You know those little shops, the ones heard by word of mouth from a friend and are tucked away between buildings and bustling streets? Those little shops that end up being an experience rather than just a place? That’s The Hub Factory in downtown Los Angeles and its creative owner and hairstylist, Gaëlle Secretin.
After embarking on what felt like a journey to unearth my hair’s inner workings, I asked her a few questions for a glimpse into her unique salon and the inspiration behind her career.
Darling Magazine: What was the most important aspect you envisioned when thinking up The Hub Factory?
Gaëlle: Community. I always hated big groups, but for some reason I wanted to create community. When I was in Paris I was inspired by boutiques and concept stores with a very strong sense of identity and I think I related to that. I have a very particular clientele and they live in different areas, but I wanted to create a space they could all relate to. That’s why I called it the Hub, actually.
DM: How has it been being a female in the business industry and supporting an all female staff? Are there any advantages or disadvantages you’ve faced?
Gaëlle: I don’t know about the US, but in my country [France] and especially in this industry it ‘s very masculine – the top hairstylists are men and very macho. I would say that it was challenging, you have to learn the boundaries. With the women I worked with it was very protective and close knit, but with guys it was another story. Here I have only worked with females and I’ve never had any problems; they have always been very supportive. When you start having your own business it feels like it’s a man’s world –you can’t be too sensitive.
DM: What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome moving from Paris to downtown Los Angeles?
Gaëlle: The language! And beyond the language it was the culture. As Europeans and Americans there are very different tastes so I had to learn the social tribes and cues to answer properly to my clients needs.
DM: How has art inspired you in the hair industry?
Gaëlle: I am very creative and observant, so I can be inspired by almost anything. A painting or graffiti … but I say I am most inspired by being in the street and watching people and how they are creative themselves. For example, street art or tattoos. But also by nature as well. There is no specific art or genre, you know? You just have to observe and have it invoke something in you.
DM: Women can have a very strong attachment to their hair as it relates to their identity. Has your perspective on beauty changed since becoming a hairdresser and working with so many different clients?
Gaëlle: It’s a very interesting thing, hair. It’s not something you wear and you can take off, it’s part of your identity. In French we say that your hair is a reflection of your soul, that’s how deep it is for us. You can read a lot about a person through their hair. My first job is to be able to do that. Certain people will hide themselves or try to control it instantly or try to go against their nature. I didn’t need to be a hairstylist to understand that. It’s a very unique relationship. As a hairstylist you have to respect that, that’s the number one priority. If you don’t, it’s you are walking on their limits or desires.
In French we say that your hair is a reflection of your soul, that’s how deep it is for us.
For me, it’s important that your hair is healthy, but of course you have to love it first. Health is very important – it’s almost like I can hear the hair talking! When you sit down in the chair I always ask, “Tell me how you are feeling,” because the clients will tell me everything. Rather than risking projecting anything on to them, I first hear how they see their hair, how they touch it, style.
DM: The décor and design of your salon is very unique compared to others; what do you hope clients feel when they walk in?
Gaëlle: I want them to feel like they are welcome to my home, because this is very much a reflection of my inner world through traveling and all the things I like: going to flea markets and finding hidden gems, I like colors, I like sketchy and rough textures rather than clean lines, and plants too. So, it’s like coming to my home – it’s a big part of who I am. I want them to feel comfortable with themselves, I want them to feel like there is no judgment or they don’t have to pretend to be someone they are not. They are safe, can put their guard down, and can be open .
DM: What do you love the most about doing hair?
Gaëlle: I guess it’s the connection with people. The creative part is what I had when I first started. My first look was so edgy (I had shaved my hair down to a curly Mohawk) but that was part of what it was when I first started doing hair. It was this narcissistic thing, and you had to be in the right salons and know the right people.
Now my reasons are so completely different. It’s about the person and meeting new people. I started in this country with only referrals, so I would attract people that I relate to; I would attract family and friends. I get to remember their stories and I care about them. My last client just announced that she was pregnant, and sometimes I know these things even before their family does. For me, it’s never felt like working.
If you’re in LA, find The Hub Factory in the Arts District at 2035 Bay St. 90021. By appointment only, (310) 954-1433.
Images by Ashley Randall