David Kinigson says he's the most famous hairdresser you've never heard of. Kinigson, who now goes by David K, recently opened The David K Space, a salon in West Palm Beach, FL, that is the culmination of nearly 40 years in the beauty business. His journey here has not only been a long time coming, but it's included detours to nearly every aspect of the industry, including being known as a hairdresser, author, educator and innovator.
Kinigson graduated from college with a degree in English, but was unsure of how to use it. "I thought that if my poetry didn't sell, I was going to be an English teacher, and I didn't want to do that," he says. Naturally, he made a list of everything he wanted out of a job. "I wanted to be around women, be able to talk while I was working and have the freedom to do what I wanted," he says. "I wanted to travel, make a lot of money and go into business for myself." He wasn't able to come up with any career ideas until he was getting his hair cut one day and had an epiphany. "I asked my stylist how to become a hairdresser," he says. "He told me to go to beauty school and get a license, and it was the best guidance counseling I ever got."
Kinigson graduated from Brittany Beauty School in New York City and spent the next decade seeking out the best hairdressers and learning every aspect of the industry. "The only thing I wanted was to become the best hairdresser in the world," he says. He trained as an apprentice at Sassoon and worked with the legendary Roger Thompson, which, he says, has been one of the highlights of his career. Kinigson also served as the education director of Pipino Buccheri, an editorial salon in New York City.
The David K Space offers a New York City experience in West Palm Beach, FL.
Hungry to manage his own business, Kinigson opened Salon Dada and Dada Academy, the first independent institute of higher learning, in New York City. When it didn't go as he planned, he closed both institutions and went on to become the national creative and educational director of Artec Textureline, teaching around the country. In 1986, he wrote The Haircutter's Handbook, an education tool currently used in 1,500 salons and by more than 5,000 professionals throughout the United States. Although Kinigson's career was flourishing, he wasn't happy with where it was going, so in 1999 he dropped out of the beauty industry and found solace in a very different scene: the music industry, recording original songs and managing several "anti-folk" artists.
After several years, Kinigson started feeling restless. "It was time to get back in the business," he says. "I was refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to go back into hair." He moved to West Palm Beach, reinvented himself as David K and took a job managing eight salons. Unhappy with his position, he quit shortly thereafter and was recruited by Elan Sassoon to be the creative director for Klinger Advanced Aesthetics, a nationwide chain of high-end salons.
Still, Kinigson says, it felt like something was missing. "I just knew I had to open my own space again," he says. It took two years to develop The David K Space, a boutique salon and L'Oréal Professionnel National Academy in January. "I wanted to create a New York City-style boutique that brings excellence and iconic style directly to the marketplace," he says. Kinigson says he's proud not only of the salon, but also that he can teach haircutting techniques at the academy that he developed including The Plane Blending Method, a combination of wet and dry cutting, and Physical Hair, the theory of hair relativity, a new paradigm inspired by physics and geometry. Kinigson plans to open at least five more salons in the next five years.
It may have taken nearly 40 years to get here, but Kinigson is finally satisfied with where he is. His advice is simple: strive for excellence and don't settle for being mediocre. "I'm no different than any other person who went to beauty school," Kinigson says. "Our industry allows you to express yourself creatively, and then you can have anything you want." —ALEXANDRA FINKEL