It’s a cold Monday afternoon in February and I’m walking through Rittenhouse Square, hopping over piles of snow as I search for 128 South 19th Street. I find it nestled on a second floor walk-up just off of the square (in the space that was previously the upstairs bar at Loie). A small sign on the door reads “The Studio CL”. It is a brand new business concept from hair stylist Artur Kirsh. Kirsh, originally from Russia, moved to the United States in the mid 1990’s and began honing his craft at the age of sixteen. In 1996 he arrived in Philadelphia and began building his reputation amongst local and national celebrities (including Kathy Griffin and Celine Dion).
Kirsh has recently revamped his Studio CL into a new brainchild which he expects to revolutionize the stereotypical hair salon: “The Workshop” at Studio CL.
Boasting custom color techniques (the old Loie bar has been converted into a hair color bar) and a “dry cutting” method, Kirsh is able to stay on the cutting edge of style. He explained to me that “by cutting and styling hair while it is dry, you are able to instantly get a more visual approach”.
Upon entering The Workshop I can instantly tell that this place is unique. The space is very fluid allowing hair stations to be moved around freely. Abstract art covers the walls. A small set of stairs leading to the upper portion of the Studio CL, as well as the hallway at the top, are painted in warm, vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. With a smile Kirsh explains to me that he personally painted it that late one night. He hates the word “salon” and really wants the Studio and Workshop spaces to have a one of a kind feel.
Dressed in a red flannel shirt and a black winter cap, Kirsh introduces me to the staff members working that day. They are a mix of senior stylists and apprentices. The Workshop trains all new stylists in house to assure that they learn color and cutting techniques from industry veterans (such as Kirsh and senior stylist and creative director Alexey Kats).
Normally The Workshop would be filled with clients in the early afternoon but today something special is going on. The Studio space has been transformed into a space for a photo-shoot. Kirsh, Kats, and other Workshop stylists are collaborating with a make-up artist and local models. The models take turns having their hair and make-up styled. Next each will be dressed by a stylist (who looks surprisingly like Sarah Jessica Parker) in fashions provided by Neiman Marcus and hand made jewelry from local designer Christine Yi (www.facebook.com/cyijewelry).
As I watch Kirsh literally create hair concepts on the spot, he tells me that he really wants his clients to feel special, as if the Studio CL and the treatment they receive there is a secret that only they (and a select other few Philadelphians) know about. His eyes light up as talks about The Workshop and his work as a stylist, calling it “his high”.
“I have two things I love,” he states matter-of-factly, “My son, and what’s around me” (referring to the Studio).
The shoot is almost ready to begin and it is becoming clear that this is no ordinary photo-shoot. It is a true collaboration that will benefit everyone involved. The models will get new photos for their portfolios, and the Workshop, Neiman Marcus, and Christine Yi will all have use of the photos as well. Everyone involved seems very happy with the arrangement and as the staff playfully changes the music from country, to hip-hop, to rock, to Russian house…everyone seems relaxed and excited.
Glancing over at a wall of hair care products, I notice that many of them bear the brand name “Artur” and ask him about it.
“My customers use it at home… so they take a shower and I am always with them,” he jokes.
The hairstyles are like nothing I have ever seen. It is clear that hair can truly be an artistic medium in a way I had never considered before. I am struck with the urge to hop into the chair myself and ask Kirsh to work his magic on my hair but I manage to resist.
The models are filmed one at a time and when they have completed their individual session they return to have their hair, wardrobe, and jewelry changed. Often, between each individual photo, Kirsh or another stylist will step in to fix the slightest imperfection in the model’s hair creation. Being a photographer myself I break out my camera and decide to capture some shots of the day.
The models working that day all really enjoyed having the Studio stylists make them over (even though none of the hair styles are permanent). Local model Adrienne Schultz thought the whole experience was great. “It was awesome!” she told me.
As I exit the Studio CL Workshop back onto the snow covered street below I am struck with the feeling that I am now in the know about a Philadelphia gem. I am convinced that any woman leaving this distinctive space will do so feeling better about herself than when she walked in; something I am sure Artur Kirsh would be very proud of.
Oh and by the way guys, they style men’s hair too.
128 South 19th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103