Art + Science's Paul Wilson Shares His Secrets to Success

Art + Science has three locations in Chicago(Art + Science Salon)

Like any salon, Art + Science—the brainchild of multi-hyphenate David Raccuglia—started small, as a storefront in Evanston, IL in 1989. Its intense dedication to education set it apart and fostered a unique culture, something so wonderfully contagious that it caught the interest of Colorado-based hairstylist Paul Wilson. Raccuglia met Wilson at a hair show in the mid ’90s; Wilson, obsessed with Raccuglia’s men’s line American Crew, tried out for and made the American Crew All-Star team. “David and I formed an instant relationship. I started doing the hair for Crew’s photo shoots and hair shows, and officially took on the role of global artistic director,” Wilson says. Busy with his booming men’s brand, Raccuglia had less time to manage his salon, which was bursting at the seams. That’s when Wilson stepped in. “I was opening new doors for the salon, and David was free to do the Crew thing,” he says.

Art + Science had something special from the very start. “I had seen apprenticeships at other salons, but it was amazing to witness a salon where education is the backbone of the operation,” Wilson says. While his first move was to open new locations, Lincoln Park and then Wicker Park, nurturing the training program was paramount. “Getting those doors open was key but I didn’t want to sacrifice the education,” he says, so he grew the program alongside the salons. Every Monday, apprentices are required to attend classes with a full roster of models they’ve booked themselves. “Education is not something they get through. It’s eight hours a week, at least,” Wilson says. “Everyone completes styling school and then moves on to their specialty.”

In addition to the training program, the salon’s culture is a foundational pillar. “We didn’t want to sacrifice customer service, but we didn’t want to sacrifice our creative expression either,” Wilson says. “We wanted the stylists to be themselves. Clients frequently tell us that they feel so welcomed and comfortable in the environment, and they appreciate that the stylists are able to dress how they want to.” Art + Science is also heavily involved in philanthropy, hosting charity events, lke runway shows, which do so well that they took on a life of their own, called Art + Soul. Raccuglia and Wilson also started a nonprofit called Hair Cares to benefit causes that are close to team members’ hearts.

When it comes down to it, the secret ingredient to any recipe for success is the people. “With David at the helm, we have one of the greatest photographers in the industry at our disposal,” Wilson says. “Having him as a visionary is a big part of what Art + Science is about. We also continue to focus on the things that we’re passionate about, which is why I’m still cutting hair. Our management teams that run the day-to-day are also behind the chair. All leadership and management has come from within the salon. We hired our GM out of a pancake house to work at the front desk, and now he’s running a $6M salon. It’s pretty cool to see.”