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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2010

Salons style their ambiance as well as hair

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Creme de cassis truffles at the Bruno de Paris salon are framed by a chande­lier reflection and the sweeping view from the 31st floor of Century Square.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Carolyn Solorzano cuts Travis Farris' hair at the Bruno de Paris salon. The salon uses ammonia-free products and won't do hair-damaging procedures such as perms.

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Honolulu beauty salons create a style statement with their interiors, as well as the looks they produce for the clients who walk out of their doors.

Ten years ago, when Chop Salon opened in Restaurant Row, it received plenty of publicity for its urban, industrial, cement-on-the-floor and pipes-in-the-ceiling look. It was something new and different for Honolulu folks.

Today, each salon that opens seems to take on a personality of its own, a reflection of the owners' taste, preferences and provenance.


Witness the salon in the sky owned by Bruno Choucair of Bruno de Paris, on the 31st floor of Century Square in downtown Honolulu, with its spectacular sweeping mauka views. It's a clear reflection of its owner.

Choucair worked for many years in high-end salons in an elegant upscale neighborhood in Paris. He has lived in Honolulu for six years, working at several salons before opening Bruno de Paris last year.

Each detail of the Bruno de Paris salon was selected to suit his style. The furniture is sleek, contemporary Italian. The walls are painted a soft lilac, reminiscent of Provence. The chandeliers are imported from Europe. Even the art on the walls is either Choucair's own or that of his painting teacher.

Inside these walls and windows Choucair is committed to healthy hair. A vegetarian and self-described health nut, he believes that what you put on your hair is as important as what you put inside your body. He uses only Perfecta products from Italy, which are entirely ammonia-free, even the coloring products.

Choucair refuses to do perms, either straight or curly, because he believes they do too much damage. He also eschews blow-drying and hair-ironing.

"For any type of hair, there's always a great cut to be done depending on facial features and hair texture," Choucair insists. "It may take an hour to sculpt the hair, sometimes cutting hair by hair." But Choucair insists anything that may damage the hair is not necessary.


Alan Vuong, who worked at Chop Salon before opening his own Salon Blanc, is known about town as a fashionista. His shoe collection, which numbers more than 200 pairs, is quite famous.

His love for fashion is reflected in his approach to the salon, near Ward Centre.

"Now there's more of an influence of fashion and clothing, and we're going for a boutique feeling," he said.

"Salon Blanc is like a blank canvas. The people in the salon provide the feeling. A good stylist is like a couture designer" and the clients come to the salon because of the people who work there. "They want to be cared about," Vuong added.

The local trend to strong style statements lines up with national trends. Consider celebrity stylist Frederic Fekkai, who now has eight salons, each with its own character. While his first New York salon is huge, at 9,000 square feet, his more recent salon openings have emphasized individual identity and charm.

In last month's issue of Vogue, Fekkai said, "Now it's about cozy; it's about local. It's more artisanal."


Stylist Joe Randazzo is clearly an urban creature. Born and raised in Chicago and honing his skills in New York City, he thrives in an urban environment.

When Randazzo and Gary Casupang opened J Salon in Chinatown in 2003, it had a minimalist vibe, with cement floors, exposed ceilings and an Andy Warhol-inspired splash of color that changed with their moods and the seasons.

It fit right in with cool lounges such as Bar 35 that were opening around them in their Chinatown neighborhood.

When J Salon reopened in late 2008 in the IBM Building in Kaka'ako, the salon's feel segued into sexy and sultry.

The floor is concrete, but has a lacquered look. There are lots of reflective surfaces with sleek chrome and glass. The ethic is similar to that of Nobu's lounge in the Waikīkī Parc Hotel.

A far cry from Chinatown. And very reflective of its owner's provenance.