July 30, 2011
From London to Lenox, LIsa Stephenson Curates Coifs
By Amy Flurry
- Portraits of Lisa Stephenson by Caroline Petters
Meet this Sassoon Salon Creative Director and cool Brit transplant who styled avant-garde fashion patron Isabella Blow and gave Justin Beiber his famous flip.
Few hair stylists garner an assignment from an editor. There are so many talented hairdressers that attention is generally reserved for those who push odds aside, take enormous risks, build empires and advertise. But Lisa Stephenson earned a closer look for her career-changing cuts and roster of clients, a veritable who’s who of tastemakers in Atlanta and abroad.
She drives a mini-Cooper and her post-punk British style and soft English lilt— in a city fueled by SUV’s and designer duds— suggest, “you’re not from around these parts.” Stephenson, 37, moved to Atlanta six years ago, accepting a position with the Sassoon Salon, Atlanta, that has propelled her into the role of Creative Director.
Gentle mannered and unassuming, she operates not as a celebrity stylist, though she attracts some of the cities most illustrious personalities and pop stars.
There was the young Justin Beiber, who she persuaded to lose his heavy, surfy shag for a fresher feathered side sweep (yes that side-sweeping flipthat sent a nation of teen boys flocking to their hairdressers for The Beiber.) And acclaimed interior designer Stan Topol, who initially declared to Stephenson, “I don’t do Lenox Mall darling……. before becoming a regular.
“Stan has the demeanor of a London client,” she says. “He’s a true world traveler, but someone I recognized instantly as part of the soul of this city.”
In her chair recently was a newly-fringed Carolyn Carr, whose wink and approving nod that we shared the same hairdresser was one of knowing, like a membership to some secret stylist society. And when visiting stars like Minnie Driver need a trim or internationally known Atlanta talent like DJ Dylan Eiland, local CNN correspondents and musician Shay La’Vee want a dramatic defining style, they hit up Stephenson.
The location of the Atlanta Sassoon, almost hidden in the back of the Lenox Square Mall above the food court and next to a flashy men’s boutique named Man Alive!, does nothing for showcasing talent or the wildly inventive and geometric cuts of the instruction models and clients. But no matter. As has been the case since her early years with the team at the prestigious Sassoon Salon on Sloane Square in her native UK, you don’t fight the gravitational pull to Stephenson.
Fashion icon and designer muse Isabella Blow, who famously bought Alexander McQueen’s graduating student collection, was one of Stephenson’s London clients. At the time, Stephenson was an assistant to the creative director and many recognized her to be the next top talent, the fresh blood.
“Issy was a fascinating and lovely lady,” recalls Stephenson. “She told me the story about buying McQueen’s collection in installments, paying for it piece by piece and dragging them across town on the tube in plastic bags,”she says.
“Milliner Philip Treacy’s shop was just down the way from our Sloan Street location, so she became a regular to both places.” Stephenson says she’ll always remember her silent surprise at the fact that Blow held a job (she was the fashion director at Tatler magazine). “It was hard to imagine any one position containing a spirit like hers.”
This past April, with the release of Vidal Sassoon’s new book, “Vidal: The Autobiography” (on sale at Sassoon) renewed attention has been focused on the haute hairdresser and the life behind the man who coined the phrase, “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” According to Stephenson, Sassoon’s methodology and focus on education (they present five new collections each year) continues to foster a distillation of discipline over ego. “The Vidal Sassoon ethos is that you work until you perfect your art,” says Stephenson. “It is a discipline that requires so much commitment on the part of the stylist that it creates a life, not a lifestyle and a loyalty and expectation to others within it. My world revolves around the salon.”
London Curated by Lisa:
Her trips home don’t come as often as she’d like, but when in London (Stephenson’s old stomping grounds), she recommends:
Brick Lane Beigel Bake
159 Brick Lane, Tower Hamlets,
“Open 24 hours, it’s a great snack for clubbers or any time of the day. The bagels are warm and perfectly toasted, the tea is too strong and they’re actually quite rude to you, like the soup guy on Seinfeld. But the bagels are so good you suffer it and get in and get out!”
The Hurly Burly Show
“Burlesque is huge right now and this is the hottest show at the moment.”
66-70 Brewer ST.
“It's central, easy and has a great pre-theatre menu for when you are going to one of the fabulous shows in the neighborhood.”
Columbia Road Flower Market
“This East End market is a great stroll on a Sunday morning, the air filled with the scent of all kinds of exotic blooms. You can buy just about anything here at the myriad of tiny shops.”
Park Street, Bankside
Entry is free except to the major exhibitions and it’s right on the Thames so a great spot to spend an afternoon.
Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s
Brook St., Mayfair
“Afternoon tea here is an English tradition (and better than the one served at the Ritz). Freshly baked raisin and apple scones with tea-infused jam and Devonshire clotted cream and a choice of 30 teas from around the world. Mmmmm.”
41 Beak St.
“There’s always a line at this Venetian style bacaro and they don’t take reservations but the food is worth the wait.”
“You can spend the whole day at this Saturday market, which is closed to traffic from 9-5) and the surrounding restaurants and there’s nothing you won’t find, from organic meats to fresh fish, vintage clothing and lingerie!”
Cat and Mutton
76 Broadway Market
“There is nothing better than to get yourself a table here after a walk around Broadway market. The place has been there since the 1600s, and the menu is outstanding. I’m a fan of the Wild Mushroom, Poached Egg on Toast with Truffle Oil and the Chocolate and Marmalade Tart with Clotted Cream.”