An Interview with NAHA Finalists, MAINENTRANCE
Riding the vintage elevator at 40 West 29th Street to the fourth floor feels a bit like a scene from Fight Club. The building, like so many Pre War commercial buildings in Manhattan, has a rough charm. That is, of course, until the large iron door of Suite 406 opens, revealing a modern, sophisticated salon space. The walls are lined with artwork, which I am told changes regularly, as it is sometimes sold to clients or visitors. It is the kind of fluid exchange that suits an ever-evolving artist collective: MAINENTRANCE is a source for discovery on every level. There is an open color dispensary, a sunlit lounge outfitted with a smart black leather chaise, sleek tables decorated with books of science, photography, fashion and yes, Sextrology. The collaborative salon and studio is aptly named MAINENTRANCE. Founders Berry Bachen and DJ Riggs saw a niche yet to be filled in the salon and beauty industry, “We bridge the gap between session work and salon life,” explains DJ. In a way, MAINENTRANCE has become a threshold of trend for salon professionals, opening up new techniques and concepts and making the material palatable for in-salon work.
So how does one select which trends to highlight in a field so oversaturated with content? How does one identify what will be exciting for salon professionals and enticing to clients? They navigate it expertly with what they call, “The argument between pop and real trend”. Nonetheless, one cannot rely on instinct alone, recognizing what is en vogue requires experience, “You have to know what you are looking for,” insists Berry. She attributes this savvy to, “ . . . our combined experience in what we’ve encountered in the industry”.
The MAINENTRANCE founders immerse themselves deeply in every aspect of their process. Creating their brand has been a labor of love from the beginning (I remember before the opening when Berry patiently waited months for the sleek hydraulic chairs to arrive from Italy). Recently, Berry and DJ completed a video shoot in which they harmoniously influenced each component and filled me in on a particularly revealing moment for one model, “We made the music. We made the pasties too”.
Before founding MAINENTRANCE, Berry and DJ were both key educators and Creative Directors for TIGI Colour and TIGI Style respectively. Berry was particularly instrumental in the development of shades and performance of product within the TIGI Colour line, as well as the creation of the curriculum and education materials. DJ’s style work has been featured in numerous fashion and beauty publications such as W, French Vogue, Nylon and Women’s Wear Daily. He is also the founder of EDIA Cosmetics for Hair: https://www.facebook.com/discoverEDIA. During Paris Fashion Week and the Fall/Winter season 2013, they worked over 30 shows alongside Eugene Souleiman, styling and coloring hair for the designers like Stella McCartney and Issey Miyake. “We traveled with $40 grand worth of hair,” DJ laughs and looks to Berry who smiles expressively. This year will mark their third NAHA nomination. There is no denying: this duo is magnificently dynamic.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Berry and DJ in their chic environment where they fulfill a multitude of roles each day: salon professionals, visionaries, teachers and tastemakers. I think their profile says it all. They are also fellow mermaid enthusiasts. I wish MAINENTRANCE the best of luck at NAHA 2013.
How did you get your start in the industry? What was your first big break?
Berry Bachen: I come from an artist's background...my mom is an artist and I grew up doing about every project you can imagine. Originally, I went to hair school with the goal of learning a trade between my high school graduation and entering college as an art major . During my program I slowly realized.... I was good at it and I fell in love with the industry and it's many possibilities. When I told my parents, my mom said she always wondered what a little girl who colored in coloring books all day long was going to do for a career....well coloring hair definitely makes sense.
After hair school I decided to work for Toni & Guy in Dallas. It was a great time to be with the company, so much excitement, energy, and growth! I quickly moved up the ranks of colour education...finished my program, began educating in-salon, then advanced education, and filmed my first collection (Chromatic) by the time I was 21. It was a whirlwind.
DJ Riggs: My interest in the industry began fairly early. During my high school years I was on tour as a dancer and choreographer, I was always the one touching up everyone's hair to make sure they were performance ready. When we were on break from touring I decided to go to hair school...mainly because I was young and chasing a girl I was interested in. Luckily it was one of the best decisions.
I feel my biggest break into the industry came along when I moved to New York. I began to expand my influences and broke into the session world, working with artists like Odile [Gilbert] and Gavin [Harwin]. That's when my perspective broadened and I began to see the industry as I do today.
When you opened your own salon and founded an education program you were both established educators for a major manufacturer. What was the process of moving away from working under the umbrella of a large company to starting your own business?
MAINENTRANCE: Actually the process started in the same way we approach finding trends....by assessing. Specifically, assessing what was offered in our industry and what was missing. We were in a unique position, manufacturer leaders spoke to us about what their challenges were and what they wanted from their educators/employees; at the same time, individual artists told us what their challenges were and how they wanted to grow but didn't know how to get past their plateau to achieve their goals.
During that process it became clear to us that something was missing in our industry, a niche that was not being fulfilled...a bridge between the session world and the salon world, and a place for direct, "no fluff", non-brand focused education. We founded MAINENTRANCE Artists with the goal of helping the individual artist and the manufacturer. It is so rewarding to see the growth in the artists that have participated in our Artist Development Workshops! Our challenge has been helping manufacturer's understand that we are here to help strengthen their teams, not turn them in another direction.
This is your third year being nominated at NAHA, which is a huge achievement. What did you take away from past years? How did your experiences at the previous NAHA Awards strategically and creatively influence the work you submitted this year?
ME: We've realized that the most important rule in submitting work is to maintain your artistic integrity. We actually try not to think about what the judges might like or dislike....instead we submit work we are inspired by, that is relevant to movements in the fashion industry. We have found that this approach works best for us. If we satisfy our vision and creativity then we maintain that artistic integrity and can be proud of our work, regardless of competition outcomes.
Who has been your greatest professional influence?
DJR: I don't have a "greatest" because artistry at that level cannot be measured, but Eugene Souleiman and Anthony Mascolo rank high.
BB: It is impossible for me to rank them....Annie Humphreys, Pat Mascolo, and Kim Martin.
What is your typical day like?
ME: Great question! Honestly, each day is so different for us, we are immersed in every part of our business. So a typical day could be anything from taking private appointment clients, to facilitating a workshop in our space, to photography and post-production, to session hair on set at Milk Studios, to beauty production for an industry client. That is the most exciting thing about our business structure...stagnation is impossible!
Much of your education focuses on trend. How do you keep ahead of current movements and how to you select which trends to teach, which will be most viable?
ME: Keeping up with current movements and influences is a constant for us, we are blessed to be in New York and on the scene constantly. We also work with a collective of Trend Forecaster's to simmer down the trends into 4 key ideals each season. We feel it's important to teach all of the trends because each trend can be interpreted commercially, editorially, or radically.
What technique in both color and styling will really shake things up this coming Autumn?
ME: We see a huge shift to an early 90's movement: bold, root-to-point colour placement in subtle tones and thatchy baselines with loose overtones.
If you want to immerse yourself in the trends and stay ahead of the competition we recommend our Trend Interpretation program, for more information contact us at [email protected]
What does the future of MAINENTRANCE look like? Where do you see yourselves and your business in ten years?
ME: MAINENTRANCE's future is exciting. We plan to grow in 3 directions: MAINENTRANCE Artist Development, ME Outpost, and ME Artists
MAINENTRANCE Artist Development: we plan to expand into a full time academy/production space/photo studio in New York City, continuing to offer non-brand focused education, private label education/consulting, and beauty production.
ME Outpost is the salon division of our company. We have initiated a stylist/colourist membership program where artists are free to be individuals and create while accommodating clients in a cultivated, curated, and private environment. We would like to expand from NYC to the West Coast in this division.
ME Artists will be a collective agency of strong, talented artists. These artists will be able to facilitate all aspects of our industry: fashion week, photo shoots, platform work, and celebrity clientele.
What movies are you watching? What books are you reading? New favorite band?
ME: Here is where we get a bit geeky: mainly The History Channel and Discovery Channel, we are kind of obsessed with the idea of mermaids. Otherwise, you can find us immersed in what we affectionately termed "blogword" (our RSS feed).
Do you have advice for someone who feels stagnant in his or her career?
ME: Take control of your education and inspiration, sometimes you have to look outside of your immediate surroundings to find that jolt. And remember that art washes away and creativity stays within....you just have to work to find it.