A family affair.
The profession of hairdresser is often inherited, skills passing from generation to generation, and the women of Little Sister Salon in Austin, Texas are certainly a salon-centric family. Brooke, salon manager, informs us that she and sister, Farrah are both second-generation owners who run the space, and the title of hairdresser extends to their mother, aunt, step-sister and soon-to-be sister-in-law – a full family affair. While in Austin, we connected with Farrah to discuss her decision to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and learn about her passion.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in San Diego, and we moved here when I was nine, so Austin is where I grew up; this is where I did most of my learning. I lived in New York for a few years. I loved working there, the energy and the people – you’re just in it. But I’m a go-getter, so the energy just compounded my personal go-getting, whereas when I’m in Austin, the energy is just right.
We hear that you and your sister, Brooke, are second-generation salon owners, and we loved hearing that it’s all in the family for you! Tell us more.
My mother, my sister, and I originally opened a salon called Pink together. Then my sister and I moved to New York and my mother opened a salon called Pink West. I wanted to move back to Austin and have a family, and I planned to open up a place and call it I Love You, but I went to look at spaces, people would ask me, “Are you going to open up another Pink?” And I’d say no. When I signed the lease for the first place, I just put it down as I Love You Pink. Then I decided to open up a second space. We loved the name Little Sister, because of the little sister of I love You Pink, and because I’m a little sister – a little wild and rebellious! Eventually I closed I Love You Pink, and kept Little Sister. I needed a manager for the space, and my sister was helping my mother at the time, so I begged her to come in (I think I actually had tears in my eyes). I just love the way that she works, she just knows this business so well. She knows that developing relationships is so important.
We also work with my aunt. She apprenticed under my mother, along with others, and some girls apprenticed under us, so it’s very much our little family here. We’re about to send our assistant to work with my mother, and she’s sending one of hers to work with us, and a few of our other girls have worked out of her place, so we have this really nice symbiotic relationship that still keeps that family flow.
You describe yourself as being a part of the ‘Deborah Carter Hair Dynasty.’ What was it like growing up with a hairdressing mother?
My beliefs definitely stem from my mother. She was always thinking differently, and she created roles that we abide by here at Little Sister, from the reception area in the middle of the salon, to always having a receptionist, to the way that I cut. Most of my work is cut dry, and is very free-form. I still have structure, because you have to have an understanding of the flow before you can get in there and manipulate it with water. It works for me. When my hands touch hair, it just makes sense, and I attribute my technique to my family.
Because my mother was single, we were with her everywhere. We were literally in the salon running around with capes on our backs like superheros, washing and styling each other's hair. We didn’t grow up like normal kids, running around and playing outside. We watched hair all day, every day, and grew up with the work ethic. We just do it until it’s done, no matter what, and we don’t sit around and complain. I love being a hairdresser; I don’t really know any other way of living – this is it. Growing up in a salon felt fancy, and always in style; there was always something going on. She’d take us to hair shows, she’d do stage work with Paul Mitchell, so I got to see her on stage. It just seemed so big and beautiful.
How long have you been a hairdresser? Did you always know that you wanted to pursue it?
I’m 41 now, so almost 22 years. It doesn’t feel that long at all. The only time it feels that long is when a style comes back around, and you have to think about how you can change it, because you have to keep it fresh. It’s cool because it’s always changing.
When I was 18 I thought, ‘I’ll just do makeup; you don’t need a license.’ When I called the film commission, they told me I needed a license, so I started looking into hair schools. I thought that a barber school would be the best because I would learn something that they didn’t do in the salon. I realized the first day that I never wanted to stop; there was something about my hands touching hair, and I thought ‘this is so rad.’ I just didn't question it again. Seeing it my whole life helped show me the whole story; it was tantalizing, and I liked that I didn’t have to guess.
When I was in high school, I was the normal kid, and I thought I was going to be a doctor. My mind does work more scientifically; I break things down, I appreciate structure and logic. Life events happened that changed that. I remember sitting at my mom’s salon at lunchtime and watching the hairdressers. They were sitting down and I could see they all had rad shoes. I asked each of them where they got them and they all had different answers – LA, London, New York – I think that’s when it clicked that hairdressing equalled travel, rad clothes and shoes, and a glamorous lifestyle.
What do you love most about being a hairdresser?
What do I not love? I love getting to talk and work. I love connecting visuals to personalities. I love human beings and style. I love beauty. I love listening to rad music all day. You get to dress up and look however you want. It’s like a slumber party all day, every day, and you get paid for it. You can go as far as you want with it.
What is your favorite Hairstory product, and why?
My #1 is Hair Balm because you can wear it straight or curly. I cut a lot of inside layers, and when you use Balm it brings that out and holds it together without getting greasy, chunky or frizzy. Because we just came off of a week of humid weather, it’s my go-to right now. It makes hair look intentional on a really crappy day. I’m also in love with Dressed Up, because sometimes you just feel like that.
How did you find us?
My sister, Brooke (below) always keeps her eyes open for new or different things. When she gets bored or notices clients getting bored, she feels it out. We often toss around the questions, ‘Where is everything going?’ and ‘How can we navigate through it?’ Right now, Amazon and online sales are a big to-do, and companies are selling themselves to bigger companies, and changing the products, so her thought was ‘let’s try Hairstory.’ Maybe it’s the way to navigate the future. We think it can add a broader new dimension to what we do.
All photos by Lauren Kallen.