Trends come and go, but classic styles will never fail us. For example, we haven’t seen the bob haircut go anywhere but the way it’s worn has evolved. In the early 2000’s, we saw a lot of bobs with a round, graduated A-line shape but over time, it started to get less round and today the bob is a softer, more casual lived-in look. It’s still the same classic haircut with many variations.
As a part of our series about “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Mondragon.
Allison has 20 years of experience as a hairstylist. Along with working behind the chair in the salon, she finds passion in editorial work and education. Allison is a stylist and the Creative Director of Styling at the George Waldron Salon
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! I grew up as a creative kid and school was definitely not my strong suit. For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to all things hair, make up and fashion. My goal was to become a fashion designer and attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. I was so excited to find out that I was accepted into their program but felt this “pull” towards something else, make up and hair. 20 years ago, skipping the college route and attending cosmetology school wasn’t exactly encouraged, especially by certain peers and teachers. But I guess I just didn’t care and went for it anyway! It’s a decision I have never regretted.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
From age 19 and through my 20’s, I was cruising through my, making decent money and learning all kinds of life lessons along the way. But once I approached 30, I started feeling restless and uninspired in my career. I felt like I was standing at a fork in the road with one bumpy path heading towards uncomfortable but challenging goals and the other path was a smooth and comfortable ride. I knew staying complacent would be something I’d regret so I started to seek out different creative outlets. I took classes, made connections with other artists, did photoshoots and fashion shows, even took a stab at blogging. I was good at some things, terrible at others but there was always a take away. It was almost like taking that first step to evolving felt scary but once it started, I kept wanting more. I know it sounds cliche’ but the quote “you are always a student, never a master” really resonates with me.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Well 6 months into my very first opportunity as a hairstylist, I almost blew it. I was 19 and had just finished cosmetology school. I was eager to make money and start my career but I was also an entitled young adult who thought things would just “fall into place” for me. I showed up late to work, I wasn’t prepared and just didn’t take it seriously. I was given one more chance to get my act together and that fueled me to prove them (and myself) wrong.
In your experience what were the most effective ways for your business to generate leads and sales? Can you share a story or give an example?
The two most effective ways I’ve built my clientele is through referrals and social media. I was lucky enough to get some wonderful clients in my chair who wanted to support me but it goes beyond that. I had to be consistent with my work; the haircut, the experience, the attention I gave each client. For many years, I worked in a salon that was located in one of the largest shopping malls in the country so a majority of my clientele were women and men who worked in retail. They constantly referred coworkers and customers and it was like walking advertisement for us. This is where social media comes in. The first thing I do when someone suggests a new clothing brand, tattoo artists, restaurant, etc.; I check out their Instagram page. I know the same goes for a potential new client who may want to try out her best friend’s hairstylist.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Fabrice Gili is the Creative Director at Frederic Fekkai Salon and I was fortunate enough to work for a company that provided education by him for many years. He set the bar very high, always pushed me to be better and taught me the importance of details and precision. It’s been years since I’ve trained with him but so much of what I learned stays with me.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
While shampooing a client one time early on in my career, I was trying to shake out shampoo from an almost empty bottle but my hands were slippery so the big bottle of shampoo flew out of my hands, bounced off her front tooth and landed on her brand new suede pants. She jumped up with a swollen lip, hollering at me that I ruined her new suede pants. At least she wasn’t mad about the swollen lip. Lesson learned; never shake out shampoo from a bottle directly over the clients head, especially if they have suede pants on.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
Most of what we get out of life is based on our decisions, so make them count. Don’t compare yourself to others and figure out how you want to stand out. Always say “yes”. Even if you don’t get paid a penny for it. You never know what you’ll gain from that experience.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you please share “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
1.) Know your face shape, hair type, and personal style. Once you can identify these things, there are endless possibilities. It’s just like choosing the right dress to flatter your body type. For example, someone with an oblong face shape should choose a shape that will create width like face framing layers or a fringe across the forehead.
2.) Have a good team in your corner. Finding the right stylist can feel like a life long journey. Each one of us has our own set of unique hair challenges. Find someone who takes the time to consult with you on what you like and dislike about your hair, long and short term hair goals and takes the time to teach you how to style and maintain your hair at home.
3.) Skincare has become a priority in our daily rituals but hair can sometimes be an afterthought. Our hair care routine should also feel like self care, not a chore. A small addition to your regimen like a weekly Sunday night hair mask or an exfoliating scalp treatment makes the world of a difference for your hair and overall wellness.
4.) Trends come and go, but classic styles will never fail us. For example, we haven’t seen the bob haircut go anywhere but the way it’s worn has evolved. In the early 2000’s, we saw a lot of bobs with a round, graduated A-line shape but over time, it started to get less round and today the bob is a softer, more casual lived-in look. It’s still the same classic haircut with many variations.
5.) If you’re in search of a new stylist, you may want to consider someone who specializes in dry cutting. This approach to the hair is so beneficial because hair falls completely different when its wet versus dry. When I cut my clients’ hair dry, I can see my results immediately and that helps determine how the hair is responding to the shape I’m creating. My clients also say their grows out beautifully.
Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1.) Spend less time focusing on what the definition of beauty is by social standards and appreciate your own unique beauty.
2.) Laugh more and don’t take life so seriously
3.) Be open to trying new things with your hair, make up, clothes, etc. and evolve your style as much as you want.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are a lot of stylists in our industry who are just starting out and hungry for education and mentorship but don’t have the access or resources to fulfill those needs. If there were a “middle man” or platform that could connect stylists who are willing to shadow highly successful stylists, I think it would help a lot of people who would otherwise become discouraged and leave the industry all together. I have idolized so many stylists throughout my career but they always felt out of reach.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mom, Trish is someone who has always inspired me to keep pushing no matter what, in my career and in life. She has said to me many times, “Put your blinders on and run your own race”. Comparing my work and success to another stylist’s is not only a waste of time, it’s self-deprecating. Avoiding the comparison game isn’t always easy to avoid, especially with social media at our finger tips. When I remind myself of this quote, I feel more confident and in control of my surroundings.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
People have mixed opinions about Gary Vaynerchuk and his delivery but I would love to pick brain. I think a lot of what he talks about in the business world is relevant to the hair industry. Him or Beyonce;)
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Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!