Off of a side street in the sleepy heart of Savannah, Georgia, you’ll find the home of Divine Allure, a classy joint where you know you’ll get the perfect style. “When I first opened I was kind of pushed to do it, you know,” owner Alia Freeman says with a laugh, “all my clients were asking ‘when are you going to get your own salon?’” We sat down with the owner to chat about the history of the salon as well as about her latest projects including Savannah’s first natural hair show.
Freeman was in the industry about 10 years before opening Divine Allure. “When I first started in salons I started in an apprenticeship for about five years and then after that I went to school at Empire Beauty School. After I got my license I was in the business for about two years before I pushed through and got my own salon.”
What was it like developing your concept for the salon?
“It was very challenging, it’s been two years since I’ve opened. After opening I had to learn people, different softwares, organization—how to keep everything in order—it took a lot out of me as far as time to make sure I’m managing. I learned a lot about clients, I was used to my one on one clients but now I’m more learning about the whole salon’s clients. It’s been very challenging and it has a totally new feel, there’s always something new in this industry and it helps me keep an open mind.”
One of the first things you notice on walking in is that this salon has an incredibly upscale yet relaxed look. It’s classy enough that they can shoot their editorial projects on sight, but relaxed enough you don’t have to don heels to get your hair done. We wondered how she planned the interior design?
“When I first opened I didn’t really have a clear idea of how I wanted it to look. I knew I wanted a relaxed urban feel that was chill while still being upscale. My uncle was the carpenter, and I explained I wanted it to be as natural as possible—he had a vision for it and I wasn’t seeing it at first but once he got it together I started coming up with the colors. The gray gives it a neutral feel and the wood along the walls makes it very natural, the purple is important because it shows royalty.”
Divine Allure is one of the most popular salons in Savannah, what have you done to market?
“Right now we’re using mostly word of mouth, and social media. Google is our best friend. People who aren’t our clients come in because they google ‘natural hair’ and we pop up. That’s really helped us a lot. But most importantly, from what I’ve learned of marketing, is that word of mouth is a really great thing. You know if someone says, ‘Oh I got my hair done by so-and-so check them out,’ people want to check it out if they keep hearing about it. It’s a very powerful marketing tool.” And it’s been one that’s been very effective, the salon’s clientele base has grown exponentially over the last two years.
The Divine Allure staff work on a variety of photoshoots, we wanted to know a little more about why:
“One thing I’ve noticed as far as being a stylist we are artists. Most of the time when clients come in they have their minds set on how they want their hair, or they may have an idea but the photoshoots allow the artists to create. They allow us to create things that people won’t want to wear or won’t think to wear. It allows the consumer to see ‘this person is really creative.’ It also allows the consumer to trust the stylist a little more. It also is a way we can express ourselves. We are visual beings, we like to see things. It’s a way for us to have fun and promote ourselves. It’s just a big form of art and we love doing it.”
The shoots are more than just a way to add some artistic freedom, they use them, and other images of their work, to create hardback books showcasing the work the stylists do. These books are then displayed in the waiting area, we wondered what customers thought of them.
“It’s a way for the customers to come in and see ‘this is what we’re doing’ Other salons have their magazines, which is good too, but we’re noticing the things that are arising in the industry and it becomes an education tool.” Freeman explained that they use these images as a tool on their website and blog too, “For example, how important it is to keep your ends trimmed, we can post a photo of someone with their hair nice and trimmed and then explain to our customers the reasons why. It gives the clients an opportunity when they come in to learn about both healthy hair care and the new styles their stylists have created. It’s really like we’re creating our own magazines for the salon.”
Divine Allure focuses (in part) on natural hair, we wondered what lead Freeman to focus on that:
“It was what Savannah was missing, and back then I thought I was just going to be a natural hair stylist. As I’m growing in the industry I don’t think that’s it. Dealing with the hair show, Natural Hair is the main focus, but as far as the salon is concerned we’re starting to expand now. We’re doing a lot more Caucasians, African Americans (who aren’t focusing on natural), and hair cutting. We’re trying to be well rounded. When I first opened I focused on natural hair because, as I said, it was what was missing, in Savannah especially, but even in the world in general. There are natural hair stylists out there but I noticed that their aren’t many. However, that’s where the hair show comes in because it’s going to change that. That way stylists can be well rounded. There are some cities and states out there where the still don’t have natural hair stylists. That’s my goal, that stylists will be aware and trained.”
“I also have my own extension line—with two different textures, one kinky and one a little curlier. The reason I started the line was that I noticed that when I went natural my friend did at the same time and her hair just grew big. When I went natural my hair was so tight, I was natural for three years and my hair was not flopping down the way I wanted. With natural hair the tighter your curls are the more the shrinkage—with a looser curl it’ll flop. I wanted to help people who had longer hair but had shrinkage or maybe their hair is not full enough.” Freeman noted that having her own line definitely comes in handy!
Savannah Natural Hair Extravaganza
In 2011, because of her interest in the natural hair movement, Freeman started her Savannah Natural Hair Extravaganza (SNHE), and we wanted to know more about it. “I started SNHE when I was 20 years old, I’m 27 now, so I had no clue it was going to grow before my eyes. When I first started the show I thought it was going to be more of a little get together. Just a gathering of friends and clients and a few people who wanted to come. But we sold out of the first show. This show was more just because I noticed that people were going natural but not a lot of people were wearing styles. I love being creative so when I thought of natural hair I was thinking about how versatile it was. I started thinking about all the different styles. I was talking about throwing a show to a few people and then they kept asking. I was like, ‘I was just kidding!’ But after that I pursued it.” Not only was that first show popular but it sold completely out and they had to add chairs!
“After that we had ups and downs, it’s definitely been a learning experience for me as far as learning about not only how to put on a show but also about what the people needed. I incorporated education, hair styling techniques, now fashion, as well as empowerment—for women and men to love who they are, naturally. It’s a great experience, I love it. Now we’ve added the vendors in as well. Now I can help and be supportive to businesses in the natural hair industry. It also allows them to be able to tell about what they’ve started.” The annual show will be at the end of September 2017, so keep an eye out if you’re in the area. After the success of the show Freeman has truly come to understand the need the industry has for natural hair education. She now offers a Natural Hair Workshop as well (this year it will be February 5th).
In honor of our 2017 special feature we wanted to ask Freeman what she expects will be hot for 2017. “Color— color is what’s popping, regardless if you have a weave or are natural or have braids. Some shade of vibrant color is what’s going to bring the styles out. Also, the artists here are always ready to create, so who’s to say! We can create any kind of trends, we’re ready.” She also noted that style wise one of the biggest things right now are Pixie cuts.