When I was thinking about my first Soul Search feature, I kept going back to native San Antonian Lisa Weller. The creative director and owner of Twirl Salon, located in the Blue Star Arts Complex, embodies all of the aspects that I hope to bring to this blog. She’s following her passions, travels often, helps others and loves fashion. I’ve gotten to know her pretty well sitting in her chair for the past seven years. She probably has no idea how much she’s inspired me. The way she talks about hair, it’s almost like she speaks opportunities into existence. She’s running a successful and unique salon in San Antonio while also working for Guido Palau. He’s been described as “The World’s most in-demand hair stylist.” Lisa is the only Texan on his team, and one of an elite group of 17, who work pretty much every major fashion show around the world. With a schedule this crazy busy I knew I had to catch her where she’s the most open. Behind the chair doing my hair.
In Lisa’s words…..
FROM THE BEGINNING
I wasn’t one of those kids who did everybody’s hair and knew forever and ever that I was going to be a hairdresser when I grew up. I was always very creative and artistic and my grandmother was an artist. I was never good enough at that to make money at it. I was realistic that it’s one in a million to be an artist and actually provide for yourself doing that, so I went to college and I got a degree in nutrition cause I was slightly interested in that, and realized it’s so important to be passionate about what you do everyday so you can get up out of bed. I was definitely not wanting to get up out of bed to talk about what people can and cannot eat because I love food too much!
HOW I FOUND HAIR
I really seriously prayed and asked God to show me what I was meant to do, and what I was good at, and within a week’s time the whole idea to go to beauty school had come up. It had never come up in my entire life before that. I went and had my first day of school and I knew that day that was IT for me. I instantly connected with it, it was like I knew what to do.
Of course I had to train and learn a lot, and I realized that I needed to find mentors and people who had been doing it longer than me, and doing it the way that I liked seeing it done. So I searched in San Antonio and worked for David with Salon David. He had a great apprenticeship program and I definitely am grateful and thankful to him for getting me on the right path. He’s the one that introduced me to Bumble & Bumble. I started flying up to New York City and taking classes at their university. I would go as often as I could afford it and started thinking to myself I needed to move there in order to take things to the next level because I was always very interested and passionate about the fashion side of hairdressing.
I’d say there’s 3 different types of hairdressing. There’s just behind the chair for clients, and then there’s fashion hairdressing and then there’s Hollywood hairdressing. And they really do operate in totally different ways, different techniques, different places to go and learn about that. So I knew I needed to go somewhere specifically focused on editorial and fashion and Bumble has a great program for that. I finally moved to New York in 2006 and got trained on how to work backstage at fashion shows and on photo shoots. I ultimately realized that that lifestyle is very stressful and not very compatible with a marriage.
My husband Courtney and I decided that San Antonio is home, it’s where we belong. Also, no one in San Antonio is doing hair from the perspective that I do it from. I’m not trying to find the next big huge thing for my clients, like what’s so trendy. I really do believe in trying to be the best version of yourself, and working off of your natural God given beauty is going to make you happier over a longer period of time, than just changing all the time. Some people might find that boring but I feel like it creates long term clients and relationships. Every once in awhile there is a time to really shake things up.
I actually didn’t want to own a salon. I never meant for all of this to happen! I couldn’t find a place that I could bear going everyday. I really, really wanted to be around other people who get inspired from fashion. And when I say fashion, I mean what’s happening on the runways and in high fashion magazines around the world, not just my own opinion of what fashion is. Cause everyone has their own individual sense of style, but that is not fashion from the runway perspective. So I just thought “you know what, I’m just gonna have a little boutique, small salon by myself, maybe with one other person if I can find that person who I don’t mind sharing some space with.” And I also wanted the feel of the space to inspire me, cause you’ve got to be there all day long, so I wanted to look around and have what my salon looks like make me happy.
WHY BLUE STAR?
I looked all over the city for a place that I felt comfortable and I needed to feel the feel of the city. As much as I knew I needed to come home, I knew I was also going to miss New York and being able to walk places, and just the energy that the city provides. I really was looking more for a place to live and be able to walk to restaurants and eat. Blue Star was really the only place in San Antonio that I could find, the Pearl was just starting. So I was planning on living here and it was really the landlord who suggested to me “why don’t you build your little salon here?” I thought “wow, I didn’t know I could do that.” I’m so thankful cause I did not come up with that idea myself. The first version of Twirl was my husband and I living on half of the space and then the other half was my little studio with two chairs. I remember thinking “will anyone ever walk up these stairs, park in this weird warehouse building and walk around the side of the building and up the stairs? What if nobody ever comes?” But within 3 months I was booked and I was looking to find an assistant. It took off very quickly.
We currently have 6 stylists, 3 assistants and an esthetician. Starting in January I will move for the first time to a level 4 stylist, Erika level 3, Mel level 2 and everyone else level 1. I am taking new clients, but I’ve developed a teamwork mentality, we are not isolated individual hairdressers. So if you want to see me once or twice a year just to talk about refreshing your look, or do we need to go a different direction, but then see one of the other girls for your maintenance, that’s totally an option as well.
They need to learn from somebody else besides me. We send them to New York, I just sent Erika to Miami. If I can find something that I think I can’t teach them myself, or if it is also just an opportunity for them to see the world, I have an education fund for them throughout the year where they’re earning money to help pay for their trips.
WHAT MAKES YOUR SOUL FLUTTER?
The thing that makes my soul flutter these days, in my daily life, when I look at these girls that I’ve met who didn’t know how to do hair. They just needed to know the techniques, they needed somebody to inspire and mentor them, and they signed up to go through my crazy form of teaching. When I see them transforming their lives, buying their own car, moving out of their parents houses, buying their own place. Some of them could barely look me in the eye when they started, had no self confidence. I’ve seen them blossom into these amazing, capable women who now don’t need help from anyone, they can provide their own way. I feel like a part of making that happen. I’m super passionate about helping girls find their way in the world.
In January I go to Paris for two weeks for couture. That’s one of my favorite times, the couture shows are the best. Then I go to New York, London, Milan and Paris for Fall 2016 fashion shows. Then we have cruise collections in May, we have summer couture in July and then the big season again (NY, London, Milan and Paris) in September. Guido has been doing random special shows where we get to go. We went to Portofino this year, we went to Cannes, Tokyo for Dior. Those kinds of things come up but they’re never planned, so you just kind of wait to hear where they are going to send me, or it could be for a photoshoot or something.
WORKING WITH GUIDO PALAU
Guido is signed on to do another 5 years, as far as we know, and I feel like I’ve really made a lot of progress working with him and him starting to really get into the good parts of the mentorship. It’s really interesting because it’s taught me a lot about my own business. You know, 5 years is a long time to work for somebody. But it’s at that 5 years where you finally, you really, really trust them to say I want to take things to even the next level of my investment in you. Cause otherwise you just always think “are they really loyal to me?” It just takes awhile to really get to know each other. So I kind of feel that way with the girls that I’ve had. I just made it to 5 years working with him. I feel like if I stick it out with him, I don’t know where that could lead or what it will be for, but at the moment it seems like a good idea to stay on this course with him which means a lot of traveling. I learned so much this last time, I saw myself grow and get better at hair and my eye being developed, so I feel like it’s really important to my longevity here running Twirl and still staying current and relevant. I’ve been different for San Antonio for the last 8 years since I’ve been open, but that’s going to change within the next few years. We are progressing and cool things are happening. You can’t just say you’re the best. You have to prove it and work for it. I would like to keep trying for that so I will be with Guido this year.
DESIGNERS YOU WORK WITH
Guido is in contract with certain designers that are usually always our staples. In New York, Marc Jacobs and Victoria Beckham. We’ve actually had a lot of new ones, we did Oscar De La Renta this last time and Tory Burch. Once we get over to Europe it’s always kind of the same. We do Prada, Alberta Ferretti, Dolce & Gabbana. In Paris we have Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Celine, Dior.
DO YOU KNOW THE LOOKS BEFOREHAND?
No, even Guido doesn’t know. There is always a mood board or story board that is inspiring the collection for the designer, but the hair is usually decided the night before the show. I got to go to most of the tests this last time where you get to meet the designer, you hear from them directly what they’re looking for, and then we work out 3-4 looks for them to look at and choose from. That part was really fun because I actually got to do more hairstyles than just the one that ends up on the runway. I had a lot of fun ideas come from that, things we didn’t use but I really loved, and thought “wow, one day I might put this look on a client of mine!” It also helped me perform better at the shows.
WHAT DID YOU BRING BACK FROM LAST SEASON’S SHOWS TO USE ON CLIENTS IN SAN ANTONIO?
A version of the Alexander McQueen hair on a client for an event recently, a version that was inspired by the Alberta Ferretti look that we did. But in general, one thing I learned this last time is looking at the girl and really noticing her features, and how to make things not perfectly symmetrical. A lot of hairdressers make things too perfect and too contrived and that’s something Guido has been working with me on is not executing things so perfect, but it’s that balanced imperfection and the asymmetry based on the girls face. So I think I’m taking that away, just even in my blow-dries, and trying to look and see what looks best on my girl. And that really takes an eye, and looking not just at the hair, but at the person.
He’s considered the best hairdresser in the world and he’s been doing this for 30 years. There’s a reason why he does all these accounts year after year after year. They go to him for his eye and his level of taste and so while I might think I’m good at what I do, he is better. So if he sees something in my work that isn’t good, I’m gonna think about it and ask myself why, and try to figure out what is it about his eye and his work that makes him the best in the world, and what can I learn from him. So that’s kind of what I’m practicing and working on and will be excited to go back next year and see if I’ve improved. Cause he’s hard on me. He doesn’t just say good job, but that’s why I’m there, is to have someone. I’m hard on my girls and I tell them when it doesn’t look good, and what they need to do better, and I need someone doing that for me too.
After going to New York and having a dream that was so strong, and for 6 years of my life all I thought about was achieving that goal, but it kind of nearly killed me. I mean, I had panic attacks and anxiety because I was so determined to achieve this goal in my life. And then after I did you kind of are like “wow, is it really all that?” And honestly when I finally let go and said “you know what? I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with my life to be honest.” I know I’m going to do hair because I love it and I’m going to focus on being really good at what I love doing and see what happens. So everything that’s happened with working for Guido and getting to travel since I’ve been back in San Antonio has just been nothing I’ve tried to make happen. It’s not a goal, it’s just been happening because people respond to my love for what I do, and my abilities. I get asked to do these things now, I mean it’s really exciting to open my email, cause I just don’t know what someone is going to ask for me to do. All these things are not things that I made plans for, they are just a result of me being happy and passionate, and also always trying to be the best at what I do. I don’t slack, no matter who my client is I try to give them the very best hair I possibly can, and I feel like that just leads to great places.
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