He may have a famous name and a genetic passion for hair, but Elan Sassoon, son of one of the most famous hair pioneers, Vidal Sassoon, is set on creating a legacy all his own. The business-builder, who has been launching luxury salons and spas for three decades, opened his newest enterprise, a 2,500 square-foot space, Icon Salon, in the heart of Newton Center, Massachusetts in fall 2015.
Elan plans to take the concept, which is centered around detail-oriented service, stylist education, top-of-the-line products and giving back to the community to other cities in the U.S., opening about one new location a year.
“There’s plenty of room [in the US] for a high-end regional chain. We will take the concept and expand it and see what happens.”
Elan knew early on he wanted to create his own path and not ride his father’s famous coattails, even if the elder Sassoon did create the modern-day wash-and-go hair concept.
“When you have a father like Vidal Sassoon and you just step into the business, it doesn’t work,” he said. “I knew the beauty industry so well, but I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to work for the family. If you come from something you made yourself, you are much more respected.”
At the heart of Icon are clear characteristics from his father’s storied career, mostly regarding the professionalism and overall look and feel of the space.
“It’s a very clean environment, a great energy. It’s all about the quality of service and customers feeling personally escorted and well taken care of.”
To that end, Icon features a multi-lingual staff, regular training classes for stylists, as well as a charity component in which stylists annually give a multitude of services and donations to causes of their choosing. Services include hair treatments, premium facials, brow shaping, makeup applications and hair and nail services, which range in price from $55 for a haircut, shampoo and blow dry to $300 for a dramatic brow/eye service called Glamour, where 100 lashes are added to the customer’s eyes over three hours.
“We do everything. Our stylists are super well-trained and we carry products [Bumble and bumble, Kerastase, Moroccanoil] that sell themselves,” he said, adding that master classes are also on the menu.
“My MO is to create salons that care about education.”
Icon, which has 18 chairs and features a concierge service and in-salon photography space, is meant to take the styling experience to the next level.
“One of the things [Vidal] always taught me is to surround myself with the very best people,” said Elan. “My dad always said to take your ego out of the equation and you will always be successful in life. That was really important to him. I try to put that into everyday life.”
After 30 years in the beauty industry, Elan has also picked up on the importance of pampering during the service.
“For me one of the best parts of going to the salon is the head massage in the chair, so we don’t rush that,” he said.
And according to Elan, the concept is catching on.
“We doubled revenue in six months [November 2015 – April 2016], bringing in $40,000 a week,” he said. “It’s been totally packed.”
Although Elan did not plan to enter the beauty industry, fate had other plans. He began his career in movie producing, transitioning back to beauty after five years of making movies including Love Lies Bleeding and A Brooklyn State of Mind. He began a skin care company, Vita Organics (an organic sun and skin care line) with his mother, Beverly, in 1995. He then was hired as Director of Operations by LVMH subsidiary, Klinger Advanced Esthetics, where he doubled business revenue in six years by launching salons throughout the country, generating more than $48 million in sales.
“The concept was buying existing salons and spas and turning them into aesthetic medical centers,” he said, referring to building the Georgette Klinger chain.
After spending five years creating additional salons in Boston, Elan moved to Miami and launched a hair product line called Sojum, which was sold through 950 salons in the US. The line was based on clean science, including biodegradable packaging and natural ingredients. He sold that line to his partner in 2012, as he was looking to spend more time at home with his young children and wife.
“It was tough. I lived on the road with two small kids and I wanted to see them,” laughed Elan. “I was literally on the road Monday to Friday and was working on Saturday and Sunday. At one point I thought, ‘I have to go home.’”
Today, Elan is laser-focused on the future, looking to take his concept of high-end regional chains into specific cities across the country.
Clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Another commonality between him and his rock star dad? Both like to build and furnish modern masterpiece houses, something Vidal did after selling his business to Procter & Gamble in 1984 for $125 million, and his salons and schools for $31 million in 2001, dividing the business among his top three business partners.
In fact, Elan and his partner, Marco Evangelisti, are planning an imminent expansion – looking to break ground as early as July 1 on a new salon to compliment Icon. Potential ideas include a dry bar or a color studio.