Following the beat of her own drum

By Korea Herald

Salon owner strives to create a unique atmosphere for artists, entertainers

  • Published : Jun 12, 2014 - 20:14
  • Updated : Jun 12, 2014 - 20:14
This is the fourth in a series highlighting women and their accomplishments in the various facets of the Korean entertainment industry. ― Ed.

For salon owner Bang Ji-young, who also goes by Sarah, styling hair is not just a job ― it’s her life’s passion and an avenue for her to express herself. She considers herself an artist and often collaborates with other artists outside of her salon’s doors.

Her salon, There’s Salon in Gyeongnidan, is a physical expression of her passion for all things art and music, from the bright colors and antique mirrors, to the classic light fixtures, all of which she chose herself. She said she often likes to mix the old with the new, the classical with the trendy.

“I used to always dream about doing art. Like piano and drawing and fashion. I used to so get into all different art,” she said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

It was her father, a tailor in Apgujeong, who first told her to pursue hair styling after noticing how she selected hair accessories. Her mother then pushed her to start training. Since then, she’s spent more than 15 years styling for weddings, individuals, photo shoots, parties and events ― including Wheesung’s second album ― as well as teaching other hairdressers how to style for idol stars. 
Bang Ji-young, owner of There’s Salon (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

But it was her desire to create a unique atmosphere that wasn’t so much a hair salon, but a place that could help inspire her creative clients, that pushed her to open There’s just two years ago. The salon came about after five years of feeling unprepared as two opportunities to open up shop passed her by.

However, she always kept her eye on Gyeongnidan because of its eclectic mix of residents.

“I knew it was going to be different, because the people who are living around this area are better than anywhere else in Itaewon. I just like the energy around here, because a lot of artists were just hiding themselves here,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to only work for Korean hair salons. So I didn’t want to create that kind of typical hair shop.”

And from her pet cat Coco who lazes about, to her small staff’s laidback vibe, nothing about her salon, or her career, is typical. The salon itself, bright and full of music and laughter, as well as Bang’s infectious energy and penchant for unique styling attract a more creative clientele from various art and entertainment fields, including a member of indie punk band Crying Nut.

“Our friends, our clients, all of them are artists, like designers -― fashion designers, shoes designers, accessory designers, painters. ... This is what I dreamed. I love this.”

Involved in the art scene and indie music scene in Korea, Bang said it must be her different kind of energy that attracts collaborations, clients and work for entertainment events.

This energy comes in handy when doing large jobs such as all the hair and makeup for three local Itaewon clubs on Halloween. Last year, she gathered about 30 friends and fellow stylists to tackle the styling for 150 staff members at the clubs that night. She was in charge of a team of 10 to create finger waves, a style she says is difficult to do just right, on 80 girls to fit the party’s Gatsby theme.

“It was crazy, but I really enjoyed it. I loved the rush and doing something crazy,” she said.

She sees inspiration in everything, but one particular collaboration that feeds her is her work with a fashion designer studying in Milan. “Whenever he has a photo shoot for his job or work ... it gives me so much inspiration and I love it. Just thinking a lot on how to make different things, it’s so unique,” she said.

And she said she isn’t planning on stopping. Her dream is to create a salon that is a community for artists to come together to create and collaborate, as well as get a haircut. It’s part salon, part studio, where everyone, artist or otherwise, is welcome.

“I want to make them a community that has a cozy and homey atmosphere. ... You can do whatever you want to, like play the piano and paint,” she said, adding that she hopes to incorporate Korean architecture by having it housed in a hanok, or traditional Korean house, and hopes to open more locations in Seoul as well as New York.

By Emma Kalka (ekalka@heraldcorp.com)