An Interview With Phillip Addario, Founder of Phillip Bruce Salon in Westport
Phillip Addario, co-founder of Phillip Bruce Salon in Westport, is a town legend. After interviewing him for this blog, I understand why.
After opening Phillip Bruce Salon in 1988, Phil became the hairstylist to beat. If you were not seen in his chair, you really had not arrived. I know because I moved to Westport in the early 90s and it was tough to get an appointment with Phil.
At that time, Westport was a creative town. Painters, musicians, advertising execs and style gurus were arriving in droves to make Westport their home. Phil was always comfortable among these artistic types because of his highly-visual eye and his great sense of fashion.
As the mix of residents evolved to include Wall Streeters’, it also grew in sophistication and wealth. Westporters, who insisted on having the latest in style for their homes and vehicles, had plenty of purchasing options to choose from. When it came to personal hair style, however, options were more limited and many still came to see Phil for the best solution.
Today, Phillip commands a jaw-dropping, hourly rate… one that his loyal clients gladly fork over.But if you think you can’t afford Phil right now, Phillip Bruce Salon has plenty of options. Just call Marie at the front desk and let her help you find the right solution.
The interview at Phillip Bruce Salon in Westport
Speaking with Phil at his salon in Westport was truly eye-opening, especially when he popped a $1,500 dollar, gorgeous, straight, blond, human-hair wig over my rain-frizzed, dark brown hair. I took a selfie, which I won’t share, but I’m telling you this because Phil and that wig completely changed the way I see myself! I just might try being a blonde for the first time in my brunette-only life.
Here’s what Phil had to say…
Q: Tell us what you think about when you are working with a client.
A: I’m only thinking about them. I know this sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. I have a particular kind of focus that won’t allow me to think about anything else except what will make this particular person feel like a million bucks. And not just for a salon moment, but straight through until they come back to see me again.
Q: There must be a thought process within that focus. Can you describe it in detail?
A: (thoughtful silence) Well, first of all, I’m grateful that there is a real human in my chair, one that has come to me with their trust and hope. I really enjoy people, and the one I am working with at any particular moment deserves my full attention. They deserve all the talent that I can muster on their behalf. That’s my first thought.
From there, I remind myself that I have been trusted to provide a solution that makes them feel fresh and new. Modern yet classic. Timeless and carefree. All of it.
I consider myself an artist because what I do is no different than what a painter does on a canvas or composer on a sheet of music. It starts with what my client wants to accomplish, then the thought process kicks in, and finally… there is a solution.
Q: Yes, but unlike many artists, you have to please someone else, not just yourself. How does this square with you?
A: Not always easily. We at the salon are “public artists”. Our work walks around and becomes part of the landscape. It ends up in photographs, social media, and parties or at an office. My art is in the form of a hairstyle. It can change on a daily basis based on the weather and how well the client maintains what I have created. So, what people think of my work doesn’t just depend on me liking it. It’s about how the person who walks out of our salon in Westport, feels wearing that hairstyle until they come back.
When a painter hangs a finished canvas in their own home, only they need to be pleased with it. But the minute someone else sees that painting and reacts to it, the artist’s perception of their own work changes. It’s an age-old dilemma and not one I want to think about too much because it makes my head hurt.
Q: Do you follow fashion trends?
A: Oh yes. I’m a world traveler and a people watcher. I love just sitting in the cafés watching it all go by, but the best part is learning what’s new.
Q: Who is the world leader of fashion these days?
A: I think that social media has changed the concept that fashion starts in one place. It used to begin in France or perhaps Italy. They were the forerunners of a certain look, but now style can be born in rural Kansas and instantly get people trying it on in Japan. I love that! It makes creativity a worldwide phenomenon.
Q: So what do fashion and style tell us about our lives?
A: Fashion is an expression of the times. Sometimes those times are calm and styles, including hairstyles, are relaxed and beachy looking. But today, people seem tenser than usual. I’m often very surprised to find out what people ask me to do with their hair. They want intense color combinations and hair extensions tinged with those bright colors. They want “rebellious” hairstyles that seem to reflect a bit of anger and frustration. They want to look different or like someone other than themselves. It’s a sign of the times. We, as artists, are here to express the times. That’s what fashion is all about. That’s what we are all about at our salon in Westport
Q: Was that what the 60s were all about?
A: Who knows what the 60s were all about. All I know is that I had an Afro!
Q: How do you handle a new hair consult at your salon in Westport?
A: With great focus! I look at the person’s bone structure and the texture of their hair. I ask about their lifestyle and what they do in their free time. We often talk about things other than hair. Getting to really know a person during a 20-minute consult is not possible, but it is possible to see the essence of them. I make suggestions, mostly based on the realities of lifestyle and physique. But I think what really makes me different is my ability to add that extra something to their self-esteem. For me, it’s all about how people carry themselves as they leave our salon. Holding their head high, walking with a bolder gait… that’s what makes my day!
Q: Where do you want to take your salon as we approach the third decade of this century?
A: I want everyone to know that we are on their side. It doesn’t matter if you are young, middle-aged or beautifully mature. Even though we are a very established salon, we want people to know that our hair color and style will always reflect the times.
Remember. At Phillip Bruce Salon you can always be yourself… with style!
(Oh, and did I mention the fresh cappuccino and tempting bowl of European chocolates available for all their clients and guests? Yum!)