Life is busy for Chad Clark. His network is vast. If he were a Marvel character, he would be Phil Coulson; that serene loyal bad@ss who has a hand in everything, gathers and trains his team, and stands by what is right.
Trichology Project caught up with him in between model prep and a show for Hairdressers Advice. His message and their objective is one of the reasons Chad showed up on our radar: just like us, he wants to destroy the industry.
Hairdressers are at a crossroads. A turning point. Do we go left or right? Us? We wouldn't go either way: we make our own path, just like Chad Clark.
To begin, we traveled back in time to the Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica in the 90s, to where Chad went to beauty school. His passion for the geometric precision haircutting was instilled at Sassoon, and is evident in his journey. When Chad Clark moved forward from his Academy days, he discovered more facets to the world of hairdressing and proceeded to move on. Texture. Depth. What tools are out there?
"I like to think of myself as a hybrid."
The hairdresser of the future is not going to be tied to the same four foil placements and layering technique. We can't get away from the basics and the foundational tenants of hairdressing any more than we can revert to babies in our mother's arms. But the fundamentals must be built upon from where it is now, and we cannot allow ourselves as hairdressers to have tunnel vision. What Chad sees and why he promotes non-denominational hairdressers is the formation of cliques centered around this technique or that product line, which cuts us off from one another as artists. We deserve to be brought together in a community that is accepting of differing approaches and methods.
“Don't get set in one way.”
Hearing Chad Clark talk about his feelings regarding where the big companies have gone and what they are doing evokes certain images...like the fall of Rome or the French Revolution. He is frustrated, and rightly so, that manufacturers undermine stylists and salon owners by allowing their lines to fall into the grocery stores, and cheaper online platforms. Will we see a disintegration of the big name companies, and a new business model rise from the ashes? It's the story of the phoenix, which is so personal to Chad that he has it tattooed on his arm, to carry it's message with him always.
What is Chad Clark's utopia? Destroying the mentality that hairdressers have to be one thing. Married to one product line, specializing in one skill; these singular approaches are things of the past. The future will bring our industry into an awakening in the accordance of versatility. Phrases like 'one-trick ponies' may or may not have filtered into our conversation, as well as the word 'exhausted.' In his perfect world, hairdressers will realize that the more they know and the more confident they are in their versatility; being able to work with any gender, texture, or age that sits in their chair makes them more dangerous and more valuable to the beauty industry.
Chad Clark on the closing of Garren's in New York and the future of the client | hairdresser relationship:
(spoiler alert: Couture salon Garren's abruptly shuttered it's salon on the Upper East Side earlier this year.)
Did Garren's close due to non-payment of back taxes as the tabloid's say? Or are clients looking for more from their relationship with their hairdresser than the proverbial and aforementioned one-trick pony? Loyalty, communication, trust, meeting expectations, all of these are crucial pieces. Anything that a regular relationship requires is a part of the hairdresser/client bond. But as an added layer, hairdressers have the opportunity to guide and influence people in more than just hair. It is a part of our jobs to help the guest understand that we are more than just cutters, or stylists, or colorists. (again – Trichology Project f*&king loves this if you haven't guessed) We are all encompassing cosmetologists, and we do art. So how do we train to be panoptic hairdressers?
Another part of Mr. Clark's utopic vision is to open a salon with an advanced academy that will be a breeding ground for sharing, cooperation, delivering more aspects of the hairdressing world to stylists such as technique, business, collaboration...a monument of clarity and truth to the professional. As an added bonus, he plans on offering content at a price point that the 99% of hairstylists can realistically afford.
Chad recognizes that the people he works with are not the one percent. Access to that advanced education world while still being able to afford rent, support families, and save money for retirement is crucial. (ROFLMAO – 'retire') Everyone deserves to participate in a higher level of education, and everyone deserves a chance to be great. We have to find balance in a world that is increasingly money-focused. Hairdressers have to find the middle ground between having the confidence to demand we be compensated for our work, and being asked to shell out $1000 for a class.
"Everyone deserves a chance to be great."
Chad Clark gathers like-minded stylists around him, developing a career not only behind a chair but also as a presenter and educator. His resumé reads like someone who should be in their fifth decade, but he is young, driven, and hyper aware of the balance between family and work, of needing to be connected to the bigger picture as well as be disconnected enough to cherish real conversations, face-to-face interactions, and time spent as a father. There is a dangerous aspect to young hairstylists; a desire for cotton candy and bubblegum content - though delicious - cannot sustain us as an industry. But there is also fervor there, a drive to succeed that rivals the Greatest Generation (okay, minus a world war). But we have to engage them, and help them wade through the murky waters of US Weekly and Snapchat. Chad feels there is more to our industry than just techniques and product companies, there is kindness, humility, passion, and authenticity. With those four timeless human qualities, hairdressers will draw their community together and grow their careers. Or, as Chad Clark puts it:
"vibe attracts tribe."
His newest project is almost like open-source hairdressing. Flexstylist.com is a new business model for hairdressers, and he is the Vice President and Director of Education. Stylists can become members and have access to salons that are in the program, and it allows them to rent a chair in any area, for any amount of time. Complete control for the stylist who has clients over here one day, and over there the next. Work in any area you want to. Have access to education based on what membership tier you choose. Be part time. Be full time. Be editorial. Be an educator. Be branded. Be non-denominational. Be whatever.
We highly anticipate hearing more about flexstylist.com. In the meantime, check them out and see if they operate in your area. And, as always, don't forget to #DestroyTheHairdresser