Letting Your Hair Down, or Up

Letting Your Hair Down, or Up

W e’re a down-to-earth crew, we New Haveners. Our fair city is just big enough to feel urban yet small enough to be locally focused, home-grown, and low-key. But let’s admit it: we’re also a drop dead fabulous bunch. So if you feel the need to act on that quality from time to time, if you want to feel effortlessly cool and chic, book yourself an appointment for a service or two at Salon Lulu. Don’t resist the fab: let Lulu’s irrepressible charms envelop you, warm you, make you feel like a celebrity. B-list, perhaps, but ignore those critics. You’re worth it.

Owner Thomas Angelini and manager Ilda Velez chose the spot on Chapel between Church and State hoping to encourage that feeling of calm and escape from the buzz of city life. It’s just slightly off the beaten path; after a walk past the enchanting English Market (worth a visit itself) and a ride up the old-school elevator, you’re there. And when those elevator doors open to one of the most interesting, beautiful loft spaces in New Haven—where everyone seems beautiful and glamorous—you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.

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It was a totally raw space when Angelini and Velez happened upon it in 2010 and transformed it into a spectacular spot: everything you’d expect at a New York salon, without the inaccessible, eye-contact avoiding receptionists and unnecessarily snooty vibe. It’s a 2,000-square-foot loft, sleek without feeling cold, with just enough exposed, 110 year-old-brick and a soothing palette of earth-tones: browns, oranges, blacks, grays. Angelini, a designer on the side, conceived an ever-flowing wall of water that lives behind the clean-lined reception desk. High ceilings, of course, are complemented by the necessary exposed ductwork and piping. A newly built rooftop patio with its umbrellas, tables and chairs provide a welcome sun spot for your wait. And staff and stylists alike are warm, engaging and friendly—very comfortable.

Lulu, so-named for Angelini’s four-point-five-year-old daughter, opened its doors in November of 2010 after a serious, months-long renovation. Testifying to his skill and ease as a stylist, Angelini managed to bring all of his clients from his old spot (Studio 607) in Wooster Square to the new one in the Ninth Square. In addition to being in this business for 23 years, Angelini comes from a long line of hair people—great granddad was a barber, and his uncle was a very successful hairdresser in West Hartford. That’s where he earned his chops: working under Uncle Louis, getting to know the business, coming to understand the ins and outs of hair. “I came to like it quickly, I loved being around people. And I loved the artistry and creativity of it,” he says. Soon, he was out in California for classes with hair giants Sebastian, Paul Mitchell and L’Oreal.

Velez calls Angelini a “perfectionist,” which is a fine trait to find in someone you’ve entrusted with your precious locks. “Personality-wise he’s determined to do the best work. His work ethic is amazing,” she says. And despite deep and varied experience, he acknowledges there’s always more to learn and encourages his team of stylists to approach things the same way. “We work as a team here,” Angelini says. “If we have questions or maybe a more complicated color correction to do, we brainstorm together.” In the end, it’s about quality, aesthetics and healthy hair. “Any haircut will look great if the hair is healthy. We tend to take a more natural approach to things, go for the more classic looks. But we’re not afraid to be bold, if that’s what our clients want.”

During a cut with him, he’s relaxed yet focused, well-attuned to hair types and always ready with a gentle suggestion or piece of advice. But he listens, too: “I believe that my clientele is knowledgeable about what they want and need. I’m not the dictator here, but I will offer my creative eye.” I haven’t had a cut with any of the other three Lulu stylists, but if online reviews are to be believed, they’re Team Fabulous, too.

Everything in the salon—from chairs to tables to stylist stations—is movable. That’s necessary, as the Lulu crew loves to party. They’re reputed to drop the scissors at a minute’s notice, push back those stations, source a DJ and throw a quick rager. They’ve opened the cavernous space up for charity events and fashion shows, and are more than willing to help publicize another local business or artist (check out an upcoming, revolving set of art exhibits at Lulu starting July). That openness bleeds into core business functions as well; for example, they’ve fully embraced modernity by installing iPads at each stylist’s station so you can book your next appointment without leaving the chair.

And there are lots of potential appointments to be made. The gamut of hairstyling, cutting and coloring services includes waves, relaxers, keratin smoothing treatments and deep conditioning. (FYI, Angelini uses INOA hair color—it’s ammonia free and therefore much kinder to tired, abused tresses.) Prices range from $40 to upwards of $100 for permanent wave or straightening treatments, with a similar range for color services. And Lulu’s spa provides a full menu of waxing services as well as deep-cleansing and hydrating facials.

So pick a service, make an appointment. Show up a little early, grab an espresso or mug of green tea and head out to the rooftop to wait for an afternoon of pampering. An “urban oasis,” the website calls it. How apt.

Salon Lulu
839 Chapel St, 3rd Floor, New Haven (map)
Tues-Wed & Fri 9am-6pm, Thurs 11am-8pm, Sat 9am-4pm
203-562-1456 | ilda@salonlulu.com
www.salonlulu.com

Written and photographed by Uma Ramiah.

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Uma Ramiah is a New Haven-based journalist using audio, print, and photography to tell stories about Connecticut. She holds a Masters in Religion and African Studies from Yale and spent a few years traveling and working in West and Central Africa before settling down in the Elm City.

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