Thursday, June 30, 2011

A New Style, Found With a Swipe

VIRGINIA MYERS, a software saleswoman from Manhattan, was in a hairstyling rut: She had been using a magazine picture of the actress Lisa Rinna as inspiration for a little too long. Her stylist, Mika Rummo at Salon AKS on Fifth Avenue, knew the drill. “She’s been going with this, or a version of this, for years,” Ms. Rummo said of her client during a recent visit.

Ms. Myers plopped down in the stylist chair and took out the dog-eared photograph (again). She added to that a few more weathered magazine clippings of spunky short haircuts, even opening her wallet at one point to show Ms. Rummo her driver’s license, which had an image depicting what she thought were better (hair) days. Piles of torn-out magazine and newspaper photographs were strewn across Ms. Rummo’s counter. A familiar salon scenario, but perhaps not for much longer.

Dismissing the debris, Ms. Rummo reached for an iPad docked beside her blow dryer. In less than 30 seconds, after opening a folder labeled “short hair” from her personal library of recently downloaded photographs, dozens of celebrity images had popped up, including photos of Annette Bening and Michelle Williams.

Ms. Rummo, familiar with Ms. Myers’s hair texture, zeroed in on the coiffure of Ellen DeGeneres. After an exchange during which Ms. Myers expressed fear of going too short in the back and Ms. Rummo warned of a mullet if she didn’t, Ms. Myers held the iPad up to the mirror, glanced between her reflection and the digital image of Ms. DeGeneres, and bravely declared: “Let’s do it.”

The owners of Salon AKS, which started using iPads instead of traditional tear-sheet albums in January, have not regretted their decision. “They definitely enhance the experience of the client,” said Alain Pinon, one of the salon’s owners. “Clients are sometimes afraid to express themselves with words, even if they have that folded-up picture. With the iPad, they feel much more comfortable and empowered to discuss different looks.”

Ms. Rummo said that she spends up to 20 minutes consulting with a client over different looks using the free MyGallery app. And unlike the months-old images found in dusty tear-sheet albums, ones on the iPad allow for up-to-the-minute results. For example, the salon downloaded images from the 2011 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala for its clients the next day.

The iPads are also great for rapidly locating specialized or older looks, she said. “If someone comes in and asks a younger stylist for a Veronica Lake look, the stylist might have no idea who that is,” Ms. Rummo said. With the iPad, stumped hairdressers can now call up pictures of Ms. Lake, the 1940s actress famous for her peekaboo waves.

It’s not just the stately Fifth Avenue salons that are using tablets. In Little Korea on East 32nd Street, Aate Beauty Salon has the devices stuck to the wall with Velcro in front of each chair. But it uses them more to entertain clients than to consult with them. “This is the first time someone has handed me an iPad at a hair salon, and I don’t have one, so I’m excited,” said Jill Ganey, a hedge-fund employee getting a single-process color and keratin treatment there the other day. “I said ‘I’ll have a magazine,’ but my stylist handed me this instead. At first I said ‘no,’ but then I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it out.’ ”

It did not take long for Ms. Ganey to get the hang of it; she was busy shopping online at Saks Fifth Avenue while waiting for her stylist to return.

“Before the iPad was even in most stores, I ordered them for the salon from the Internet,” said Jun Lee, the owner of Aate Beauty Salon. “I knew immediately that they would be good for business, and I wanted to be the first salon to have them.” Meanwhile, print magazines have been banished to a rack in the back of the salon.

But magazines are fighting back and developing service apps to stay in the game. Last month, InStyle introduced one, InStyle Hairstyle Try-On, which invites users to sample different celebrity hairstyles by uploading a photo of themselves and then having their faces scanned for “type.” Once a face shape, or type, like heart or square, has been established, users may scroll through various hairstyles, which are grouped by type, celebrity, length, color and style.

There are also trendy hair collections called packs, like “sexiest short haircuts,” “red carpet curls,” and “retro cuts that work today.” Users can adjust a hairstyle by dragging small dots, which soften the helmet-head effect that usually happens with these sorts of programs. They can also change hair color instantaneously. The app, which updates its looks every two weeks, also offers a salon finder feature, using information from the Beauty Blackbook, a directory of area salons that have been selected by InStyle editors.

Magazine brand extensions go beyond hair. This fall, Allure will introduce its popular Best of Beauty iShopper App for the iPad (The iPhone version has already been downloaded 74,000 times, a magazine spokeswoman said). Users can search for the winning products by category (lips, skin, eyes) and then locate the closest store selling them.

And Self offers makeup application how-to videos (like how to wear red lipstick) and recently began a partnership with Videolicious for an iPhone app, in which staff editors produce an original video, and then ask readers to respond with their own. This produces a constantly updated exchange of information. One current (and popular) theme is “What’s in your beauty bag?”

Apps aside, iPad versions of traditional beauty magazines feature products and concepts that look like “they are going to pop off the screen,” said Linda Wells, the editor of Allure, referring to the magazine’s 360-degree photography, which gives iPad users the ability to read a hair story and get a 360-degree view of the style, “something that’s difficult to convey on the printed page.”

As for Ms. Myers, she has no nostalgia for her crumpled clippings. “The iPad is a great way to quickly compare, visualize and make a decision,” she said after her experience at Salon AKS. And more important: “I love the cut.”


Hair News Network

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