Natalie Kildare was working as a phlebotomist and going to school to become an RN when she got a message that could have been sent by The Hair Gods (which happens to be the name of her new studio salon at Salons by JC in West Hartford, CT .
“Something was just missing, as though I wasn’t in the right place,” recalls Natalie. “ I had this ah-ha moment that there had to be more, and then it hit me. I had always worn funky haircuts and had a fashion-forward style. People continually asked me if I was a hairdresser, and many of my inner circle of friends were hairdressers. It was like the universe was giving me a sign.”
Telling her parents she was dropping out of college at the age of 25 to go to beauty school was a big deal, she says, but they told her, “It’s your life, just finish what you start.” As soon as she toured the local Paul Mitchell school, she knew she was in the right place and that she’d do just that. Five years later, after working for a former Redken artist who trained her for a year and employed her for four more, she got another feeling: it was time to go out on her own.
“I’d worked very hard to market myself every day and realized I’d become too comfortable where I was; I was supposed to do more,” says Natalie. “Also, I knew I was only keeping 47% of what I was bringing in. When I toured Salons by JC and the and the franchise owner Gary agreed to move the walls and expand a space, so I could rent it with two friends, I knew I’d found the right place. He was so helpful, and we got a suite with the luxury feeling we wanted.”
Splitting the cost and maintaining separate businesses is easy for the trio, adds Natalie. What makes it work is that they came from the same salon, so they share professional ethics and even have similar artistic styles. Plus, their clients know them all, so filling in for one another is easy.
“We all do balalyage and hair painting, and my style in particular is very funky,” says Natalie, who wears a short pixie that she gets from a local barber. “Today, cuts with designs at the sides and back that have longer tops are popular with men and women.”
As are lady barbers, another trend Natalie got on top of a few years ago. “I took it on myself to learn barbering skills by shadowing a local barber for a month,” she says. “ I offered to sweep, mop and do whatever he needed done so that I could learn. One notable difference besides using a clipper is that barbers really know how to work with head shape.”
Natalie recently competed in the CT Barber Expo’s barber battle, which brought her local attention, and more male clients. As for her trendy female clients, they are already asking for the wine, eggplant, magenta and coppery colors that will make hair color special by September.
“Traditional foiling will never go away; for one thing, it’s crucial for doing corrective work,” notes Natalie. “But balayage and hair painting will really add sparkle to all the new fall tones.”