Gerald Solomons, owner (in more ways than one) of the top end hair salon Chagall, probably has more reasons than one for the career he’s set for himself. He is (and certainly gives the impression of being) enterprising, though he’s decorated his life with those unpredictable, quirky details (such as his choice of name for his salon, after an arty, avant-garde painter) which help explain a happy-go-lucky existence.
ESTEEM sat with Gerald some time back. We had questions to ask. He had a story to tell.
Could you describe your childhood, education, and experiences in life and work until now?
I began my life in this field of work as a trainee hairdresser and progressed as a senior stylist.
After my family and I migrated to Australia, I opened Chagall in Sydney and later in Auckland. I had the opportunity with that to widen my horizons by attending to the hair care of many celebrities.
I also have attended many workshops and given demonstrations in hair styling and cutting techniques. My experiences took me to the fashion capitals of the world: London, Milan, Paris, and of course Australia.
In a nutshell, how did you get into this industry?
As a child, I was always fascinated by hair and makeup as my mother went for her hair care to Salon Moira, owned by the formidable Moira Muthukrishna. That more or less tilted me towards the profession, from an early age. From then on I worked at Moira and became a senior hair stylist. I suspect that I never shall regret this decision as I have come to realise that it’s become my lifeblood.
Could you describe a normal day at Chagall?
That’s a tricky one to answer. Well, a normal day can be described as hectic, challenging, exciting and vibrant, well worth every bit of the day, depending on how you see it.
Our clients, to whom we are always grateful for their patronage, help us assess ourselves in ways which in turn help them to get better services from our staff. It’s basically a two-way street: they assess us, we assess ourselves.
What was and is it about Chagall that differentiates it from other top-end salons?
Chagall is always unique. It has atmosphere, vibrancy, colour, attitude, skills. It is staffed by people who are serious about what they do. This was what it was and it is what it is, and to go even further, it is what it always will be.
How do you manage to balance your career and your life?
Simple. My life is my career and my career is my life. Everything revolves around this concept. There are those who claim lives outside their careers, and they may consider that a blessing, but I for one can never go beyond the borders of my profession. It’s become almost an obsession, a garden to water and tend to almost, and it always shall be.
Time for some out of the blue questions. Who do you consider as your three most profound influences?
Firstly, our customers. Without them there is no life or career. So, I say thanks to all of them past present and future.
Secondly, my staff, both here in Sri Lanka and overseas. Without them there is no life or career.
Thirdly, to all those who have helped me shape my life and career, starting with Moira Muthukrishna, and also my parents for understanding why a boy wanted to be a hairdresser.
How much have you learnt from your interactions with your customers and staff?
Our customers gave us the challenges, the opportunity to create and be innovative to get us to where we are now. They still do challenge us, and we are grateful.
As for my staff, that they contribute in creative ways through their own experiences, their ability to learn and interact with customers in a very positive way, and much, much more. They have taught me as much as I have taught them.
Here's a wacky question. What would your hypothetical three biggest wishes for the future be?
Wacky, is it?
Well, my first wish would be for Chagall to be on top despite the many challenges and threats (both friendly and unfriendly) that continue to beset us.
My second wish would be to be content with what has been achieved and improve on quality.
My third wish would be to be in good health for me to carry on the Chagall Flag for many, many years to come.
All three wishes are to do with the present, and more pertinently the future. They are as valid as they were when I first formed them in the back of my mind a long time ago.
What are your current plans and your (not so distant) future plans?
Currently, to enhance our skills and experiences as those are what make actual and prospective customers appreciate. How can we achieve that? By transforming ourselves to a truly top-end professional personal care service.
With regard to the not so distant future, our plan would be to progressively educate people about the fact that this is a noble profession and that’s why there are top end salons that cater to their demands here and there.
We would like also to encourage our children to take a second look at this profession, to not belittle it and consider it as beneath their dignity. That has everything to do with sweeping aside prejudice and preconceived mindsets and I believe we can do it, if we set our hearts and minds to it.
Any words of wisdom or points to ponder, looking back?
Always be yourself, right within the image you have created for yourself, and never forget those who have been in your life and career. I have stuck to that credo. It’s worked wonders, I can tell you that much.