By Stef Schwalb
I’ve lived in New York for over ten years, and I’ve had my share of salon experiences. And as a hair care editor with BN for almost three years now (yeah team!), I know the score. But even I was breathless after my experience at the Eiji Salon (pronounced A-Gee). What made this so different from your average Midtown salon? First of all, how often does a stylist take an hour and half to meticulously create your cut? Second, how many salons offer a relaxing, spa-like environment, complete with calming music in a low-key atmosphere that frees you from the get-in/get-out syndrome we seem to suffer when what we seek is indulgence? Last but not least, how often do you get a new ‘do that you can actually style yourself days and weeks later (and it still looks just as good as the day you got it done)? If this is the kind of service you’re seeking, head over to Eiji.
In the days before my appointment, I had been reading a book on Feng Shui to try to minimize my over-extended life and de-clutter the small space I call home. I figured if home is where the heart is, I had some serious blockages to work out in the hopes of making myself a “healthier” person. So when I walked into Eiji, the salon brought me immediate comfort (and a little bit of space envy!) through its sleek, clean design and refined décor, which includes contemporary furnishings alongside ancient Japanese artifacts and modern works by the San Francisco interior designer and artist, Koichi Hara. The staff is friendly and accommodating, and the warm surroundings and specially designed lighting system (created to help perfect the styling of color treatments) make it feel like an Eastern spa for your strands, complete with herbal teas to enjoy during your shampoo and conditioning session, which includes a heavenly scalp massage, followed by your “treatment” – the ultimate haircut.
The salon’s owner, Eiji Yamane, was born in the small community of Fukuoka, Japan, and had aspirations of becoming a motorcycle racer. Fate had other ideas in mind for him – after a terrifying accident at the age of 17, his doctors advised against continuing down that career path. But luckily for us, that life-changing experience led him to his present calling. After training with the renowned Geisha/updo stylist Michiko Masue in Japan, Eiji had ten years of tutelage with the late industry-icon John Sahag here in New York. With Sahag, Eiji learned to perfect the innovative dry-cut technique and make it his own. He opened his namesake salon in 1995, and in 2000, relocated the operations to an even bigger space on Madison Avenue right near the posh shopping district and art gallery area on 57th.
The beauty of a dry cut is that you know exactly how the hair will fall during its day-to-day wear as it is being created. There’s no surprise from wet to dry in terms of length or bangs, which in my experience can sometimes be significant. Eiji says that for him, the dry-cut technique is the only way to see the hair’s natural shape, and by using the method, he creates styles based on the weight and texture of the hair type. Each cut is catered to the individual client and with Eiji’s careful attention to detail you definitely feel he understands your hair as well as you, if not better. It’s of the utmost importance to Eiji that each customer is happy with his or her results, so one of the perks in working with him is the complimentary bang trim in between visits. I love anything free, especially the continuation of high-quality hair care.
Though I had my cut prepared by the master himself, all of the stylists are well versed in his methods (as I witness firsthand one stylist’s training session that was taking place in a chair near mine during my “Eiji” experience). At Eiji, cuts range from $100 to $300. The salon also offers color and highlights as well as straightening treatments (another major strength of the owner), that range in prince from $100-$350 (depending on the service). There’s also a unique roster of hair care products that include the Japanese lines Nigelle DS and Ioneat.
601 Madison Avenue, 5th Floor
Between 57th & 58th