**Update as of 7/14 (the original service was rendered 6/29) - they gave me my money back along with an apology, so I'm updating my review. It doesn't change my original experience, but they did the right thing. Please see my last comment below.**
When people keep saying “It’s not THAT bad,” you know it’s got to be at least kind of bad. I went to Studio 904 http://www.studio904.com/index.html in Pioneer Square based on other JB’ers' reviews. The idea sounded promising: the Japanese owner promoting the “kaizen” (improving upon oneself) approach to business, team of staff working on salary, no tipping policy but guaranteed good service, and giving back to the community. I wanted to like it so much. I wanted to love it in fact. It hurts me to give it a bad rating. Well here was my experience, so you be the judge.
I should preface my review by saying that I’m a discerning (= picky) customer with special needs – having grown up in Tokyo, arguably one of the world’s most competitive cities when it comes to hair salons and new technique/technology, I have been spoiled. Also I’m an Asian girl with naturally curly/wavy hair (in case you haven't noticed, it's rare). So even if I was lucky to find a Japanese hairstylist who can cut straight hair well, chances of me running into a phantom stylist who can hold up to my standards at a good price AND optimally do a good dry cut on curly/wavy hair (so they cut hair when it’s dry where it falls naturally, not when it’s wet/combed and can’t see the curls/waves) is like finding a unicorn.
So, I wasn’t expecting anything perfect, but even then I was a bit disappointed (understatement). In fact I felt like crying walking out the salon. But I feel like it’s my fault for falling into the latest gimmick (I’m also about the easiest person to market something to) – “weave perm” – so I felt stupid and didn’t feel like complaining (when it’s for a worthy cause/nonprofit or for someone else I complain and fight like heck, but for myself I’m so Japanese and passive!).
"Weave perm" is apparently another way of saying only perming parts/select strands of your hair, so it would blend in with your natural curls/waves and “enhance” them while "retaining natural look" to make styling easier. It sounded perfect for my half-hearted curly/wavy hair.
First, the “team” approach. It would work well if the team actually talked a lot more in a multi-stage process. I was under the impression the first person I was talking to (Miriam; very nice) would cut my hair, so I explained to her with several pictures what I was going for – then we agreed upon what we would and wouldn’t do. Then I had two people putting rods in my hair, after Miriam exchanged just a couple of sentences with the gentleman. I tried to stress my hair perms easily (along with the past horror story) to Miriam and that the hair should be rolled loosely with big rods, so I trusted them. (But I was nervous, because ignoring my natural curls, they rolled my bangs in the completely opposite direction of my curls. And I didn’t have cotton at first around my face, only after the fact, so when they poured the solution it dripped into my eye and mouth. Ouch.)
Then someone else rinsed my hair and did the gloss, which was fine, and then yet another person – Rachael (also very nice) showed up and told me she would cut my hair. All this without warning or explaining of the process. So I kind of assumed Miriam and Rachael talked to each other about what I’d wanted – so when she asked me what I was going for, I was briefer, because I talked in length with Miriam, though I did try to show Rachael the same pictures. (I was also tired of explaining all over again and coming to an agreement – my mistake; I should’ve been more thorough, but why should I have to go through it twice???)
Let’s just say my newly found bangs are fighting my natural curls (because it was rolled in completely opposite direction) it’s winding in weird directions; it got lopped off at a weird spot in the middle of a wave (you girls with curly hair know what I’m talking about), and it’s too short for the amount of curl and in regard to what I discussed with Miriam/Rachael. It looks kind of silly. I’m pinning that up until it grows out.
And despite the fact I pointed to this nice, big wavy hair picture of Molly Sims in the catalog Miriam brought out to pick the size of the wave – and despite the fact I explained multiple times my hair takes perm easily – my hair looked more like Nicole Kidman’s in 80's, when she was actually a redhead with natural curls. (Good look on her with small head, tall statuesque body, longer hair, but not me: short body, big Japanese head and shorter hair.) And although I pointed to pictures with nice cascading layers throughout with longer length in the back, it looks nothing like the pictures, partly due to the kinky curls – it looks mostly like it’s one length except for around my face.
Then they offered, “It looks really cute! And the curls will loosen up some”… Nothing takes away dignity from a PMS-y girl more effectively than a bad haircut complete with poodle perm. So I paid my dues and left. On their website http://www.studio904.com/index.html they advertised they would take 20% off a weave perm with a haircut, but I only realized I didn’t get that 20% off when I got home – by then I was too hurt and tired to complain (a bad haircut makes me act like a dog with the tail between her legs).
They were all nice and perfectly pleasant with chamomile tea and all, but hair is their business, not a cafe, and the “team” process didn’t work for me. Perm technology is much better in Japan, salons having done lots of “body perm” to give bigger, subtle waves to straight or slightly wavy hair, but I guess having a Japanese owner didn’t mean that the salon had it down.
I stress this was just my experience – others with straight/different type hair or doing just a single process may have a perfectly good time with them. And the “no tipping policy” is in fact nice as there are no guessing – but as much as I earn for consistent service without worrying about tip, maybe there’s something to working hard for a good tip.
Good location, they validate $1 of parking, the salon is clean (in a back-to-basics, exposed brick, industrial loft kind of way) and pleasant. They use and sell Aveda products.
For now, I’ll just wash my hair and wait for it to relax and grow out :-( I wish they could reimburse me for the retail therapy and hair clips I bought to get over this period.