FRASER STREET'S NEW MANE SQUEEZE - BLANCHE MACDONALD PRO HAIR GRADUATE ELIZA TRENDIAK OPENS ARTEL SALON!
“Artel, in Russian, means an association of artisans living and working together. We brainstormed a whole list of names but I really felt that this summed up what we were about. We’re all artists, we’re all independent but we’re also a family. We’re a team, we all learn together and we’re under one roof,” says Eliza Trendiak proudly, glancing about her sun-soaked empire. The Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair graduate ushers us about the polished concrete and vaulting space surrounding, giving us the grand tour of her newly opened Artel Salon.
Plump succulents scatter about countertops and pastel-packaged product blooms from the walls. The rustic salvaged wood coffee table (hand-crafted by a friend) jostles warmly with rich textiles, coaxing you to plunk down on the couch and make snug with a magazine. Nestled into the niche hubbub of Fraser Street for only a few months now, Artel has already become the neighborhood’s favourite hair haunt-meets-hang out, with a constant flow of clients chattering through the door.
Eliza is a natural Entrepreneur, but then again, she’s been self-starting since before she can remember.
“My family has always made fun of me, saying that I came out of the womb trying to start a business. As a kid I did lemonade stands, dog walking, sold cucumbers on the side of the road... you name it and was trying to start a business with it,” laughs Eliza.
It was no surprise to her parents then when Eliza declared that she was leaving her native New Hamburg, Ontario to go to the School of Business at Trinity Western University in BC. What did come as a surprise to Eliza was that she wasn’t 100% satisfied with the path that now lay at her feet.
“I didn’t want to end up working in an office. At the time I was doing my dormmates’ hair and I just loved it. A friend told me that I should do what I wanted to do because I was going to be waking up and doing it every day. I took that to heart, so I graduated university and went straight to Blanche Macdonald.
“My sister and one of my best friends went to BMC for Fashion Marketing and the quality of their work attracted me to this school from the get-go. Blanche has one of the longer Hair programs in Vancouver, twelve months as opposed to six months; I felt that if I was going to invest in my education, I wanted to spend the most time I could learning. And I loved that Blanche Macdonald had a Business program built into it, as well as Makeup and Hair for TV & Film; you could really get a taste of everything. I wanted to come out of school feeling prepared. Blanche just seemed to be the right fit.”
It was. Eliza took to the program like a curl to heat.
“My group was awesome! We prided ourselves on being loved by the instructors. There was a lot of bonding through the intense practical exams and I still keep in contact with some of the girls from my program. I went into hair school like, ‘Oh, I’ve done an undergrad, this is going to be easy,’ but I’d be out in the hallways with the rest of them afterwards just exclaiming about how intense it was! It was a really great experience.”
It was during the Pro Hair’s Work Experience program that Eliza was introduced to Style Lab Headquarters, and by the time her internship had come to an end, they were already at a loss with what they’d do without her. They hired her on to their roster of independent stylists, and the four years she would go on to work there would inform the trajectory of her career.
“I love the idea of being independent and working for myself, but also within an environment of like-minded people that I could learn from. When I was thinking of opening a salon, I thought about getting a small studio by myself, but that didn’t appeal to me. I’ve always learned so much from working with other people. Style Lab totally opened my eyes to that and I feel really blessed to have only ever worked in chair rental salons. I run the structure here at Artel very similarly.
“One of the coolest things about being a chair rental stylist is that my clients have always had a direct connection to me – they’ll call me or text me on my cell, whether it’s to book an appointment or to joke back and forth about ridiculous hair photos. There’s never been a middle man. That that makes it really personal. It’s crazy – I actually still have some clients that first started coming to see me at the Blanche Macdonald salon. They have followed me all these years, from being a student dreaming of opening a salon to working at Style Lab and Beaute Salon to now opening my own salon in reality. I really feel that these clients have made the journey with me.”
Even with an appointment book brimming with eager salon clientele, Eliza still found the time to take on a side project; she and her lens-wielding power-couple-other are the team behind one-stop-shop personal photography collective Trendi Creative, which has been sassing-up and snapping Vancouver since 2012.
“It started as a life partnership; Rob was working in the film industry while we were dating and it was a really difficult lifestyle to pace, to have any kind of balance. We got married and literally two weeks later he quit his job. It was terrifying. But I thought, ‘I’ve been running a freelance business myself, so I know that we can do this.’ We came up with the concept of Trendi Creative on the flight to our honeymoon. We would be cross promoting each other.”
Launching Trendi Creative succeeded both in pushing the artists into new heights of awareness, and in whetting Eliza’s appetite for entrepreneurship. She wanted more of it, and with her ever-growing list of loyal fringe followers, she knew that her salon ownership aspirations were now within reach.
“I’ve always been interested in real estate, and for two years I had been searching online for potential spaces, always keeping my ear to the ground. I had even written a full business plan so that I would be ready.”
She’d been daydreaming about this since she first began Hair School. And when 3558 Fraser Street popped up on the market, Eliza was ready to pounce.
“The exciting part is just seeing all of these ideas and Pinterest boards come to life! I really wanted to create a space that felt like you were coming into someone’s living room, a place you’d want to curl up in and hang out. We had all of these ideas going in and we would wonder how we were going to make it all come together, if it was going to look right.
“I’m incredibly proud of this space, proud of the stylists here and of the culture that I feel is forming. As much as you want to plan out what you want a vibe to be, it’s something that grows organically. And I’m really proud that people have told me that when they come in they feel welcome.”
It only takes a moment, the distance from door (which greets you with a golden ‘hello’) to the lounge of Turkish throw pillows, to ease into the chic friend’s living room vibes, but they didn’t come easily.
“Oh man, were there some trying times during the renovations! There was one week where I probably cried every single day, it just felt like one hang up after another. I was still working full-time at Beaute Salon, coming here before and after work every day to keep on with renovations. Not being a builder or a contractor myself, I didn’t understand why some things were taking so long and just really wanted to be open. There were definitely some times in the middle of it where I questioned if it worth it, being so stressed and tired. But once we opened our doors, it was kind of like having a baby, how you forget all of the pain once it’s finally here. I’d go through that ten times over for what I have now!”
There have been a lot of firsts for Eliza in opening Artel. For a stylist who has been so proudly independant throughout her career, the transition to having a roster of stylists depending on her launched a steep learning curve.
“Being on this side of things now, I have so much more understanding and gratefulness for my previous employers. Oh man, now I totally get why they did some of the things that they did!
“A lot of my hiring process was laying out clear expectations, being honest with every one of the stylists, saying, ‘Hey this is my very first salon, this is my first time being a manager; I’m going to make mistakes. I’m learning as I go but let’s learn together.’ I want the channel of communication open.”
Eliza may be new hand in the Boss Lady business, but she knew what she wanted and what she was looking for in curating the Artel team.
“For me, it was really really important when I was hiring stylists to look for a level of professionalism. Looking not only at their work but their vibe and what they put out there on social media; maintaining a level of professionalism inside and outside of the salon. I was looking also for a warmth and a welcoming because I wanted Artel to be an approachable space.
“The level of professionalism was one thing that was instilled very early on in Blanche and something that I still value. This is a very personal industry, but you always have to maintain that level of professionalism in the way that you dress, with your language, with your topics of conversation. You really never know who’s sitting in the chair beside you and you never want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. Just because you feel comfortable in a space doesn’t mean everyone else does. You should always keep that at the back of your mind.”
Eliza has done a lot of learning throughout her career and now, moving into this next big step, she has a lot more to come. The culture of constant education that she has surrounded herself in up to this point is one that she is eager to carry through to her own salon.
“I’ve learned to be more transparent and vulnerable with other stylists. When you first start out, there’s this constant fear that you don’t know what you’re doing – because you really do have little idea of what you’re doing. And sometimes there’s this pressure to appear like you do. As time went on, I learned to be more open about when I was struggling with a colour formulation, or when my client wanted something and I wasn’t sure where to start. Being humble enough to ask other people for help. The more open you are, the more other people are open back and that sharing of learning and being able to carry each other along has been huge.
“Surround yourself with people that are willing to teach you, that you look up to, whose work you want to emulate. I’ve been blessed to have worked with some really incredible stylists and I would constantly pick their brains, watch them and learn from them. That is invaluable.”
Artel Salon is an exercise in balance: organics play with industrial in the decor, team success supports independent success, and each plays their part as mentor and mentored. It is professional and it is intimate. And just like Eliza herself, Artel is both savvy in business and rich in warmth.
It’s early still, but Artel is already slated to be up there with the best of them in Vancouver’s thriving salon scene and Eliza is doing it all herself, in her own way. The new day begins as the first client arrives, and Eliza leaves us to claim the hours with the same fire that brought her here, from chair rental stylist to owner of her six-seat, sun-slicked hair empire.
“Be hungry, stay hungry. When I was in school every person that I saw on the bus was a potential client. It’s an easy industry to get into, but it’s not necessarily an easy industry to stay in if you’re not hungry. You have to work hard, put in the time and you have to really want it.”