NEW YORK — The staff at the John Sahag Workshop all talk passionately about their late boss, recalling his late-night styling projects, Zen-like approach to clients and workaholic ways.
For many of them, his death in June, after a three-year battle with lung cancer, still doesn’t seem real.
“Sometimes I feel like he’s just on a shoot,” said stylist Karmela Lozina, who worked with Sahag for more than 11 years. “Nobody ever believed he was going to die.”
Sahag, however, confronted his mortality early on in his sickness when he approached one of his best friends, Kathy Dwyer, a beauty executive, to become an officer in his company should he die.
Sahag also approached another confidant, Dwight Miller, a hairstylist by trade who is credited for building up the Vavoom, Biolage and John Frieda Sheer Blonde hair care lines, to oversee his products business.
Both Dwyer and Miller obliged.
Now, almost seven months after the two have taken on their respective roles, both the Workshop — the salon space on 425 Madison Avenue — and the products business are growing, thriving and keeping Sahag top of mind in the professional community.
“The salon’s success despite his absence is a testament to the stylists and colorists,” Dwyer said. “The gift he gave them was a unique styling hair technique but also the desire to make sure that their clients got the best results.” Sahag is known for inventing the dry cut method, and for creating a hair style based on the shape of one’s face.
Dwyer, whose past roles include executive positions at L’Oréal, Revlon, Clairol and Avon, sees herself “as the person to shepherd the Workshop through a period of time where they need to build awareness. Because of my business background I know how to create a marketing plan and get resources to help do that. The real work is something [the stylists and colorists] have to do,” Dwyer said. “It’s an occasional type of work, not something you do every day,” Dwyer explained of the $1 million a year revenue-producing salon, noting she also remains committed to Skinklinic, the skin retreat for cosmetic medical skin treatments she founded in 2001.
Day-to-day business responsibilities are overseen by bookkeepers and a full-time administration staff.
The products side of the business was taken over by Miller in the summer of 2004. Miller recalls his reluctance to join the business because he never wanted to jeopardize his friendship with Sahag. Plus, he joked, “He always wanted to know my advice but he didn’t always take it. He had to know what it was, though,” Miller said. That year, Miller scaled the line down by 50 percent, recategorized products and changed the line’s fragrance. “We doubled the size of the company with half the products in our first year,” Miller said, to about $1 million. This year Miller is focusing on building distribution to additional high-end salons and doubling sales.
In the spring, the Workshop will host a tribute to Sahag featuring images of many of the styles he created throughout the years, including the photograph of Nastassja Kinski posing with a python, Jennifer Aniston with wild locks at an award show and Demi Moore’s short cut that made its debut in the movie Ghost.