If your dream job includes travelling around the world, experiencing different cultures and listening to good music all day, maybe you should consider becoming a hairstylist. Or, rather, apply for a position at Contesta Rock Hair, the hair salons network originated in Italy which now counts 15 locations in Rome, Florence, New York, Miami and Shanghai.
This is pretty much how Emanuele Santopaolo’s life is, including live styling performances on the occasion of fashion shows or out of his salon in Julu Lu, one of the smartest areas of Shanghai in the former French Concession. Set in a period villa with wooden ceilings, a multi-ethnic staff, the brand’s own line of Made in Italy hair products and pounding music, the Shanghai salon perfectly incarnates the brand’s philosophy based on “a distinctive identity and a rock soul”.
Even the area somehow calls to mind Pigneto, once a working class Roman suburb then evolved into one of the city’s liveliest areas, the heart of its underground culture. The first salon was launched here in 1996 – along the Florence’s one – by founders Massimo Bianco and Alessandro Santopaolo, Emanuele’s brothers. “We’ve sort of got a nose for locating areas which will later become artistic and creative hubs. This probably comes from our personal interest in fashion, street-life, music and art”, Emanuele explains.
Massimo and Alessandro both worked as hairstylists for a mainstream brand when they decided to launch Contesta Rock Hair, whose name both refers to “to contest” and to being conscious (“con testa” literally means “with your head”). “Hairdressing business was pretty boring at the time – Emanuele recalls – And too tight for their out of the box nature: travellers, art and music lovers, keen to explore places and cultures as well as techniques. So they decided to create something different introducing a new, creative approach to hairstyling”.
Today, you can still find it in their work – modern, tailor-made hairstyles with a vertical cutting scheme to fit to each face with harmonic results often jazzed up by imaginative colorings – and in the salons’ atmosphere: friendly staff, an eclectic “urban” design and the ever present rock soundtrack. Everything creates a common thread between the different locations. Over the years, their venues became much more than hair salons and often host cultural events, exhibitions and performances; the group also gives much importance to environment and social issues, with impactful communication campaigns.
CRH salons are definitely cool places, yet don’t expect them to be snooty, hipster coves: everybody is welcome, and – especially in the Pigneto address – youngsters with unconventional outfits, fancy artists and the area’s housewives sit down next to each other. “CRH brand was somehow forged on this neighbourhood – Emanuele reckons – Of course back then it was quite different, less trendy but already bursting with creativity and multi-ethnicity; this was a sort of imprinting to the brand and set the values we still share and that we want to pass on to those working with us. We believe that, once one has learned the cutting technique, improving relies more on exploring the world and being in touch with what happens in the streets, art galleries or catwalks; this is how you get to put something personal in what you do”.
At CRH they define themselves “a dynamic organization set up by the activity of a group of people who share a mutual project” rather than a company, indeed, and their intent is “to build up a space with no boundaries, whether geographic or around any form of artistic expression”. Is no surprise that every salon is both unisex and that the employees get, beside the average wage, an annual “culture bonus” to spend on trips, museums, books, music and everything that can keep their mind open.
“I’ve lived in many different places – Emanuele says – And I want to keep travelling, growing and experiencing new things. Basically, at CRH we all share this mindset and this is what makes our style distinctive. Of course you should ask our costumers, yet I believe people who visit our salons in Shanghai, US and Italy can feel a common mood mainly given by our – quintessentially Italian – passion and pride; what makes us different is our attitude more than décor”.
For more information, visit CRH official website: contestarockhair.com
For more Culture: http://www.hi-europe.net/culture