Hair styling gurus Ted Gibson and Jason Backe were in need of a sophisticated salon in which to create their legendary high-priced services (Gibson charges $2,000 a cut; husband and business partner Jason gets $450 per 30 minutes of color work.)
So nothing less would do than a salon powered by Amazon’s Alexa technology.
On March 5 the duo soft-opened Starring by Ted Gibson, located on 211 S La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, where the star attraction is a series of five wired pods – essentially 13-foot high, self-contained spaces in which clients have some privacy and accuracy in their color picks. Clients tell Alexa which of five pre-set lightings to show them, ranging from sunrise to moonlight, so they can see what their new hair will look like in different lighting environments.
“Women will get their hair colored and then say, ‘Oh, it looked great in the salon but now it’s brassy in my bathroom and orange at work,’” said Jason.
The pods also allow for customers to choose their own music, stream shows on tablets, and even shop.
The space was designed by Francisco Gonzalez Pulido, founder of Chicago-based FGP Atelier, based on a brief from Ted that the salon should feel cloud-like.
“You feel like you’re sitting inside a beauty light box,” Ted said of the predominantly black-and-white themed salon. “The aesthetic of the place itself is futuristic, light and airy.”
In advance of the mid-April grand opening, Ted and Jason will install 71 acrylic vertical rods measuring 12-feet long and an inch around, cut in a wave pattern, to create a curtain to separate the shampoo chairs from the rest of the salon. Other innovations include the ability to shop from a tablet by scanning QR codes on products offered in the salon – which are not necessary hair-related.
“TV monitors, a Nespresso machine, a speaker system, all will have QR codes so customers can order them,” said Jason.
The colorist added that providing innovations on this scale is critical, given how easy it is for people to get their hair done at home.
“The need to go to the salon today is virtually non-existent,” he said. “We had to create something that was unique and special. A lot of women think of the salon experience as lackluster. It’s for maintenance and not a treat. We’re trying to show how to incorporate technology with an enhanced experience so it feels like there’s something interesting happening.”
Jason said that Starring by Ted Gibson will also be compliant with newly-enforced California labor laws that will upend the way hair stylists are typically paid. Stylists at his salon will receive double the minimum wage, paid sick days and access to worker compensation.
“If we want to elevate the beauty and salon industries, we can’t do it by not following the rules,” Jason said.