Ted Gibson and Jason Backe vowed to never open another salon after closing their premiere 5th Avenue salon in New York City. “Jason always called it ‘the beautiful nightmare,’” Gibson says. “The things that inspired us in the beginning became the very things that made us miserable in the end,” Backe adds. “The entire model was outdated and stale—20-plus chairs with $25,000 worth of product on shelves that hairdressers didn’t want to see, and consumers didn’t want to buy. It felt like a ball and chain and for us; it was no longer inspiring.”
That was three years ago, and a prime example of why you should never say never. Fast-forward to today, Gibson and Backe are making headlines for opening the world’s first hair salon that merges cutting-edge smart home technology with 30-plus years of hairstyling and color expertise: STARRING by Ted Gibson. Sharing a name with their recently launched luxury haircare brand STARRING, the Los Angeles-based new-era smart salon is flipping the traditional salon model on its head. “We knew if we were going to do what we swore we’d never do again, it couldn’t just be a regular salon,” Gibson says. “Women have so many options to choose from when it comes to getting their hair done—we knew we had to offer an entirely new experience that they couldn’t get elsewhere.” That’s when the pair decided to contact Amazon, and the first smart salon powered by Amazon and Alexa came to life.
Designed to completely reinvent all touchpoints of the salon experience, STARRING by Ted Gibson features five individual, semi-private pods called clouds in-lieu of traditional stylist stations and chairs. “We had a client in New York who said intimacy combined with productivity would be a huge asset in the salon environment,” Backe says. “Through this conversation, we came up with the cloud concept.” Each cloud is 13 feet high and outfitted with a floor-to-ceiling mirror and Amazon technology to provide an immersive experience that’s unlike anything else in the market. Plus, the clouds offer 11 different ambient lighting options, including Everyday Sunshine, Moonlight and Indoors, so clients can view their haircolor and styles in different settings. What’s more, the clouds each have an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet equipped with Alexa and Sonos speakers for a fully personalized experience. Even the salon is voice-activated via Amazon Alexa, and a state-of-the-art entertainment lounge welcomes guests instead of the ordinary salon waiting area.
Elevating the customer experience doesn’t stop there. To make the retail experience as pleasant as possible, STARRING by Ted Gibson is completely cashless with shoppable window displays offering luxury products hand-selected by Gibson and Backe, spanning haircare, beauty and more. Customers simply scan SmileCodes using the Amazon app on their mobile device, and all purchased items get delivered to their doorstep. Passerby can also shop these interactive window displays from their phones without ever stepping foot into the salon.
As technology continues to evolve, Gibson and Backe plan to remain ahead of the trends. “We have to change the idea of how we do business,” Gibson says. “Hopefully our leap into the smart space will encourage salon owners and independents to look at what they do and how they do it through a new lens,” Backe adds. “The arena is ripe for change.”