By Ingrid Schmidt
December 9, 2012
At a loss for time but still want to look your best for that holiday party? Make an appointment at Eden Sassoon's new finishing studio in West Hollywood and get three key services — a blow-dry and style, a manicure and eyebrow shaping — for $65 in just 65 minutes. Also on the menu at Eden by Eden Sassoon: makeup and lash application, pedicures, updos, a dry-hair trim and reparative hair treatments. The highest-priced items are a makeup application or a blow dry and style, each $55 and accompanied by an instructional lesson and take-home video.
The services come with a pedigree: Sassoon is the daughter of the late, legendary Vidal Sassoon, and her business partner Michael Baruch was co-founder of Fred Segal Beauty.
The idea for a finishing studio offering fast and affordable hair styling, nail and makeup services under one roof was born when Eden Sassoon, an exercise-studio owner, was having her hair styled at one of today's popular blow-dry-only bars. She was rushed for time and preoccupied — her father was ill at the time with leukemia — but while she liked the focus of the blow-out salon, something felt wrong, she says.
"I thought 'I'm not comfortable. I would do things differently,'" she says. Then the ah-ha! moment: "I thought, 'What am I doing? I am this girl. I come from this family. I need to carry this on."
Vidal Sassoon, who died in Los Angeles on May 9, introduced sharp wash-and-wear haircuts in the 1960s that liberated women from sleeping in rollers, using excessive styling products and setting their hair weekly in salons. "My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous," he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1993 interview.
Sassoon's geometric cuts fell into line with minimal styling and were cutting-edge in appearance — featured on the cover of Vogue editions worldwide and famously on Mia Farrow in the 1968 film "Rosemary's Baby," which catapulted Sassoon to international celebrity status.
The emphasis on convenience that helped drive her father to fame is one of the inspirations for Eden by Eden Sassoon.
As business partner Baruch puts it, "What do women want for their everyday life or when they go out at night? They want their hair done. They want their nails done. They may not want their makeup done on a weekly basis, but they want their brows shaped. And it's not really convenient if you have to go to a second or third location. That's another couple hours. Not only drive there but pay for the parking and have another transaction on your credit card. ...Women want an hour for themselves, to look beautiful, and [now] they can do so without hurting their pocketbook or their schedule."
Another aspect that differentiates Sassoon's express beauty business is its focus on quality. Before setting up shop, Baruch conducted focus groups that showed that 80% of women don't like how their hair is styled in any salon and end up redoing it themselves at home.
So Baruch made it his first task to entice talent. He started by recruiting eight part-time stylists from some of the city's top salons, such as Warren-Tricomi Salon and Serge Normant at John Frieda, which wasn't easy.
But Baruch created a win-win deal with his salon-owner friends, explaining that their star junior stylists would gain experience, while referring clients back to their shops for cut and color, since Eden by Eden Sassoon is strictly about finishing services.
Next, Baruch recruited full-time staff using a system based on his favorite television show, "American Idol." A social media recruiting blast to 10 beauty schools produced 250 candidates, which he narrowed to 75 stylists. Then he convinced Kaz Amor, an old friend and partner at Warren-Tricomi, to lend his salon on Melrose Avenue every Monday for a six-week competition. Amor and David John (who worked with Baruch for 16 years at Fred Segal Beauty and is now with Serge Normant at John Frieda) graded the contenders on seven different "looks," from straight to wavy to beachy to updos. In addition, they evaluated factors such as punctuality and confidence, timing and technique.
Kristoff Ball (considered "the best finisher in the city," according to Baruch, with celebrity clients including Gwen Stefani and Rita Wilson) signed on to do four demos a day for two days at Eden by Eden Sassoon for the 24 finalists, who then interpreted Ball's demo looks on models. Twelve full-time stylists were ultimately hired.
"Tenacity was one of my dad's favorite words," Sassoon says, reflecting on the process. One entry in her father's personal journal, a gift from her to him in 1994, pretty much says it all: "Discipline. A necessary inconvenience."
"I haven't met many people like Michael, who really have that drive," Sassoon says.
The lofty Eden by Eden Sassoon space at Sunset Plaza is designed to resemble a Malibu home, with an open, self-serve kitchen, family photos decorating the walls and cozy, upholstered club chairs at the shampoo stations. The welcoming, easygoing atmosphere is an obvious contrast to the notoriously strict intensity and polished, art gallery vibe of her father's salon on London's Bond Street. "When my dad spoke, they all listened," she said. "I mean, he threw scissors up and they stuck in the ceiling. If you came dressed the way we dress today, if you weren't to the nines, Dad would say, 'You're out!' Back in the day, you had to have it down."
This isn't the first time Sassoon has followed in her father's footsteps. An exercise enthusiast who appeared perennially youthful, Vidal Sassoon introduced the American public to Pilates on "The Regis Philbin Show." Since 2007, Eden Sassoon has owned Pilates Plus by Eden Sassoon, a fitness studio in Beverly Hills that offers Pilates, Zumba, Pure Core, Piloxing (a mix of Pilates and boxing) and the Sass Barre (a combination of ballet barre, cardio, resistant training and core work).
Next she's planning two more Eden by Eden Sassoon locations in Los Angeles and a second, smaller format for seasonal, resort locations, such as Malibu, the Hamptons and Aspen, Colo. "And when I start to travel, I want to go big. I want to go international," Sassoon says. "To me, that's important. That's where the Sassoon name is. Even Asia."
Beyond that, she hopes to brand her own line of skin care. She and brother Elan, who owns the Sojourn line of eco-friendly hair care products, also plan to rewrite their parents' book, "A Year of Beauty and Health," published in 1976, "from our knowledge of being their children."
"I have a responsibility. I was born his daughter," she says.
Eden by Eden Sassoon, 8600 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 861-4660, http://www.edenbyedensassoon.com
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