Calgary’s Hedkandi Salon Wins Contessa Award for Interior Design

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By Max MacDonald

Many people don’t know that Canada, yes Canada, has its own hairdressing awards run by Salon Magazine. Now in it’s 31st season, The Contessa’s, as people in the know will say, is Canada’s unofficial “Oscar’s of hairdressing”.

The annual event is attended by some of the biggest names in Canadian hairdressing, make up, nail arts, and creative styling. Hosted by the gregarious and formidable Bill Rowley, for well over 25 years, it has seen a roster of stars grace the stage from Lady Buddy to the late Oribe. The Contessa’s, once a humble show, is now broadcast globally. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to attend The Contessa’s you know there are different categories ranging from: Canadian Hairstylist to Avant Garde Hairstylist. As Rowley announces each section there’re simultaneous: cheers, screams of glee, and chants for the nominated salons and stylists. “OK great!”  You’re thinking. “But why should you care about what a hair salon does?” Here’s why. Unlike traditional retail businesses hair salons survive on three things: word of mouth, the quality of service and “Oh that hairdresser who does that thing to my hair!” In this social media age with: Google, Yelp, and Redditt reviews one bad experience can lead to a turndown of revenue, bad reputations, and top stylists jumping ship. 

To combat this salon owners are now creating environments. Gone are the rows of pastel-covered overhead hairdryers and stylist chairs, mirrors with encased in lightbulbs and a gum-snapping receptionist. Now Canadian salons are turning into mini spas offering everything from simple hair and make up to full on spa services and classes.

PHOTOS: HEDKANDI

This is what Contessa 2020 winner, Salon Interior Design, Hedkandi Salon, in Calgary, Alberta achieved. Hedkandi Calgary’s interior was designed by McKinley Burkart. Inspired by vintage beauty parlors, Californian lofts, and the aging party girl, Hedkandi salons are designed to be functional, well-designed spaces which feel as eclectic as someone’s home.

McKinley Burkart put the idea of “tribes” first. In their research on clients congregation they found people naturally gravitated towards others with similar taste and style, therefore forming a tribe. They recognized those patterns and used them in their design approach. This allowed them to design spaces that vary visually yet are equally comfortable.

PHOTOS: HEDKANDI

Keeping this ideal in mind, they did a take on Adolf Loos’ 30’s style interiors, with its marbled floors and coffered ceilings. Upon entry, a large geometric cerused wood reception desk greets clients. Brass and smoked glass screens create privacy for Hedkandi’s clients, but also create curiosity from mall walkers as they pass by. The salon is home to one-of-a-kind light fixtures including the unique custom lights with scalloped edges that float above cutting stations.

In the landscape of Canadian retail, with businesses vying for the ever-fickle consumer dollar, salons are reaching into the past, blending in concepts of today, and mixing them into an award-winning future. 

Max MacDonald is a Toronto-based, award-winning, writer and editor. He has appeared as a personality on TV, radio and social media commenting on fashion, design and beauty. Max was the longest-running fashion editor at FAB Magazine where he interviewed everyone from the late celebrity hairdresser, Oribe, to Madonna. In 2014 he the created the online publication The Edito where he interviewed notables such as dance diva Kristine W. to Christopher Ciccone. 2016 saw him help legendary Toronto drag queen, Michelle Dubarry, obtain a Guinness World Record to global accolades.

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