"After working in New York, where there were as many as 80 stylists on the floor, and then living in Santa Fe which was much calmer, I decided to open a four-chair salon," says Alleman who's two-and-a-half decades of experience have included working for salons as well as owning his own. "We play quiet atmospheric music; it's a very calming, nurturing environment."
After leaving his hometown of St. Martinville in the early '70s, Alleman moved to London, apprenticing with Jingles International, an English company that trains hair stylists. He later spent 10 years as artistic director of the training center Jingles opened in New York's Empire State Building. While in New York, he also worked for the well-known Pierre Michel salon and owned his own salon in SoHo. By 1990, the luster of the Big Apple had begun to fade, and Alleman opted for the slower, more peaceful pace of Santa Fe, where he opened an Aveda salon. Today, he's come full circle, returning to his native Louisiana to open his latest venture (which can be toured online at its Web site).
Every detail of its design was created to reflect the combination of Alleman's personal experience and artistic vision. The salon's logo, a spiraling, coil-shaped icon of concentric circles, represents, according to Alleman, "the idea that what goes around comes around. Fashion is cyclical like that," he says. "And also," he adds, "coming back to Louisiana was like coming full circle."
Circular shapes inspired by the movement in the logo also were carried through to the salon's contemporary interior. In the center of the 1,000-square-foot space, is a curved sculptural partition paneled with a skin of sandblasted Lexan -- a high-tech material with the appearance of glass -- each panel representing the building blocks of Alleman's career. Even the colors of the space -- cool blues, silver and white mixed with orange -- were inspired by the logo, which reminded Alleman of the rings surrounding Saturn.
"I'm interested in interior design, and I spend a lot of time at work, so my environment has to be a special place and a place I feel good being in," says Alleman. But nothing is more central to Alleman's philosophy as a hair designer than his emphasis on individuality and naturalness. "For me, doing hair is an art form," he says.
"I get inspired by a person and their hair. It's truly about that person," he adds. "You have to tap into their individuality."
Alleman always begins the process with a consultation that takes into account such things as the way a person dresses and the amount of time put into his or her daily hair care routine. "I'm more comfortable doing a cut that requires less work for the client; the haircut does the work not the person," he says. "I also do a lot of color. Color is an extension of the shape; by using light and dark, it creates visual texture."
In addition to having a consultation with each client when deciding what will work best for their style as well as their lifestyle, Alleman uses several techniques to ensure the desired natural results. When cutting hair, he starts with the client's hair wet and dries it as he's cutting in order to work with the natural texture of the hair. He also prefers to use multiple shades -- light, medium and dark tones -- as opposed to just one shade when highlighting hair so that it looks chromatic rather than monochromatic. When doing men's hair, he does all of the cutting by hand, rather than using an electric clipper. "I do a lot of corrective work for clients who've gone in to salons that follow the trends and give the client something you'd find in Rolling Stone magazine," he says. "It's important to interpret a look in a way that will work for the client."
Though he caters to women and men, Alleman describes the mainstay of his clients as professional women, ages 25 to 55, who need to look their best in the business world. Open six days a week, the salon stays open until 9 p.m. three nights a week to accommodate its many professional clients, who like to come into the quiet space for hair and/or nail services after work. And an expanded menu of services is in the works; a mini-spa offering facials and massages is currently being added and is scheduled to be open this fall.
"My goal in the next five to 10 years is to open three more salons in the New Orleans area." says Alleman. "This one is my flagship store."