Hairdresser Kristina Welzien’s passion for wellness and beauty has long been a part of her professional identity, so it came as no surprise that her newly-opened San Francisco space – Wabi Sabi Beauty – aims to help guests “experience inner and outer beauty while caring for the environment,” and takes a holistic approach to beauty services. We caught up with Kristina in the midst of her grand opening chaos to talk inspiration, operating a device-free space so near Silicon Valley, and independence with interdependence.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Wisconsin. I grew up in the northeast near lake Michigan. I ended up in San Francisco after my first four visits. I had lived in Seattle for a while, and then back in Chicago, knowing that I’d head back to the West Coast at some point. I was really drawn to the city, the culture, the history and the lifestyle.
How did you begin working with hair?
I’ve been a hairdresser for 17 years. I was working as a receptionist in high school at a very small Aveda salon where I learned about products created in a eco-conscious way, and I was really intrigued. I grew up doing hair and makeup on my friends all the time, and I’ve always been involved in different art forms. I loved creating art on people and seeing how they felt when they looked in the mirror afterwards. My mom was really into doing her hair and makeup, and she had friends who were hairdressers, so I grew up around it.
You recently opened your own salon in San Francisco. Tell us about it.
Wabi Sabi is a beauty and wellness studio. I have built a team of independent contractors, and everyone in the space [Becky Borman, Meghan Doyle, Dani Morris and Taylor Watson] is encouraged, celebrated, and self-employed. We come together to create the culture. We take a holistic approach to the services that we provide, and look to work with the whole person on a mind, body, and spirit level. We incorporate aromatherapy and hot towels, and we work with a line of live, vibrational flower and gem essence sprays. Each client intuitively chooses a card which identifies the spray which best suits them for the day. It’s a unique experience to acknowledge the whole person and then drop in nails, skin, hair and makeup services. All the product lines we use are eco-conscious, yet still fashion-forward. I’ve taken a lot of time over the past four years to research the brands out there: The level of performance, the overall integrity, and the luxury. I think it’s really important to have products that are eco-conscious but still luxurious.
Where did the name Wabi Sabi come from?
Wabi Sabi is an ancient Japanese philosophy. I discovered it about 8 years ago when a client of mine told me that the way I cut “was so wabi sabi.” She was a designer for Levi’s and was working the philosophy into her designs at the time. The basic idea is to acknowledge the beauty in imperfection. I’ve always been into japanese culture; I lived in Japan for a month, so when I discovered it, it really made sense to me for a number of reasons. It’s a great way to go about life, and it flows well into beauty and wellness.
What made you decide to open a salon?
I refer to it as a studio (similar to Hairstory) because it’s not a typical salon environment. We take time throughout the day to hold the space in a particular way where we can be celebrated for our uniqueness as independent artists, yet also be together in a group. I wanted it to feel really chill and open, but dynamic at the same time. We have a lot of consciousness in this space, in how we move with our clients, how we move with each other, and the sound. Everyone has a great amount of freedom (to create their own schedules, to choose what they offer as artists) but we also love to bounce ideas off each other, collaborate, and support each other. I wanted the space to be multi-purpose, so I plan to use it for events as well; it’s big, and open, and white. There’s something that you experience energetically here that’s hard to put into words.
You have a very interesting no-device policy in the salon.
Here in the Bay Area where the tech industry is so large, I’ve noticed clients coming in and working on their devices while I was doing their hair. It was becoming really challenging for me; I felt that it was interrupting the space and they didn’t seem to be present to receive what I was creating for them. So I made what we refer to as designated device holders, but basically they’re charging stations. We like to be really cool about it, and refer to it as a 99% device-free zone – because yes, we still want people to take photos of the space and selfies, and we’re ok if you need to jump on for a few minutes now and then – we just ask that people not use their devices for work. We want you to relax and receive a service, and give your device and yourself a break. It’s become such a habit that it feels almost robotic. I think there’s a real impact on us physically and energetically that we have yet to talk about.
What do you love most about being a hairdresser?
I love guiding people through their beauty transformations. No matter what clients have going on, they can have a beauty service and be supported taking the next step in their lives. I love that. Feeling good about their outer image supports them in being the rock stars that they are. I love having that kind of impact, whether it’s a date, job interview, or presentation – when you feel good about your outer beauty, your inner beauty is naturally going to shine.
What’s your favorite Hairstory product?
New Wash! I’m over the moon with the fact that we’re New Wash exclusive in our space. I love that people come in off the street just to purchase because we’ve got posters in the window declaring it a foam-free zone. It feels so good to be able to be committed to this one product that makes a profound difference for all hair types. It’s totally rocking my world. I love it; my clients love it; I love hearing the stories. I was sitting with a woman for 20 minutes before calling you who was sharing her whole hair story with me about discovering the product line. She uses it on her clients (she’s an independent hairdresser and makeup artist), and on her husband and kids. Having people share that they’re so happy blows my mind. We get it all day long, and it’s just such a big conversation in our space now.