Irony has a funny way of creeping its way into our lives and connecting dots that seemed so far from each other. The fact that I’m writing about my experience at an authentic Italian hair stylist’s recently opened NYC salon on a plane back to JFK from a business trip to Milan is just one of those ironic instances.
The man I speak of, Cristiano Cora, recently hosted the opening of his new modern hotspot in Greenwich Village. Though its décor and atmosphere are a far cry from much of the Italian-style comforts I came across while visiting his homeland, I must admit that Cora’s charm and demeanor are inescapably rooted in the old country.
Owner Cristiano Cora, hard at work in his new salon
He grew up in Venice, Italy and learned about hair from his mother. After working in several salons, he knew he had to pursue his dream elsewhere, despite his love for Italy. It was in London where he took his passion for hair to the next level. Working there and then in the States in Los Angeles and New York, he became the creative director for Vidal Sassoon, a company to which he devoted 20 years of passion for hair. The salon is becoming known for Cora’s method of using clean lines and sensuous curves; a theme which carries through the aesthetics of the studio.
Ergonomic chairs line the mirrors and enhance the space’s modern feeling
The entire space is decorated with geometric, organic shapes and its color palette is simple, yet elegant.
None of the stylists at the salon have typical “stations,” because Cora believes that everyone’s space and the tools available to them should be equal. Smartly designed drink tables swing out from under each mirror and in front of each chair for guests to rest a water or fruit-infused tea. In the back of the salon are four washing stations whose bright red chairs call attention to the nook where they rest. Almost space-agey, the salon’s furnishings are anything but traditional. That feeling disappears though, when the heavily-accented Italian Cora starts to talk about his past and growing up in Venice.
In keeping with his philosophy of merging modern and natural, Cora has chosen only one line of products to use in his salon. Davines, an Italian hair care company from Parma, Italy, boasts a line that has a sophisticated balance of substance and style and devotes itself to a balance between beauty and sustainability.
One glance at the interior of the salon and the dress of the staff who fill it up, and you know that Cora’s enthusiasm for the art of hair styling extends beyond any borders. You will not see any of Cora’s staff in typical black robes or uniforms as in so many other salons. It took a minute, but I began to notice something uniquely similar about the employees’ wardrobes. Each staff member wears a special apron that was designed by fashion students at the nearby Fashion Institute of Technology as part of a final project Cora coordinated with a friend and professor at the school.
Wanting the staff to wear something identifiable was important to Cora, but more important was the possibility for that wardrobe to be customizable and worn many different ways so it would never be tired of. The white dress-like apron with several artfully placed zippers looks like something pulled right off a mannequin at H&M. No two girls were wearing it the same way. The receptionist had it tied like a halter, another stylist had it off the shoulder, and my colorist, Naomi Knights, had it draped in a sweeping, toga-type wrap.
The wash stations in the back of the salon
After a consultation with Knights, we discovered that my hair would have to be put through a different process than it might be used to in order to achieve the desired effect of looking lighter overall. My last coloring was one of many shades, with platinum blonde, burgundy red and dark brown streaks throughout. Rather than simply re-highlighting my hair and not getting what I wanted, Knights decided to create a “paneling” effect with her color process; separating my hair into large slabs, twisting them up to keep them apart, and then applying Davines colors in red and blonde shapes, rather than in stripes, as a traditional highlight does. In order to give my whole head the appearance of being lighter, she created a blonde “veil” on top which faded effortlessly into the rest of my color. The best part of the end color result was the fact that its shape gave me the ability to appear to have a completely different color if I parted it on the left versus when I parted it on the right.
After my color treatment, which was anything but ordinary and perhaps the most modern and sophisticated color treatment I’ve ever known, Cora’s true adoration for his profession became apparent when he picked up the scissors. His perfectionism for his scissor work is one-of-a-kind. In fact, I had to tell him that I was happy with it in order to get up from the chair. To him, my hair was a canvas that he couldn’t remove his brush from until the last bit of paint was placed in just the right place. But he in no way “overcut” my hair, as many stylists do when they don’t know when to stop chop. His cutting was more like a well-conceived sculptural molding. Cora was ready to continue the shaping of my cut because to him, “it was not yet perfect.”
I begged to differ, weeks later, I still do.
Cristiano Cora: Luxury Hair Technology
3 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011