Designing DeKalb

Jane Levinsky, owner of Studio One Salon and Spa 1007 N. First St. Dekalb, trims a client’s hair Wednesday afternoon.

By Melissa Mastrogiovanni

Every year, gorgeous models emerge from the dark at the New York Lincoln Center in designer dresses, strutting down the catwalk in one of the country’s most acclaimed fashion extravaganzas.

New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week draws throngs of celebrities, designers, models and stylists to showcase their artistic abilities in fashion. On Feb. 9, Jane Levinsky, owner of Studio One Salon & Spa, will return to Fashion Week for her second year in a row.

Barber Shop to Beauty Salon

From age 5, Levinsky knew she wanted to be a hair dresser.

“I had one of those beauty shops from Santa,” Levinsky said. “But I always loved hair. I loved the creativity part of it.”

When Levinsky graduated from beauty school, she went to work at a local barbershop, giving perms and manicures to men. However, she was unable to cut men’s hair because it was illegal at the time for hairdressers to do so, only barbers could.

Levinsky worked at the barber shop for three months, then she moved onto two other salons.

After three years and one amended law later, the barber she worked for turned the back of his shop into a two-chair beauty salon.

“He said ‘I have a proposition for you,'” Levinsky said. “‘Would you like to run the beauty shop for me?’ And so I thought about it, and thought about and thought – you know what, I think I’d rather have it be my own.”

Levinsky said she invested $350 into the business and bought the equipment from the barber shop owner over time.

“That’s were it started, and then it kind of grew from there,” Levinsky said.

Since 1977, Levinsky worked at four different locations and survived two recessions.

“When you start out at 21 and you have no business experience, you kind of learn on the job,” Levinsky said. “So I’ve pretty much had 35 years of education. You learn what to do and what not to do and how to make it better.”

Levinsky said being in the hair salon business is, for the most part, pretty “recession-proof.”

“People give up a lot,” Levinsky said. “They give up cars, vacations, other things but they won’t give up their hair.”

By the time Levinsky acquired her third location in the area, she had different plans in mind.

“I said I was going to change it, so I was going to run it my way,” Levinsky said. “I set goals in place and guidelines and everything I do.”

Today, Levinsky said she relies heavily on the referral system to make her business grow at her current location, Studio One Salon and Spa, 1007 N. First St.

“The best business building tool is word-of-mouth,” Levinsky said.

Road to New York

In another effort to draw in a wider clientele, Levinsky took on a new, organic-based product line less than a year ago. The line was formulated by Philip Pelusi, internationally recognized stylist, photographer and product artist.

“When we first took on this line, they said ‘Well you know, you might be invited to go to Fashion Week,'” Levinsky said. “And that was just kind of like one of those things you hear and you put it away, because it sounds like, yeah right – maybe not.”

In Aug. 2010, Levinsky was invited to come along with two other people to New York’s 2011 Fashion Week. When Levinsky and her stylists arrived, they and 12 other stylists were given a mannequin head with a hair design to master in two days.

The first day, Levinsky practiced on one of her stylists.

“At the end of the day, we mastered that and we were the only ones that were there that were able to – that were able to present it to the owner,” Levinsky said. “And I knew he was wowed by it because he was taking pictures.”

Levinsky was still skeptical that she wouldn’t be able to actually do the model’s hair for the show.

“We get there and they say, ‘We’re going to use you in whatever capacity you are able – if all you can do is hand bobbi pins, that’s what you’ll do,'” Levinsky said. “I kept thinking – Are they really going to let us do this hair? When we get there, are they really going to let us touch these runway models’ hair? It seemed a little high in the sky, to me.”

Recogition at Fashion Week

There were 24 models. The stylists had about 20 minutes, maximum, to style the models’ hair.

Shortly after arriving, Levinsky and her team were invited backstage to style the hair on the models for Venexiana designer Kati Stern.

“It was such an exciting thing, and then, after the show, we met the designer, and they have an after party at one of these night clubs in New York,” Levinsky said.

At the after party, Levinsky’s employee introduced her to the designer.

“The designer said ‘I know who you are.’ So that was pretty cool,” Levinsky said.

Levinsky will return to New York’s Fashion Week again this year, from Feb. 9 to 12. She will work with the same designer and is allowed to bring five other staff members.

“To be in this business for a long time, that’s a pretty big deal,” Levinsky said. “And I’m excited that I can bring my staff because they’re younger, and so to be able to have them have that experience is pretty awesome.”