The other day when I arrived at Oranj Studio—a hair salon and gallery with designs on retail in the South Waterfront district—I was confronted with the question, "Have you ever been down to this area?" Actually, not much. I haven't even ever ridden the tram (Is it really that exciting? Be honest.). I still think of the area as empty, a monument to failed condo sales. And in a way it is, but after converting some of those spaces into rental properties, there appears to be some nascent life in in it, with retail ventures slowly filling in the rows of empty windows along its quiet streets. Oranj is among the hipper additions, built literally out of the ashes of a fire on NE Alberta.
Tamara Dayton, with her husband Eric Dayton, opened in the South Waterfront this past April, after long stints in the Pearl District and NE Alberta, the latter location having been abandoned after the 2011 blaze that also affected Aviary. In between these changes she managed to retain what she estimates as about 80% of her original clients by making house calls. Originally from Boise and with a major travel bug, Dayton's lived abroad in Korea and Europe, specializing in cuts suited to the same finely textured hair that she has. ("I'm the bang master," she boasts.)
The salon is huge, airy, filled with light and snaking duct work, giant windows and mirrors bouncing the room even bigger. It's pretty, but the real highlight is the fact that the washing station chairs are butt-grabbing massagers, which combined with a scalp massage are pretty nice.
The products dominating Oranj's shelves are label.m, a British company with high fashion and environmental leanings. I found the natural oil-based Souffle, which is so light you can rub it in as a hand lotion to be as vaguely pleasant as its promises of "texture expansion." The hairspray was almost unnoticeable (a good thing), but the most remarkable is the Resurrection Style Dust, a curious powder that, when shaken onto your roots and teased in, creates firm, unmistakable volume, in stark contrast to the other products' subtleties. Dayton encourages the stylists to make these products their own, hosting a "creative night" every Tuesday, when they experiment on mannequins and each other or put together photo shoots.
In addition to hair products, the Daytons are planning to fuse their love of travel with the business, selling limited amounts of hard-to-access products like accessories and small home goods picked up on travels like their first buying trip, to Barcelona, London, and New York.