On October 1st 2017, a converted warehouse in Ivry-sur-Seine saw the opening of a new hair salon that would soon prove to become a very popular choice with expatriates in Paris. The Oliver Brown hair salon is the joint project of cofounders Dean Brown and Giverny Oliver. We met with Dean to learn more about the duo’s partnership, their salon and the factors that have led their business to grow from strength to strength.
How did you both meet and what made you decide to open your own hair salon?
I was working in the salon that previously occupied this space called Style Pixie, in 2013. When I decided to leave for the UK, Giverny (Gigi) took over my spot at the salon. I continued to come back on a monthly basis for private clients and, over time, we became very good friends as well as colleagues. When it was announced that the previous salon was going to close down, we discussed the idea of potentially starting up our own one together. That’s how we ultimately decided to create Oliver Brown.
How have you positioned the Oliver Brown hair salon?
We wanted to create a contemporary salon that would reach a broad demographic. Between us we have a lot of experience in the different aspects of hairdressing. I’ve worked a lot in the commercial, theatre, television and session fields as well salons. Giverny has a lot of experience in bridal styling and colouring. Fashion and trends change very often, which is good, but it’s important to keep up with those changes. We wanted our salon’s concept to be almost like a London salon based in Paris. French salons are very different, not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that over the years there has been a different approach to fashion and trends here. Internationals in Paris are often used to hair techniques that you don’t find in France. That’s where our niche is – giving people what they’d usually have where they come from, but can’t find here in the French salons.
Tell us about your colouring technique.
French salons generally use a colouring technique called ‘balayage’, whereas 70% of a salon’s service in the UK, Australia, the USA and most other European countries uses a highlighting technique. Although we do provide both techniques, most of our clients prefer to opt for a highlighting service. 90% of our clients are English-speaking internationals.
Being a converted warehouse, the salon itself is very different to others too.
Yes, we certainly have a unique contemporary space. Neither of us liked the clinical and corporate salon environment. We wanted to make our salon about the entire client experience, from the minute you walk in, to the minute you leave.
What are your future plans for Oliver Brown?
We want to continue providing good hair care to our clients and gradually build up the brand; it’s all about the brand, which is really why we’ve done this. We could have opened a salon anywhere, but there is definitely a niche here and it’s easier to develop within that niche than, say, in the UK where there’s a hair salon on every corner. Further down the line we would like to open a second salon. I’ll be sure to let you know when those plans develop!
You have an ongoing offer to attract new clients.
We offer a 15% discount for a first visit. It’s important. There has to be an incentive for people to come into your place the first time. It’s a perk, and I know I buy into things like this myself. If I have a discount I’ll give it a go, thinking ‘I’m not paying full price so if I don’t like it I don’t feel like I’ve put all my money into it’. Most of our clients do rebook. Obviously there’s always going to be a percentage of transient clients, this is Paris, but we pride ourselves on the fact that generally, once someone has come through our door, they come back.
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