After a Fashion

The seamy underbelly of the Austin salon scene, part II.

THE SCENE, CONTINUED The reputation of Austin as a frontier boom town where opportunities grow on trees is a particularly resilient one, and of course the ubiquitous hue and cry about the expansion of the city runs rampant. Even I, who, until recently, hadn't lived here for many years, can drive through many parts of Austin and remember when there was "nothing" there. "Expansion" and "growth" are dirty words around here, but one fortunate side effect is the proliferation of stylish shops and salons that cater to the ever-expanding demand for new products and services. With a number of shopping outposts emerging as fashionable destination spots, Austin might as well get over the fact that it's no longer 1971. There's certainly no reason to look like it is, at any rate.

ALL WET They were all so happy and excited; it was like meeting ABBA -- and I love ABBA. Brimming with almost unbearable excitement as they debut their glamorous new salon, Wet, on the chic SoCo strip on South Congress, owners Brandi Cowley, Jimmy Haddox, and Eric Massey have a great deal to be excited about. Opening any minute now (and certainly in time for the Austin Music Awards, for whom they'll be styling many of the presenters and attendees), the partners will soon be able to offer an array of ever-expanding services, tailor-made for the thriving film and performance industries in Austin. The three owners, all graduates of Astarte Salon (R.I.P.), have every intention of creating a new visibility for salons, and Wet will feature (through the assistance of art director Jennifer Ayres) a constantly evolving décor. With an eye-popping look to the salon that is sort of Dolce & Gabbana meets Sunset Boulevard, the gaudy and glorious design features a shampoo room in a riot of blues and greens with bubbles on the ceiling, simulating an underwater experience. The rich jewel tones and shimmering mirrors of the main salon are contrasted by the chairs, covered in faux zebra, and the 12 work stations will be angled in such a way that you can see everything happening as you walk in. The effect serves to heighten the atmosphere of intimacy in what is a very large space. As is required when pursuing any dream, the partners take their mission very seriously, with a deep and abiding passion for their work that often makes family and social life a distant memory. Miss Cowley, with an infectious enthusiasm and an impressive history of print, video, and runway work, also serves as the publicity mouthpiece for the salon. Haddox developed his taste for styling during the big-hair heyday of punk and new wave in L.A., where, tired of being a starving musician, he discovered he could fulfill his creative needs by doing hair. With a degree in business from UT, Massey comes from a very long family association in this noble profession (he broke his first bottle of color at the age of two), and has watched the profession as it leaves behind the corporate mentality of the Eighties and Nineties and comes full circle back to the artistry that makes it so exciting to be involved in. With clients from housewives to models, it has a wide enough customer base that the partners may well succeed with their lofty ambition of making an international reputation for themselves with a full-service salon able to meet the unpredictable needs of the burgeoning fashion scene. With projections of eventually becoming a make-up store, they are beginning that trek by carrying the high-quality Bumble & Bumble products from the self-named salon in New York.

CURL UP AND DYE Try as I might, the Wet partners were just too polite to dish the dirt about anyone's hair, saying only, "If it's really bad, we want to help them." But they would admit that they question the judgment of certain department store hairdressers for promoting a particularly primitive style of cutting that always needs to be repaired by another hairdresser, and added that, "Being behind someone in a theatre with a really bad cut is torture, because you spend the time thinking 'Omigod, what have they done here!'" Besides, repairing someone else's bad work is one of the greatest challenges of any design career, and one that can become a major accomplishment. So. Now you have no excuse to wear your hair like that anymore. Book an appointment now -- that way, when they become the talk of the town, you can say, "I got Wet first." Or as Brandi says, "You can always come to South Congress, go to Pink, come get Wet, get Therapy, and if you've gone to Exposé, you've gone too far."

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