After a Fashion

Our Style Avatar gets a personal tune-up at Lakeline Plaza's Ulta salon.

LOTIONS, POTIONS, & POWDERS I have to admit, I walked in looking pretty scraggly -- raggedy nails, ratty hair with lots of grow-out, and eyebrows like a werewolf -- and four hours later, walked out feeling youthful, fresh, and stylish. And who's responsible for that? Ulta at Lakeline Plaza, the supermarket for beauty and health products and services. It's true that as a denizen of South Austin, I thought I'd get a nosebleed going so far north. But I didn't. What I got was fabulous service in an unpretentious atmosphere. I arrived distressed, being 30 minutes late for my appointment, but was immediately put at ease by the gracious staff. I sat down for a hair-color consultation with colorist and stylist Stacie Stebbins. "What would you like done?" she asked me. "Whatever you want … within reason, of course." So, Stacie asked me what I didn't want; you see, I'm not 20 anymore, I'm not 30, and even waved goodbye to 40, so it's a fine line between wanting to look youthful without trying to pull off an inappropriate look for my age. I declined to submit to Ulta's Fudge promotion. I wore Fudge's vibrant Chili Pepper Red haircolor throughout SXSW. This time, I wanted something stylish, but more low-maintenance for the summer (though if you're in the market for brilliant color, Fudge is it). Stacie was great; she showed me a picture of what she had in mind, and I agreed with her assessment that I needed something more complementary to my skin tone, so we chose a medium auburn with soft, buttery highlights.

While she did the color, I grilled her about why she had chosen hairdressing as a career. Absolutely charming and forthright, she said it began with Barbie (evidently a common inspiration: Barbie was my first client, too, as a designer) and escalated to coloring her sister's blond hair with Kool-Aid. She was obsessed. Like all artists, there was no other choice for her. Being at Ulta has been a valuable experience, says Stacie, "We are constantly being educated on new processes and techniques, but of course, I work with talented people, too, and so we teach each other, as well." While my hair was folded up in papers and clips for the highlights, I brazenly wandered the aisles in my smock. The store is amazing, a little sterile perhaps, but all the better to show off their incredible selection of health and beauty products. Did I say "incredible" selection? I meant stupendous. Their fragrance department is heaven, virtually every scent in every form you could ever desire. And gift sets to please anyone. Their make-up selection is awesome. From the old standbys to the newest kids on the block, from grandmothers to club kids, it is all there. With knowledgeable consultants on hand to help with your selections, the place is fun and personal without ever sacrificing professionalism. Vast selections of hair dryers, hand creams, eye creams, face creams, bath supplies, and every other possible beauty product abound.

Back in Stacie's chair, we admired the color results, and then cut the hair. Flying through the cut, her hands acted with precision, and within a few snips, the style took shape. In the end, I was very pleased at her excellent work. Then it was on to Gabriella Gonzales for nail care. There isn't anything much more indulgent than getting a manicure. It is so relaxing to have the nails filed, soaked, and buffed, especially by someone as pleasant and dedicated as Gaby, a native of El Paso. We finished up with Cristobal, also known as Neil Diaz, independent fashion promoter and member of the Designers' Guild who took my Walter Cronkite eyebrows and whipped them into shape, opening up the area around my eyes and cleaning up my overall look. He is a relative newcomer to that business, but has a deft hand and an innate sense of the right thing to do. Oh, yeah, and loaded with dishy gossip, too!

Salon manager Lynette Siminsky has done an amazing job of assembling a crew of professionals who take their jobs very seriously and have a great time doing it. Over the four hours I was there, I observed a wonderful camaraderie and rapport among the staff: Jamé Perry, the exotic spitfire (who can also be seen displaying other talents on show nights at Charlie's), veteran New Yorker Joanne Guasto, and Becky Fisher completed the day's well-rounded crew. Faithful readers know how I feel about the corporate behemoths invading the city, but I couldn't have had a more pleasant, personal experience than I did at Ulta. Are all Ultas like that? I have no idea, but the Lakeline crew rocks. For service and selection, they earn an A+.

Write to our Style Avatar with your related events, news, and hautey bits: [email protected] or PO Box 49066, Austin, 78765 or 458-6910 (fax).

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Ulta, hair salon, Lakeline Plaza, fashion, style, Austin style

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