As the saying goes, "Look good, feel good." And when you're trying to be at your most creative working on a client's fresh color transformation, wouldn't it make sense that your overall look can match that vibe you're aiming to achieve?
Stylist, salon owner, influencer and deliverer of ultimate truth bombs on Instagram, Lo Wheeler Davis was inspired just over a year ago to create a brand that filled a niche she felt didn't yet exist: an apron that stylists could feel and look their best in, and that added to their outfit rather than just look like a utility item that shielded an all black wardrobe from inevitable splashes of color and lightener.
"I feel good in my apron all the time and I want people to feel that way at work," she says.
In an interview with MODERN SALON, partners in the salon and life Wheeler Davis and Jason Davis give the lo-down (get it?) on their newest venture—Salon Culture—and how they balance owning a salon and running a just-for-the-stylist fashion line.
MODERN SALON: How did Salon Culture come to life?
Lo Wheeler Davis: Our salon (Wheeler Davis Salon) is shared a lot on Instagram. I really noticed my team wanting to be super trendy, have trendy clientele, have all the new techniques—that's our kind of our niche for our salon and I realized all the details for our whole environment, who we picked to be on our team, all of those details kind of fit this specific vision. So we thought, ‘how cool would it'd be to actually have salon swag that was cool, inspirational, super trendy and fun, with a modern, boho vibe?’
MS: How has Instagram influenced the overall salon aesthetic?
LWD: I feel like old-school hair and new-school hair are starting to come to a middle point where old trends are stepping into relevancy and the new looks are becoming the standard. Before three years ago, no salons were encouraging their team to take photos of client hair. I've been doing it for 16 years now and in the past five years, there has been the era of Instagram in salons.
That caused me to think, 'Okay, if sharing hair is such a big part of getting clients and a big part of showing your work and portfolio, then all the details around that environment are important.' Part of this is the perfect apron, cool industry shirts that make me feel happy when I get ready to go to work—little touches that creates this perfect Pinterest moment. We’re thinking about how these utility items work and making them fashionable and fun.
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MS: When did you guys decide you were going to take the leap and make it happen?
LWD: Gosh. More than a year ago.
Jason Davis: We were sourcing material last January (2017), so it's taken a really long time to figure out. We're just like a fish out of water in that industry. I was going around to these different denim wash houses in LA and saw houses and trying to figure out our sourcing and our manufacturers. Everything's handmade in LA. There's a team of people, all that distressing is done by hand, they're sanding it with sandpaper and little razors, cutting everything. We didn't want to budge on quality. It’s premium denim.
MS: How do you recommend cleaning it?
LWD: What I realized though with my trial and error, my pale ones clean up so easy, you would be so shocked. I put 20 volume all over it, sit it in the color bar area for like 40 minutes and then throw them in the wash. You can hang dry them or I like to dry them on low heat, warm or cool tumble dry. With the darker ones, a question I get a lot is, ‘If you get bleach on them, will they bleach out orange?’ I'm the perfect person to test this because I like use so much bleach. I just make sure to always have a wet rag to wipe my gloves off so anytime I see a big wet glob of bleach, I'll just get it off. And if I do it in a timely manner...
MS: So there's no time for it to process.
LWD: Yeah, if it's a wet glob and I get it off in a timely manner, the decoloration is minimal. But if it's a tiny speck, it dries, and it flakes off, and nothing happens.
My girls have been wearing prototypes; some some of them clean up theirs really nicely and some just don't even care. They don't clean it and it looks raggedy, but it has character to it. It's artisan. So it's, like, I think depends on the stylist’s taste.
MS: It reminds me of a great pair of vintage pair of Levi's.
JD: Yeah, exactly. You can create your own story. If you're a very pristine, clean person and you want to keep it that way, you can. But if you get it dirty, it's like it's your own individual one now. Now, all sudden, yours doesn't look like the person standing next to you, which is really cool. You get to create your own story. Like, oh, yeah, I remember this color correction, like, three weeks ago, like, ‘I was here for like six hours on this person and I got this color on here...’
Meet our founder @lo_wheelerdavis Here’s a little bit about Lo that you may not know. ( that sentence was not meant to Rhyme) 😂 She has been behind the chair since 2003. She owns @wheelerdavis_salon and educates with some of the largest brand names in the industry. She believes in individuality and self empowerment. It’s been a long Time dream of Lo’s to create a brand where stylists feel like themselves and have an opportunity to make a difference. Visit Lo Wheeler at Jenny Strebe’s @theconfessionsofahairstylist braid bar At ISSE this weekend with @probeautyassoc And CUT IT OUT® foundation! They would love to see you!
MS: We’ve seen T-shirts from Salon Culture are in the pipeline, what else?
LWD: We're going to do some different cuts and different fabrics of apron, some capes. One project is funding the next.
JD: We're very much still bootstrapping this with no loans out or anything, so we're just trying to figure it out. Everything’s kind of rolling as we go.
LWD: It's not like, you know, the Lo Wheeler apron—it's another entity. That’s really a source of pride because I just want people to be able to have an item for them to reflect themselves as an individual out of. I just think it's going to be fun seeing who eventually collaborates with us, because we want to have different collaborations like on an apron design, or a cape design, or a shirt design... I just want people who are really excited about it and believe in it.
MS: So what's the distribution channel?
JD: As of right now it's just through our website. But we're open to see where that takes us. We don't necessarily have a plan except for just being open and seeing what happens.
LWD: From a business standpoint, we've positioned the product at a price point where we've made it accessible for a specific type of stylist—people that care about every nuance, every detail—that's why we couldn't compromise on the quality. If it's not great quality, I don't want to have anything to do with it. I just want to have integrity in that way, so when I ask other people if they want to be a part of a campaign or something they just feel proud to be a part of it.
I think another sense of pride comes from having a cause and being charitable with whatever it is that we're able to make with this going forward. So last year, through the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), I learned about the CUT IT OUT charity and I was so impressed by it. It kept on coming up in my mind over and over again. It did hit me up when we were getting ready for this launch too: how cool would that be to take something that stylists could be passionate about, that we can make a difference with, and to put that with our brand? It’s an important part of having any young company that you want to present to young generations –millennials. We want purpose in whatever it is that we're trying to do. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I would love to marry those things together.
JD: A percentage of every sale goes to CUT IT OUT. Why not also give others the opportunity to give back? It's like, "I could buy this at this price point or I can spend a little bit more here, but I know that a portion of that is going to this charity.” They've embraced us with open arms, which is really cool.
MS: Salon Culture’s Instagram has a beautiful lifestyle aesthetic to it, almost like a designer brand. Who manages it?
LWD: Thank you. We do. When it comes to marketing to young people, you have to make them feel something. It's not what you are creating or what you're selling, it's about how you make people feel about themselves when they see your item or your project. That’s the trick to creating a really strong brand, I think. It’s not how you feel about it but how does it make other people feel about themselves?
MS: How are you balancing Salon Culture and Wheeler Davis Salon?
LWD: Basically, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Salon Culture, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wheeler Davis, and then 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Salon Culture.
MS: And then you're off after? Actually off...
JD: No, we're never actually off.