Allyson Hurley King was recently named CEO of Dessange International, the parent company that includes Dessange Paris, Fantastic Sams and Camille Albane salons. She brings a combination of skills to the position with her executive level business expertise and her background as a licensed hairdresser. King recently spoke to Modern Salon about the excitement and challenges of her new position.
MODERN SALON: TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE PROFESSIONAL SALON INDUSTRY.
ALLYSON KING: I began my career as a stylist with Ratner Companies, working full time at a Hair Cuttery salon and going to school full time to earn both a bachelor’s and Master’s degree in business. I was a stylist, educator and a regional trainer for the company and I launched Color Works, Ratner Companies’ chain of hair color salons.
After 15 years with Ratner Companies, I joined Ulta as vice president of salon services. The company needed a more defined salon concept within its stores, and I was responsible for building the salon and spa division. The job involved sales, marketing and training for all Ulta salons, which grew from 100-350 salons during my tenure. After relocating to New York, I took a position as vice president of education at Clarins, the French skin care company, developing educational structures and classroom training.
At Dessange, I have come full circle and am back to my first love, working in an environment of stylists and salon teams.
MS: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR IMMEDIATE AND LONG RANGE GOALS FOR THIS DIVERSE COMPANY?
AK: Dessange and Fantastic Sams both have a great history and legacy in the salon industry. Dessange, like Clarins, is a French luxury brand and it gives me the opportunity to work with executive teams in both countries. Fantastic Sams is a value priced brand, but the point of difference is that, unlike some value-priced salons, Fantastic Sams offers a full range of services. I would like to modernize the brand a bit and make it more relevant. Value can be smart and cool. I want to enhance the fun factor when clients announce they got their “fantastic” cut and color at Fantastic Sams.
I want to give our franchisees plenty of reasons to love what they do. Fantastic Sams has only a few corporate owned salons and the goal is to have none.
Dessange Paris has several salons in the US and we will be starting to franchise more by the end of the year. The flagship salon is in Washington, D.C. One of the advantages to Dessange when it purchased Fantastic Sams was the access to the franchising expertise at Fantastic Sams. Dessange was using a franchise exchange, but has purchased back franchising rights and Fantastic Sams has a great network of people.
Camille Albane has a corporate flagship salon in Boston on Newbury Street, and will also begin franchising in the US. The creative teams at Camille Albane and Dessange salons will come from France and all staff members will be trained in the same techniques and philosophies that are taught in Paris.
MS: HOW DO THE MARKETS SERVED BY THE THREE SALON DIVISIONS OF DESSANGE DIFFER?
AK: The three salon groups have three different approaches and serve three distinct types of client and professional.
Dessange has a very strict protocol for achieving the Dessange experience. The woman who visits a Dessange salon in Russia or France or the US expects the exact same experience: total French luxury and attention to detail. The salons are departmentalized and professionals are trained in the latest techniques of their specialty. Dessange offers the ultimate luxury and each woman is made as beautiful as she can be. Every person in a Dessange salon is focused on giving the client the best experience. I fell asleep during a Dessange massage—something that has never happened before.
Camille Albane is also about the French touch, but with more of an urban, sassy chic approach. This client wants to be the most beautiful version of herself, but is busy, professional and mostly young—I think of the Sex in the City women. Camille Albane salons offer special touches. It is not a nail salon, but if a client wants a quick manicure, it is available.
Fantastic Sams is a value brand and serves a large number of male clients, which Dessange and Camille Albane do not. Many stylists are newer grads, but the company has an excellent training foundation to keep Fantastic Sams stylists interested and engaged and to build their confidence.
MS: HOW HAS THE PURCHASE OF FANTASTIC SAMS IMPACTED BOTH THAT COMPANY AND DESSANGE?
AK: The coming together of a very high end French salon group and a value-priced salon franchise has created a totally unique franchising opportunity with three levels of salon service and experience for clients and three opportunity levels for franchisees and professionals. Fantastic Sams benefits from Dessange’s 60-year global reputation for luxury beauty and service. Fantastic Sams has 40 years of experience in hairdressing and franchising success. The union makes the whole Dessange family stronger.