We missed our hairdressers in the quarantine and even leaned on them ourselves. Expert Karin Ekengren knows that things didn't always turn out so well. She reports how the salons fared during the crisis.
The bangs became long, the roots unbearable and the tips so split-ends. Suddenly, after watching a YouTube video, you were holding scissors in your hands and snapping! - the accident has already happened. Or maybe you chose the wrong hair color. Of course we are now very happy that our hairdressers can put their saving hands on our hair fails again.
But although all the unsuccessful hair experiments can mean economic growth for the hairdressers, they are not very happy about them, says Karin Ekengren. Born in Sweden, she is the managing director of the KM-HairAcademy in Vienna. She also sells hairdressing products under the Kevin. Murphy, Eleven Australia and Oway brands, all three of which are known for their sustainable approach. We talked to her about the situation in the last few months and the chance to now (finally) rely on sustainable products.
WOMAN: In the last few weeks it has been noticed on social media that the emotions are boiling when it comes to the subject of "DIY hair cutting / re-dyeing". Did you also have the feeling that there was a lot of stress, fear and worry in your industry?
Karin Ekengren:Many hairdressers have actually advised against doing something themselves. Because you tend to work with cheap products, for example colors, which are extremely difficult to get out of your hair. That is of course economically good for the hairdressers, but it is a long process. Often it is not possible to make the customers beautiful again at the first appointment. In order to strike a middle ground, we advised our customers via Skype by looking at their index cards. For example, if it was just a simple base color, we would send it directly to the customer and explain to them how to re-color it at home. But we've only done this in cases where we knew it wasn't complicated. If someone needed a bleaching, then we offered other products such as a make-up spray. A nice stopgap solution.
WOMAN: Do you notice that many customers have experimented at home?
Karin Ekengren: Yes, our salon is fully booked right now and there are many customers who are completely desperate. For example, the husband dyed his wife's hair or the wife cut her husband's hair and in many cases that went really wrong. And that's not easy for the hairdressers in terms of timing. Because we don't know exactly how long it will take us to save the hair. But of course it is also nice to be able to make customers happy again, which is often more expensive than a normal visit to the hairdresser.
WOMAN: Now the salons have reopened. What is the mood?
Karin Ekengren: The customers are extremely happy that we are open again. But we really work a lot with special treatments and it is nice for a hairdresser to be able to present a perfect result right away and not have to "rescue". Because that's mostly nice, but not perfect. And yet we have to charge a lot of money for it because the treatment was correspondingly complicated. That's not a good feeling then.
WOMAN: One topic that is particularly important to you is sustainability. But not many salons have implemented this yet. Is it a matter for the customers to pay attention to it when they visit the hairdresser or is it a matter for the hairdressing salons?
Karin Ekengren: I represent three brands in Austria and it is very important for our business partners that they can work sustainably. It's the same in our salon. And that's why we also attract customers to whom sustainable products are just as important. Because they are also willing to spend more money on such products.
WOMAN: But that's not the case in all salons yet?
Karin Ekengren: This has to do with the fact that the cheaper brands belong to the large corporations, and sustainability is not at the top of the list. Most of the hairdressers still work with the major corporations. Because they often have better profit margins, but the end result is the same. For example, they set the list price higher and customers get a 30 or 40 percent discount in the salon. With us, the list prices are set fairly. This means that we do not set the prices higher in order to be able to give discounts. It's a different way of working.
WOMAN: Does sustainability have a better chance of asserting itself after the crisis?
Karin Ekengren: I think we all saw during the crisis what is the impact on the environment when we humans do not exercise so much influence and withdraw. Now is the right time to think sustainably. With products that are not only sustainable for our hair, but also for the environment. I also see how much rubbish we produce in the salon. You could rethink the whole process and waste separation. And that is also the possibility for salons that cannot invest a lot of money in sustainability! The only important thing is that we start now. Later it might be too late.
WOMAN: The salons have been idle for the past few months, but although business can now be up and running again, you never know whether you will find yourself in such a situation again. What did the salons learn from this time? How could they switch and continue working in a different way?
Karin Ekengren: Social media and video telephony were very new to many hairdressers, I think. And there were also video tutorials for the hairdressers themselves so that they can continue their education. It took some getting used to, but I think it worked out. If something like this happened again, we would rely even more on online communication. We would say to our customers: 'Please, before you do something yourself at home, let us advise you!' Another area is the products. For example, we have increasingly sent those products to customers' homes that they would otherwise have bought in the salon.
WOMAN: How can you build a bridge between the customers who would like to put their hands on their hair themselves and the hairdressers who have to save their hairstyles afterwards? What hair tips should you give?
Karin Ekengren: Temporary products! Color fresheners that give the hair color new shine. Or neck sprays. There are, for example, top-quality serums that you work in with the straightening iron and where the tips are then sealed at least temporarily. We will continue to recommend such temporary products and ask customers to try them out first before changing anything permanently.