After a Fashion

Part one of a voyage into the Austin salon scene.

PINK & WET: PART 1 With this column, we begin a two-part voyage into the Austin salon scene -- one that is sizzling with innovation and change. With the lovely write-up on Jackson-Ruiz in Bazaar earlier this year, Austin achieves national fashion coverage, though we have a very long way to go before we can consider ourselves fashionable -- but this is major progress. Jackson-Ruiz, however, is far from the only one fighting this lonely battle for style and beauty. Among the major changes occurring is the closing of Astarte, which has been sold to the owner of Avant, whose plans for the salon remain to be seen. Astarte, formerly the most chic, most busy beauty factory churning out spectacular work that redefined the beauty scene in Austin, or so I'm told, in so many words, from multiple reliable sources, will leave an indelible mark upon the scene over which it ruled. But with the kind of talent behind it that it had, as well as the sometimes conflicting needs of extraordinarily talented people, perhaps it is the essence of a venture like this to burn brightly for a while, and fade away. With its passing it leaves behind a legacy of great work that has become the foundation of a myriad of careers. Among the Astarte alumni is former partner Deborah Carter, who, in partnership with her daughters Brooke and Farah, now owns the thriving and exclusive Pink Salon & Gallery (1208 South Congress). Across the street in the next block, fellow Astarte alumni James Haddox, Eric Massey, and Brandi Cowley are opening Wet (1109 South Congress, open by the time you read this), a project guaranteed to make the strip sizzle. Far from being deadly rivals (Carter herself suggested the Wet location), the competitors have a strong bond of respect for each other. This week, we will talk about (and talk with) Deborah at Pink. Next week we'll catch up with the Wet crew.

ALL PINK After leaving Astarte a couple of years ago, the legendary Deborah Carter took a lengthy hiatus from the business of beauty. She delved deeply into her passion for painting. Accustomed to the busyness of a salon, as well as interfacing regularly with other creative artists, the solitary life of a painter failed to provide complete gratification, and Carter endeavored to combine the two. The balance between the two pursuits is a delicate one, and one that makes Carter's services as a stylist extremely difficult to procure. It is out of necessity that she limits her salon time to no more than five appointments a day, no appointments further than two weeks off, and charges prices that are not for the faint-of-heart (or purse). It is an intensely personal space, showcasing the talents of not only Carter and her stylist/daughter Farah (other daughter Brooke oversees management), but stylists Ronnie and Amanda as well.

Austin Chronicle: Which fashion designer's show would you most like to do hair for?

Deborah Carter: We would "dye" to work with Alexander McQueen. He simply refuses to cater to the traditional fashion machine, he features avant-garde mannequins instead of the "Naomi-Kate" charade, and he wears red contacts. Need we say more?

AC: Who are your current hair icons?

DC: My daughter Farah is my favorite current hair icon. She is the bravest, most innovative hairdresser I have ever seen. The way she thinks just blows me away. I am in awe of her.

AC: Who are your past hair icons?

DC: Vidal Sassoon, Paul Mitchell, and Jean Braa. These three people changed the way hairdressers thought. Vidal Sassoon taught us that the cut was important and Paul Mitchell taught us to be brave and to educate ourselves. Jean Braa taught us to work faster and elevated hair shows to performance art. Everyone else has been a variation on those themes.

AC: Which major star needs your help most, and what treatment would you recommend?

DC: Kathie Lee Gifford's hair has been orange as long as I can remember. Does she do her own hair color at home, or what?

AC: Which local celebrity needs your help most, and what treatment would you recommend?

DC: I wish our local celebrities would think less "local," and look more "celebrity."

AC: Which hair trend would you most like to see completely vanish?

DC: I hate natural blondes faking brunette. Am I the only person in the world who thinks Gwenyth looks boring now, and Cameron looks dead?

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More After a Fashion
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Stephen MacMillan Moser, July 5, 2013

After a Fashion: The Main Event
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