Monday, February 6, 2012

Get experience punk hair at 'Shalom' at Seoul City

Shalom Hairshop was a sensation when it first opened in the beauty salon neighborhood near Ewha Womans University in 2000. Then, Lee Sun-mook, the founder and chief designer, vowed to offer a new-punk style salon. Now relocated to the trendy Hongdae (short for Hongik University) area, Sharlom kept the price (20,000 won for cuts and 60,000 won for perms) and its reputation as the legendary place to get a punk cut. The abrupt move across town in September 2011 caused a setback, but Lee’s persistent and active marketing has brought back its glory days.

“Britain and Japan are at the forefront of the hairstyle industry. Honestly, most designers passively follow the standard they set; but not us. We reconstruct the trendy look and give it the punk spirit,” Lee told The Korea Times, Sunday. Their punk cuts are not limited to Mohawks; using asymmetric cuts to part shaving Shalom offers an experience. “People come to us when they need a change, to spice things up.”

Even the storefront screams punk. The graffiti like “Shalom Hairshop” sits above a red-framed glass wall with photos and doodles. “Most hair salons are on the second or third floors of a building. Some luxury shops even have partitions in name of privacy protection. But I built the store on the ground level and with floor-to-ceiling windows so people can look in.”

Things get better inside. Colored drum cans hang from the ceiling, while CDs ― some whole, some broken ― and other random objects plaster the colorful walls.

Most importantly, designers with flashy piercings and tattoos meant for display are at work to loud rock music.

Lee is known for his active promotion. His favorite medium now is Facebook. As Lee started the interview, a staff member started taking photos and immediately uploaded them on their Facebook page with quotes from the conversation. “Facebook is better because we can learn more about the potential clients’ interest through their pages and approach them. Twitter does not offer that opportunity.” Once the shop vied to take advantage of the Twitter hype but it no longer does. Being one of the pioneers in Korea to try Twitter marketing, Lee was introduced in books and invited to speak at corporations about his strategies.

Lee misses no time in promoting Shalom. After the shop closes, a large monitor outside streams pictures and clips. “It’s all about making people’s head turn-even when we are not working.”

Shalom also keeps an active blog where they post photos of their process ― a quick look at a couple of pages will give you the hang of their daring style and bad boy attitude.

This doesn’t mean everyone is welcome; one must step in with an open mind. “We strive for a specific style, and offer an excellent service at a reasonable price. So you’ve got to be willing to work with us.” Ironically, Lee sees such confidence keeps people coming back. Lee explained that Shalom’s faithful customers have various backgrounds ― rebellious teenagers, people who studied abroad, up-and-coming fashion designers, and many students from Korean National University of Arts and Seoul National University.

People are satisfied with the expressive look from Shalom that conveys who they are, including their sexuality. “I think hairstyles overseas are better at expressing an individual’s sexuality. Of course, Korea is not a favorable place for sexual minorities but the scene that endorses sexual freedom is growing steadily. We have been successful at accommodating such customers with our edgy sensibility.”

He warns other hair shops who rely on celebrity marketing. “Many places use their blogs to post pictures of celebrities, claiming that they can recreate the look.” However, Lee believes that the spectrum and appetite for special hairstyles is growing. “People don’t just follow stars’ looks anymore.”

Lee never imagined Shalom’s new home would be in Hongdae ― “I definitely did not want to be here,” he stressed. The quality of salons around Ewha was deteriorating, so I decided to leave even though Shalom had become somewhat of a landmark in the neighborhood.” He gave his team six months; but the revenue jumped four-fold since September. “People who want something special will find us wherever we are.”

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