High-tech salon offers private pods, movies and Alexa

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WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — ‘Starring By Ted Gibson’ in West Hollywood, California has turned the traditional hair salon model upside down creating a place where trim meets tech.

It’s owned by celebrity stylist Ted Gibson and his husband and business partner, colorist Jason Backe. The pair boast a client list that includes Sandra Oh, Priyanka Chopra, Lupito Nyongo, Melissa McCarthy and Debra Messing.

Clients get their hair done in one of five semi-private pods called ‘clouds’. These allow for privacy and are meant to replace the bustling busy hair salon where rows of people are lined up staring into the same mirror.

The pods are equipped with an Amazon Fire tablet, an Amazon video application and Sonos smart speakers which allow clients to shop, order products from the salon, ask Alexa to change the music and ambient lighting and watch movies.

“What we wanted to do was create a luxury experience. By creating a luxury experience it means almost like you’re in a first class cabin on a first class airline. We wanted the guest, when they come to our salon, to be able to have an individualized experience so what that means is you come in, your book your appointment online, you come in you have your consultation with your stylist, you get a hand hot and warm towel to wipe your hands off, you have a glass of water, you’re escorted to your own individual cloud.”says Gibson.

The couple, who recently moved to LA from New York, say they didn’t want to open a typical salon with 50 employees and 20 chairs. Rather they wanted a technically advanced, totally new experience with as many touch points as possible.

“We don’t have a front desk, all of the transactions that happen happen with your hair dresser at the station from their phone or their mobile device so you don’t have to wait at the front desk to check out. We’ve streamlined everything through technology from booking your appointment, paying for your appointment and purchasing products.”

As well as buying products during treatments, clients and passersby can make purchases from an interactive window display using the Amazon app to scan what they want.

Customers say the feeling of being here is progressive, relaxing and just plain cool and different.

Jackie James ia a party content creator with HER Whiskey parties.

“I love this salon because it is such an experience. It’s better than going to the spa. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even now how much I need to relax and I get these hands on my hair, massaging my scalp and I’m just in heaven but what is so cool about this spa is all the smart technology. I’m kind of a techie nerd and I love that you can change the colors based on your mood, you can watch a movie. It’s so thoughtful,” she says.

“I love the decor here. I love the fact that it’s so tech savvy and the tablets and they’ve loaded magazines on there. We can change the music, we have so much fun playing with our playlist with music and I just love the whole experience here,” says Kathleen Rosenbloom, clothing designer of the brand KATRO in Beverly Hills.

India Osborne, a film producer from Los Angeles and Paris, says she she truly feels like she’s in her own personal space in the clouds.

“What I love about it is how it differs from other salons I’ve been to and that it truly feels like I’m setting into my own private space where I have my own personal treatment and the light therapy it’s so complementary to where I might be emotionally. It’s a place I can step into that receives me and when I leave, I leave the salon not only feeling beautiful but looking as beautiful as I feel on the inside.”

Prices vary depending on the hairdresser from $235 for a cut and blowdry to $2,000 for The Ted Gibson Experience. Coloring ranges from $175 to $450 for the first 1hr 15 minutes.  

Each client is buzzed into the premises and then presented with a tray with a personalized hot towel and beverage.

Hair clippings are no longer swept up by an employee but rather the salon’s mascot –  a Roomba vacuum cleaner that shuffles up and down the floors cleaning quietly.

A Poloroid wall showcases photos of the clients.

Stephanie Castellon, associate producer for Pop-Sugar Beauty digital media lifestyle website says the salon is truly unlike any other.

“I think the salon is making news because it’s so different. You’re able to go into these clouds and once you feel beautiful and your hair is done you can take a photo, the could allows to change its color, to moonlight lighting, daylight lighting, indoors, outdoors so you can see your hair, and see how it looks in all these different settings and you’re able to take this picture and use it for the perfect Instagram shot of social media shot because that’s all the buzz.”

Gibson and Backe say it was high time hair salons got a technical makeover and they are glad to be the ones who did it.  They hope to franchise the concept as soon as possible.

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