As you guys might know, I help Rob out on Take Sunset writing about shops, restaurants, and events around LA, but my main gig is my site Hair On The Brain—a site dedicated to all things hair related. When I saw that Michelle Mann, formerly of Refuge Salon in Silver Lake, had opened her own salon, Rock Paper Salon in Echo Park, I knew I had to interview her. I’d briefly met Michelle when she was cutting Rob’s hair last year and we’d chatted about men’s haircuts. She was super cool and did an amazing job on his hair. I had a feeling Michelle would wind up opening her own salon someday and, well, that day is here! Rock Paper Salon opened earlier this month. Michelle took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her new salon, Echo Park, and my favorite topic–hair.
Take Sunset: How did you decide to open your own salon?
Michelle Mann: I am a very particular person. This aspect of my personality comes out the most when I’m at work. Hair color has to glow in a certain way, cuts have to fall just right, and the product bottles have to be spaced just so… As soon as I got out of hair school at Vidal Sassoon, I realized that someday I would have to open my own salon. I love picking out the details of everything. It makes me so happy to know that I can make the space anything I want it to be–within reason.
Take Sunset: What has the transition from working in someone else’s salon to owning your own place been like?
Michelle: The transition from my last salon to my new shop felt like a high-speed chase. I was working 13-18 hour days. I kept my normal schedule at work until the very end. My last day at my old job was on a Friday. It was bittersweet; everyone was so amazing and supportive. They got me flowers and champagne. I had a glass as I packed up my things. I moved my stuff to the new salon and opened the following Tuesday. I didn’t have much time to contemplate the process as it was happening. You just have to put your nose to the grindstone and hope for the best.
Take Sunset: What kind of vibe do you want Rock Paper Salon to have?
Michelle: Visually, the shop is still a work in progress. I’m a perfectionist, so the aesthetic will continue to evolve. It needs art to be complete, so I’m still looking for pieces of the puzzle. In terms of the feeling, I really want a space that feels comfortable and warm. It’s so nice to have everyone laughing and joking with the whole shop in on the punch line. Some of my happiest moments at past salons were when we all had a good chuckle. I also want people to feel at home. That is a big part of the reason I chose to use household furniture around the shop. I like the idea that people can come in, have a beer or a coffee, and just relax. Another feature I really love is the community bookshelf. People can bring a book they are done with and swap it out for a new one. We still have all the fun trashy magazines, but options are important.
Take Sunset: Why did you want to open your salon in Echo Park?
Michelle: I actually found the space on my way to a friend’s house. I love that strip of Sunset. It feels so vibrant, like it’s constantly changing. It feels like Silver Lake six years ago.
Take Sunset: What are your favorite spots to shop and eat in the neighborhood?
Michelle: Time Travel Mart is amazing, mostly because of the youth writing workshop in the back. Casa Victoria Furniture is an adorable place to get furniture and whatnot. The Park has a delicious barbecue chicken sandwich on the weekday lunch menu. Two Boots is super yummy as well. Echo Curio is a fun spot too. The crowd changes every night and it’s such a intimate space to see a show.
Take Sunset: You cut a lot of men’s hair–what are the current trends in men’s cuts?
Michelle: Personally, I think by the time something is a trend it’s time to avoid it. Hair is part of fashion, so I tend to think in collections. Right now I love “dirty preppy”. That translates to something vintage inspired with a lot of structure, but still a bit rough around the edges. It let’s men have style without looking styled to death. And most importantly it only takes about 30 seconds and a dab of product to toss it into shape in the mornings.
Take Sunset: From your perspective, what are the trends in women’s haircuts and color?
Michelle: California summers are a beautiful thing. I like for spring and summer hair to look like it just got back from a ride to the beach in a classic convertible. Translation: glowingly soft highlights that mimic what the sun would do. Another option is to add lowlights to make the hair richer and add depth while using the natural color as a highlight. This makes re-growth almost invisible. In winter it feels good to blow dry, on a hot summer day it feels terrible. So, as the weather warms up it’s important to adjust haircuts to be specifically well suited to a wash and wear approach.
Take Sunset: What hair product could you not live without?
Michelle: I am obsessed with Davines, especially the Melu products.
Thanks so much, Michelle! If you would like to book an appointment at Rock Paper Salon with Michelle or her other talents stylists, Memosa or Gail, call (213)-250-0900.
Rock Paper Salon
1515 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA, 90026
Photo credit: Racked