Chaz Dean—creator of WEN by Chaz Dean and owner of the Chaz Dean Salon—is a hairstylist with a strong artistic vision and passion for his work. Working in the business since 1985, he has perfected a balance of holistic wellness and visionary ambition that has drawn clients to his innovative product lines and off-the-beaten-path salon outpost. Of late, Dean has been busy converting a series of three traditional craftsman bungalows into a virtual oasis of beauty, all while remaining open for business and also making regular appearances on QVC. Such multi-tasking success is part of his sincere charm, however, so JC Report’s own Beauty Guru Geoffrey Rodriguez chatted with him about his photography roots, renovating his new salon and the new face of infomercials.
JC Report: What was your motivation behind choosing the location for your salon.
Chaz Dean: It occurred to me that I wanted to be somewhere else besides the more affluent Westside, to create something special and unique for my clients to look forward to coming back to—a destination. When we moved onto the property [three 1920's craftsman styled bungalows] I moved into one of the houses, which has recently been converted into our retail shop and corporate offices.
JCR: You originally studied photography and came to LA to pursue it. How did this influence your career as a hairstylist?
CD: As a photographer you see every single detail and I became very interested in all aspects of the beauty that I was seeing behind the camera. This interest grew into a true passion for beauty and I wanted to know how to do hair (and make-up), so I enrolled in cosmetology school.
JCR: After completing your training, you began apprenticing at a salon in Bel Air that you eventually took over as your own. What in your early experiences as an apprentice inspired you and how has that inspiration evolved into where you are today?
CD: Early on I was able to see firsthand the often-damaging affects traditional products can have on the hair as well as to the environment. As an apprentice I was given the freedom to mix things together and try them on clients and see the results. This eventually led to developing products for other companies, so I was able to really see that there was definitely room for something new that actually worked without all the harsh, chemical ingredients traditionally in hair products.
JCR: What is different about WEN and why does it work?
CD: I worked on the samples of WEN for over five years before it actually went into any bottles. I would create a product and then use it on myself and ask my staff what their likes and dislikes were. Often I would use one formula on one half of my hair and another on the other half, just to see if my staff not only preferred the results that I liked but also to kind of throw them off and test their knowledge. Literally every product was created this way and not until everyone agreed did we package the products. The WEN product line features the first and only “cleansing conditioner” that is really an all-in-one product. It eliminates the traditional steps of shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, styling products, etc., ane everyone can use it.
JCR: Does WEN also work for ethnic hair, which is often very hard to find the right products for?
CD: Yes definitely! WEN works on everyone!
JCR: What is the inspiration behind the name?
CD: When I was creating the products, I wanted to come up with the prefect name—something short and zen-like. I kept asking myself what specifically it was that I was doing that was different or unique. I knew that I was creating something innovative, that had never been done before, brand new concept. WEN is actually “new” spelled backwards. It was the perfect name and conveyed exactly what I wanted.
JCR: Infomercials and home shopping networks such as QVC were largely considered by many in your industry to be somewhat of a taboo in terms of brand image and prestige. How did you come to terms with selecting these retail channels and how has it paid off for you?
CD: That “taboo” I think is now a thing of the past, but when I was first approached with doing both I wasn’t very sure at all. After serious consideration I realized that not only was I doing something very unique, but I also realized that educating people about my products was extremely important. Both venues have offered me the opportunity not only to reach out to a new and enthusiastic customer, but [given me] the optimal platform to provide the best education about my products for my customers. Both venues continue to thrive.
JCR: With your salon located in a very non-salon neighborhood of Hollywood and creating such a revolutionary product line, do you consider yourself a pioneer?
CD: Definitely! Early on, I was referred to as a pioneer, but have also been labeled with titles like radical, trailblazing, revolutionary and ground-breaking. I am comfortable with any of those.
JCR: Lastly, how would you describe your signature style?
CD: I’d have to say that my signature style is all about individuality. I don’t subscribe to “cookie-cutter” styles where everyone has the same look. For me it’s so much more about each client—’the type of hair, lifestyle, facial structure and the amount of time one has to devote to their hair are all important factors that inspire my work. I also believe in using products that have clean, natural ingredients and that don’t harm the environment. What you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body.
This interview was conducted by Geoffrey Rodriguez