I’ve always been skeptical about the whole hair “salon” experience. The idea that you walk into a place with scissor-handed people eagerly waiting to get a chop at your tresses has always scared me. And that you step out feeling a million dollars was just a far-fetched notion held by insecure women who divulge their personal problems on their hairdresser like they’re unloading their laundry. It just never worked for me. Until I saw Kino.
I walked past the window of this small, gallery-like place for weeks wondering if it was going to be a new bar, an artist cybercafé or another new Japanese vinyl store. After all it’s the East Village where everyday, even on my street, (10th St.), new places are popping up all the time. It’s incredible how the street has changed in the 4 years I’ve been there.
“Stu, Stu Studio”
It was a hair salon started up by Toshi Kino. Though somehow “salon” doesn’t seem the right word, so let’s call it a hair studio. Designed by his Japanese friend Taka, the interior is perhaps the best expression of Kino’s vision of hair. “I didn’t want anything over the top. Something simple, balanced and understated.” Just three black leather, swivel chairs, with white covered walls and the name “ONIK” in red spelt backwards so it reflected “KINO” in the mirror. The design alone tells you this is not an “in and out'” joint. You go and stay therefore as long as it takes.
Less is more.
It’s this minimalist feel makes you feel like you’re the center of attention, the single focus in the mirror, the canvas for the artist, which is exactly what Toshi Kino is.
Just watching him trim, cut and style hair is fascinating. Holding the scissors at an angle, he cuts the hair wet, then dry so he can fully understand the texture of your hair. When I asked him about his technique, he replied: “It’s depends on how I feel.” But with over 6 years training in Tokyo, you can’t help thinking it’s that inherent Japanese passion for precision that makes his cut so perfect. All Toshi divulges is, “how much I cut is unimportant. How much is left is.”
The mane man of the runways
From Gisele to Heidi, Toshi’s works on famous tresses of many of the super models. Even more impressive, he works with the likes of Odile Gilbert, one of the world’s most innovative hair stylists, as well as, Garren (Henri Bendel) and Michigan hair guru, Jimmy Paul, the celebrity stylist to famous heads like Debra Messing and Jennifer Aniston.
But name-dropping is not Kino’s style. He can’t remember any of the models’ names he’s worked on or all the designer shows he just did for the recent Prét a Porter and Haute Couture fashion shows in Paris. (He’s worked on shows for Jean Paul Gaultier, Olivier Theyskens, Marc Jacobs and tons of others. I found that out from an old resume he gave me!).
“Hair is fashion”
He’s more interested in talking about hair. “Hair is fashion” and as result he’s always looking at styles, what’s out there, what artists are wearing, what young people are inspired by and what he can interpret from the streets and absorb into his work.
Creativity vs. Convenience
Toshi understands the fast life in New York. “Paris is where you can really create. New York is different.” Most New Yorkers are so busy, so inundated with work, the gym and other things, they don’t have time to blowout their hair every morning. So Toshi cuts around this fact.
On my first visit, I asked him for something that would suit my personality, something like me, low maintenance, “messy”, that “just out of bed” look, but versatile enough so I can put it up, down or any way I want. That’s what he gave me and each time I go back, he does something subtle, but a little different each time.
Can’t get no satisfaction
It is this drive to do something different each time that challenges him everyday. He’s not happy to just cut n’ color and have a nice little business. “It’s all about change.” Everyday I look to do something different. Try something new. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, but I always want something more. Something original.”
Get a head start
So if you want something new, something original, something younger, check out KINO. And experience the Japanese art of cutting. I’ve recommended him to my closest friends and sisters. They won’t dare step into another “hair salon” again.
And the good news….hair cuts start at $60+ and up and hair color starts at $60+. This is extremely reasonable when you consider highlights alone can cost $120+.
Plus, as I mentioned earlier, he takes the time to show you all the different ways you can change your hair for all your different moods. Finally, a hair stylist who really understands women!
For a holiday head rush this season, head to KINO – it’ll change your hair and idea of a “hair salon” forever.
241 East 10th St., (bet 1 +2Ave)