be attending to the Los Angeles salon’s 26 chairs. Depending on the stylist or colorist, cuts start at $110 and highlights at $200. “I don’t have to be there every second right now because it is going full force,” said Hershberger, who expects to drop by twice a month. “The team in L.A., a lot of it was created when I opened up my salon on Melrose Place. They were people that I have known who have called me. They are really appreciative of where they are today, and how much I put it into them.”

Industry sources estimate that the Los Angeles salon will generate $4 million to $5 million in first-year revenues. Hershberger has a silent investor in the salon who declined to be named, but she stressed the investor “totally trusts me.” “I have always profited in my first year, which is insanely rare,” she said. “Other salons I have been at never made any money. My salons make money. I don’t want to work that hard and not make any money.”

Hershberger, who returned this week from a Louis Vuitton shoot with Annie Leibovitz in the Bahamas, is also expanding the Supreme Head product assortment and distribution, and opening Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Uptown in November. In January next year, Supreme Head will enter several chains, including Duane Reade, and add two products at $12.49 each: 3.5-oz. Genius Spray Wax and 6.4-oz. Brilliant Hairspray.

Focusing back on her Los Angeles outpost, Hershberger proclaims herself over salons’ “hippie moment.” “What really ultimately is missing in L.A. is glamour. Being that it is a place that is glamorous, it really lacked that in the beauty business,” she said. “What is exciting is to bring back the glamour and the talent all in one place. It is really about luxe.”

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