Hairbrained Up-Close: Sal Misseri

Sal Misseri, salon owner and top educator for Davines, takes a holistic approach when it comes to beauty. With an eco-minded business model and an eye that’s focused on sustainability, he’s a role model for positive forward growth. And Misseri isn’t one to sit still for long. He’s constantly on the go, blending behind-the-chair work with travel and education.

Read on to learn about his thoughts on creating and sustaining a green salon space, forging like-minded associations within the craft, plus get his insights on his NAHA nominated collection, here.

Q. You recently opened your own salon space in Chicago. What was that process like?

A. “It’s been a really cool experience, because I got to build and design the space, which was really fun. We were trying to do something that’s very comfortable, and kind of like a home. It’s a big, open, two-floor loft.” Local restaurants, Sal says, inspired the unique aesthetic of the salon. “Places that you would go into and instantly feel at home,” he adds. “There isn’t a lot of polish to it, it’s more rustic—brick, wood and natural textures. It’s very easy on the eyes.” The space, he adds, comes complete with two French Bulldogs, which perfectly compliment that relaxed, at-home vibe. 

Q. What kind of experience do you aim to create for your clients?

A. “Definitely a very high-end experience; we’re exclusively a Davines salon. We want our clients to feel comfortable and relaxed but we try to cater to them, and give them everything that they might need. We offer a lot of added treatments, such as scalp massages and shoulder massages. We also offer mini facials, express facials and peels. We want to make sure that every part of beauty is taken care of for them.”

“We’re also working on adding yoga and meditation classes as well. The idea is to promote health and wellness, to tie in everything.”

Q. Do you have a personal yoga/meditation practice?

A. “I don’t practice yoga as much, but I meditate once every day. It’s made me a lot more Zen. I feel like most people who meet me say I’m laid back, relaxed and that I go with the flow.” Misseri adds that he thinks that most of his relaxed outlook has come from his regular meditation practice. “I’ve just learned that being mindful and aware of your mental well-being helps you to cope with what’s going on. It’s helped me find a balance and stay grounded.”

Q. What’s your philosophy surrounding education?

A. “Our salon, plus our education company, is called Kaizen. It’s a Japanese word for constant self-improvement, betterment and change for the good. That’s everything that I believe in for education.” Misseri adds that he and his team aspire to effect positive change onto everyone that they come into contact with, via education.

“We try to teach an elevated taste level—which can be hard to teach—but it’s something that I feel that the industry is lacking. I don’t feel like younger stylists have been taught tasteful techniques.” 

“Beauty is first. Before anything else, it’s beauty.”Sal Misseri Photo 3 SMALL

Q. How do you define beauty?

A. “It’s beauty of the individual. It’s suitability.”

Q. You’ve been asked to take this year’s "Teach In" stage, the morning after NAHA in Las Vegas. Can you share your thoughts on "Teach In" and your involvement in the July 10th event?

A. “'Teach In' is a super cool idea. You’re just getting a lot of really rad educators together that are all very like-minded. There are quite a few educators that are appearing at this 'Teach In' that I’ve always followed, and I love what they do.”

Another thing that makes "Teach In" so great, says Misseri, is the fact that it’s brand neutral. “A lot of times we’re separated by brands, and I’m looking forward to working with people that I wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to work with.”

In particular, Misseri is looking forward to meeting Sharon Blaine. “She’s like a hairdressing wizard,” he says. “She’s in a realm  that I would love to grow in.”

Q. You were recently nominated for NAHA. Describe your "collection creation process." 

A. “For me, I try to look throughout the year at things that I’m finding inspiring. I look at fashion and other art mediums.” Misseri explains that he’s ultimately looking for the concept that jumps out at him. “With each collection, I try to tell a story.”

This year’s collection, he adds, is based off of the expressive nature of children: the way that they move, their freedom, their lack of boundaries and the way that they paint and draw. “They don’t always have a rhyme or reason, they just do things because it feels right to them. I think with society, people take themselves too seriously. I want to remind people not to lose that inner child. It’s so powerful and strong. I put those concepts into my work. Everything that I would normally do, I threw out the window. Some of the hair color looks were literally finger-painted—there was no brushes or anything. I grabbed things and did them because it felt right, not because I knew it was right.”

“That’s kind of how I approach all of my collections. Whatever I’m feeling at the time, I try to put it all in there. My work is constantly evolving.”

Q. What are you inspired by right now?

A. “Dance is the big thing right now. I’m really focused on dance, and different dance art forms. From ballet to contemporary, I’m finding a lot of inspiration there. I find it fascinating and beautiful. I think it’s the fluidity of it that I really love.”

Q. You’re a "Top Educator" for Davines, and though some might not know this, the company takes a "whole lifestyle" approach to beauty. How does that holistic approach impact your salon?

A. “I think that Davines is based on sustainability. That doesn’t just suggest product sustainability, everything that we do should be sustainable. That comes down to the mindset that we have. Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being. Davines promotes health and beauty through all of their products, but they also give back.” Misseri is particularly impressed by the company’s willingness to support and restore the arts. “Art is such an important aspect, it plays such an important role in our mental wellness.”

"At Kaizen, we take a similar holistic approach. Our missions totally line up. We went with Davines, in part, due to their sustainable practices. We try to share that experience with the guests that come in into the salon.”  

Q. You mentioned the importance of suitability. Do you have any advice for the younger generation of stylists, in regards to learning that skill?

A. “I think that young stylists really have to focus on finding great mentors that are already practicing suitability, and that are creating suitable looks.” Social media, adds Misseri, is not always the best source for suitable work. “Just because someone has a lot of followers, it doesn’t man that their work is something to aspire to.”

“We need to elevate our own standards, and in turn, that will elevate the industry’s standards.”

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