When you walk into the new Paloma Salon in Paddington there are two things you can count on: good service, and respite from reality. One thing you can’t count on is securing a haircut with the salon’s sought-after director Paloma Garcia. We tried for a spot with her back in August – there wasn’t an opening until November.
Customers are greeted with a welcome massage with essential oils, and a Beauty Chef probiotic elixir (a blend of fermented, nutrient-dense ingredients) served in a Maison Balzac T carafe. Magazines such as Monocle and the Gentlewoman line the bench, and mild music and soft chatter rises above the hum of hair dryers. The interiors are muted, with polished-wood floors and fresh flowers.
After working as a partner at Paddington’s Oscar Oscar salon for seven years, Garcia bought the business and relaunched it under her name in July. She’s introduced a new look, feel and wellness offering that’s dramatically different to most Sydney hairdressers.
With 16 years experience in the fashion industry – spanning five years with Hermes Australia organising trunk shows; 15 Sydney Fashion Weeks directing shows for Carla Zampatti, Christopher Esber and Ginger and Smart; and editorial work with Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire – she has attracted a high-profile clientele including fashion bloggers Nadia Fairfax and Margaret Zhang.
When we speak with Garcia she’s fresh from New York Fashion Week where she worked with James Levi, the creative director of hair-beauty brand Oribe, to style several shows.
“We wanted it to be like a really cool, curated hotel,” says Garcia of the salon. “It’s a really nice environment where it’s guest-focused now. It’s about you guys having your ‘me time’.”
The salon is also sustainability-focused; it uses PETA-approved colouring brand Kevin Murphy, which is sulphate, paraben and cruelty free, and importantly, has no ammonia.
“The colour was a big thing for me, out of a duty of care to our team of 15 members I wanted to make sure they weren’t inhaling dangerous fumes,” she says.
Garcia’s signature “lived-in” haircut has a two-month-long wait list. She’s the kind of person who can talk a woman with waist-skimming hair into a style that takes their locks just past the ears.
“I love undone hairstyles and for women to look effortless,” she says.
Garcia’s Dry Bar service is also popular. Customers come in with clean hair (wet or dry) and get a 20-minute express-styling service for $45.
“I saw a big hole in the market for that. Not [just] from a cost point of view, but also time,” she says. “Those going to last-minute events pop in. It’s been a huge success.”
There are four looks to choose from: smooth and straight, sleek waves, beachy, or “perfectly imperfect” (a more tussled look).
Garcia has managed to secure some of the most qualified hair stylists in Australia, including Ash Croker (a celebrity and editorial colourist dubbed “the blond whisperer” by fans and known for studying skin tone and facial structure before she decides on a colour). Garcia trains her team in everything, from highlighting and cutting, to emotional intelligence and wellness. “It’s important to be respectful of people’s time and being quiet. If a customer wants to talk, they’ll talk, If not, they won’t. It's led by the client.”
“It’s 50 per cent hair, and 50 per cent service,” she adds. “In a city like Sydney there are amazing salons everywhere … There’s loads of competition.” With her hotel-style approach to beauty, Garcia is making sure hers stands out.
320 Oxford Street, Paddington
(02) 9360 7739
Wed & Thu 9am–9pm