Meet Shizen, the Hair Salon All the Cool Kids Go To
by Ella Cerón
Images courtesy of Shizen
If you’re in the mood for a hair overhaul but don’t quite know what you want, look no further than salon Shizen’s Instagram. The Williamsburg-based salon specializes in colors and cuts that defy the ordinary in the best way possible. Rather than subtle ombres and red-carpet ready bobs, the stylists and colorists at Shizen often aim for bright colors, extreme angles, and opposing lengths — sometimes all on the same head of hair. The salon’s Instagram also functions as an instant mood board, filled with the kinds of cool kids whose hair would make you do a double-take if you passed them on the street.
To get an inside look at what goes into the Shizen creative process, and what the team is dreaming up for the coming year, we talked with Mai, the vice director and one of Shizen’s lead stylists. True to Shizen form, she didn’t want to prescribe any specific trends, lest it impede your own creative process, but she did offer some key tips for your best hair day — and year — yet.
Milk Makeup: What is Shizen’s origin story? How did the salon get started?
Mai: Shizen Brooklyn is in Williamsburg but we also have a salon in Tokyo. We opened 13 years ago in the East Village, and we moved to Brooklyn six years ago. So now we only have two salons. But my bosses, the owners, go back and forth between here and Tokyo almost every other month. So we try to blend both; take the New York things to Tokyo and from Tokyo to New York. I think it’s pretty special from any other salon. The salon itself, we renovated and expanded the Williamsburg space last October and it’s pretty huge right now. Tokyo also expanded to two floors, so it’s quite nice but it’s still a smaller space and it’s really good vibes.
MMU: All of the looks on Instagram are really unique. Is there anything that you know the salon considers your specialty?
Mai: Every time, we try to do new things that we really didn’t see before. Of course, we have a lot of inspiration from other eras, other things like music or art. But we try to do our own style, which we rarely see anywhere else. As you can see on Instagram, it’s quite original. We also try to work with models who can do styles that aren’t the “normal” ones you usually see in pictures or wherever.
MMU: How do you work with clients, when they come in? How does the team decide what you’re going to do together to give them the final look that they want?
Mai: Usually when we do a consultation, we ask about what they want to do. But if they are like, ‘It’s up to you, you decide,’ we try to do a style that perfectly suits their style. Not every single style we want to do is “crazy,” or “not normal.” We want to help people look way better than before. I’m sure that if someone searches for Shizen and they like our look, that’s why they come to our salon. So we try to do a style to make them really cute or cool.
MMU: What are some trends that you’re really excited about for 2019?
Mai: We can’t exactly say, “this is going to be the trend of 2019,” but recently we feel like so many New York people want to be more original, way more than before. For example, the color. They used to do more natural highlights, or natural smoky pink, or color that was subtle. But now they are changing to a full head of color, or brighter. We used to do more one-color looks but recently so many people have asked for two colors, or three colors, or even more. And even with that, we used to do a lot of same-shade looks, like pink and orange, or blue and green.
But recently people have asked for looks that are crazier or weird, in a good way. So now we do more warm tones plus cool tones, like red and blue, or orange and green. I think people want to be more unique, so I would say in 2019 is all about originality, for color and haircuts. It’s more gender-fluid. We have girls who want haircuts that have traditionally been thought of as boyish styles, and boys who want longer styles. Sometimes they even bring pictures, and a boy brings a girl’s picture or a girl brings a boy’s picture.
MMU: Are there any specific angles or shapes that you’re seeing?
Mai: The mullet is pretty popular. Last year, it was completely mullet-style. But it’s changing a bit, so it’s longer. Some people want super short bangs, or some people leave the tail [at the nape of the neck].
MMU: If people want to take a hair risk, what advice can you give them for finding inspiration for their own look?
Mai: I don’t think we can say from here, like “from this thing” or “from that thing” specifically. But of course, a lot of people find their inspiration from old movies or old magazines or even magazines from other countries. I think they love to find inspiration from the ’70s or ’80s, or even the ’90s recently. When We do photoshoots, we also find inspiration from those days too.
MMU: What kind of products are you loving lately, to style hair?
Mai: We have an original product called Shizen Shea Butter, and you can use it with any hair length or texture, so all the girls and all the boys use it. It’s made with shea butter and it’s organic, so you can even put it on your face or body. It’s a really moisture-filled, creamy paste but it also makes really, really good texture. It’s about 10 years old but so many people still love it.
MMU: What else about Shizen would you want people to know?
Mai: The people who come to Shizen, they don’t want want to look “normal” or “natural.” They want to be a little different from other people or other styles. We do unexpected hair, with color or cut or perm. We can create a more original look just for you.
In addition to our original Instagram photos, we also have Shizen books. We pretty much tried to do one every year or every other year. It’s more our art side, so not only “hair”-hair. Some of the books look like a zines, but some are a little thicker. We collaborate with amazing photographers and creative people.