December 2000

Pilo Arts Day Spa & Salon featured in The New York Times Newspaper Article - Rush Hour All Month at the Beauty Salons

Rush Hour All Month at the Beauty Salons



In Sarah Ban Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance," and in her latest effort, "A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance," she counsels readers to find and nourish their "authentic" selves, a journey that, she acknowledges, sometimes requires detours through the more lavish sectors of the service economy. Specifically, these are detours that might include saying yes to a $300 double-process coloring at an East Side hair salon.

In preparation for Christmas, which she will spend at a country estate in England, Ms. Ban Breathnach plans to have her hair cut and colored at John Frieda, her eyebrows shaped and tweezed by Eliza Petrescu (regarded by some as the Bernini of eyebrow-arching), her manicure administered at Vogue Nails on Lexington Avenue and her muscles toned in extra sessions with her personal trainer. Conservatively speaking, the cost of Ms. Ban Breathnach's authentic holiday self should total about $700, tips not included.

"There's no place like New York for beauty maintenance," Ms. Ban Breathnach said. And there is no moment for beauty maintenance and the frenetic energy with which it is pursued in the city quite like the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. All around New York, salons that attract the kind of clients who attend English country- house parties, and the ones that don't, report a 20 to 25 percent increase in business in December. As Randall Seale, an owner of Ultra, a hair salon in the East Village, put it, "December is the money month."

In a normal week, the Elizabeth Arden salon on Fifth Avenue at 54th Street may see 4,500 clients; in December the number jumps to about 5,700, said Teresa McKee, the general manager. Saturday appointments during holiday time are sold out three months in advance, with many women rushing to use up soon-to-expire gift certificates from the previous Christmas.

Adding to the mania bubbling at salons is the fear that seizes a certain kind of woman having nothing to do with the possibility of family psychodrama and everything to do with exposed roots. "No one wants to go home with them," Mr. Seale said.

Garren, owner of the salon at Henri Bendel that bears his name, has noticed that "people double up on color" during the holidays, meaning that those who come in every four weeks for a $325 treatment visit twice between Thanksgiving and Christmas. "They try to make sure there's not a root in sight," he said.

Securing an appointment at this time of year can demand a tobacco lobbyist's level of political skill. With blow-dryers whirring around him last Thursday afternoon, Jason Lore, a stylist at the Peter Coppola salon on Madison Avenue and 65th Street, said that women who forget to book appointments well in advance and want them at the last minute often call with enticements. "They'll say `I'll bring up anything,' " he said. " `I'm stopping by Prada.' "

Late last Friday afternoon, Mr. Lore was in the middle of blow-drying the long brown hair of one of his regular clients, Fran Borden, a television commercial producer. When this reporter suggested that Ms. Borden seemed to be getting more poof to her hair, Mr. Lore gently corrected. "We don't say poof," he offered. "We say movement." Ms. Borden will be a showcase for a lot of "movement" in the coming days.

"Essentially, I'll be living here for the next week," she said as she sipped the second glass of white wine she had ordered from La Goulue, the restaurant downstairs. "I need frequent flier miles." Ms. Borden was planning to have her hair blown out (at $60 an appointment) four times next week for four Christmas parties, including one at her gym.

Like others who avail themselves liberally of all that the grooming industries have to offer, Ms. Borden must now extend the season's largesse to her handlers. As it turns out, the culture of the $300 haircut involves a holiday tipping etiquette in which a $9 panettone has little place.

"Some people will give you airline tickets or use of their summer home," River Lloyd, a top stylist at John Frieda, explained. He has received tickets to Italy, jewelry and Prada luggage. Last year in addition to tipping Mr. Lore in wineglasses, Ms. Borden bought beaded bracelets for all the receptionists at the front desk of the Coppola salon and a pashmina for her manicurist there, only to discover that the manicurist had already received countless others.


Perhaps no salon was quite so hectic last week as Pilo Arts, a 22-year-old beauty salon and spa in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, which has bestowed upon its senior stylist, Paul Pastore, the title of artistic director, and which boasts a colorist who as Jude LaBarca, an owner, put it, "brings in $250,000 a year in color." During December, Mr. LaBarca said, 40 percent of the salon's styling business is conducted in up-dos, coiffure vernacular for party hair. On Saturday, with every manicure table filled in a room with bronze nude sculptures on the wall, Margaret Woods was getting her hair elevated for her husband's office Christmas party that night. "I'm going with half-up, half-down," Ms. Woods said, "typical of my life."

Not too far away, party makeup was being applied to three women. "They want a lot of shimmer, they want lashes," said Ilene Stein, a makeup artist who was applying one lash at a time to a young woman in a head full of curlers. "It photographs beautiful," Ms. Stein said. "It dresses up the eye without a lot of heavy-looking makeup."

Pilo Arts Day Spa & Salon featured in The New York Times Newspaper Article - Rush Hour All Month at the Beauty Salons
Melissa Jones for The New York Times
At the Pilo Art Salon in Brooklyn, Ilene Stein puts makeup on Cindy Mah.

Pilo Arts Day Spa & Salon featured in The New York Times Newspaper Article - Rush Hour All Month at the Beauty Salons
At the Pilo Art Salon in Brooklyn, Dayna Decostello & Sinead Oconner (Master Styilsts) apply Hi-Lights.

Pilo Arts Day Spa & Salon featured in The New York Times Newspaper Article - Rush Hour All Month at the Beauty Salons
 Pilo Art's Master Stylist, Dayna Decostello displaying her talents.

At the most, an up-do and a special makeup session at Pilo take about an hour and a half. Procedures at Sokhna Diarra, a salon specializing in African styling on Flatbush Avenue about 20 minutes away, require a longer commitment — sometimes much longer. At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Lucha Cineas arrived for microbraiding — in which the braids made are wire thin — and did not finish until 6:30 that evening.

Sokhna Diarra, which also houses the small work space of a Senegalese tailor and a sign that reads "Airline Tickets for Any Destinations Sold Here," has two stylists. On Saturday, both spent the day weaving and attaching three packs of long human hair strands to Ms. Cineas's head of short curly hair.

Ms. Cineas, an assistant to lawyers at Merrill Lynch, was preparing for a holiday season that would include listening to Christmas carols at Madison Square Garden. She said she endures the microbraiding every two months, generally without getting up from her chair, because "I'm just so used to fake hair." Her bill is $160 for styling, $90 for the purchased hair strands and $20 in tips.

A few doors down from Sokhna Diarra, Gavin Greaves owner of Urban Hair Style said that his December had been slow so far because the gypsy vans that transport passengers up and down Flatbush Avenue were having a harder time getting fares. "If people have no money," Mr. Greaves said, "they're not going to go anywhere."