Sylvie | The Loft
I knew from meeting you right away you were a born creative, but what has your career path look like?
I went to school for Animation at Algonquin, that was a 2-year program and then I did it for a year or two after I graduated. I really went into it because I loved drawing, and I wanted to get out of North Bay, my sister lived in the city so it felt like the next thing to do. Just as I was getting into it though, things were starting to move digital and for me, I need tangible things, working at a desk became less and less interesting.
Then I did what every child of the 90’s did or wanted to do, which was to galivant around the country, I went out to B.C., smoked pot for a bit and when I came back to Ottawa I started working as receptionist at a hair salon. I started to see this was a real job and very lucrative and that is when I went to school to be a hairstylist. I say this is my 19th year of doing hair, which makes me sound so old, but I feel like I floundered a lot in my teenage years and early twenties and this career and this city I have stuck to the longest, I am still super inspired by my industry, even with this lockdown, I am even more inspired because it is being really overlooked right now.
How has that felt, being locked out of your career, your inspiration and creativity?
This gets overlooked a lot, but for obvious reasons, we are an essential service. Imagine going on a zoom meeting for an interview and you are not presenting yourself as your most confident self and what if someone is judging you and you miss out on an opportunity, you know people can’t help but have first impressions. People in these creative fields, photographers, tattoo artists, hair stylists, our skills are not transferrable, these are our fields of expertise, they are essential to us!
I feel like the government is asking us to shut up and sit tight, which I get, I believe in science, I believe in medicine, don’t get me wrong, but what we do, are people making decisions out of desperation and giving up all their creativity, and getting jobs to work from home, that is suppressing an entire type of person.
We met through Ottawa Fashion Week, which The Loft was a sponsor of, when did you start working there, and did you know you wanted to own your own salon?
I want to say 2004/2005, I started working at The Loft Le Spa in Ottawa, and no I definitely wasn’t thinking about owning my own salon. I was really happy there and the owners, Paul Valletta and Bruno Racine were great mentors. I think they saw how strong my work ethic was and because of that they were very supportive of me. I knew by working hard I would get back what I was putting into my career. When I did make the move to Toronto eventually I partnered with them to open my space here, since then I have transitioned and The Loft is co-owned by myself and Paul.
When did you move Toronto and did you open The Loft here right away?
I moved here in 2010, at that point I was coming to the city for Fashion Week twice a year, for Luminato once a year and coming for shoots and guest spots and I really liked the buzz the city had. At that point, Toronto was just offering me more creative options and that became really appealing. When I moved here, I started working at a salon for 2-3 years, but I stayed close with Paul and Bruno. What I did see was that having a work environment where creativity could thrive and support was offered was a rarity. Where I was in Toronto, everyone kind of came in and out, there wasn’t any comradery, support or inclusiveness. It was very much the mentality of these are my successes, and I worked hard for what I have so I am not going to share my knowledge, and that isn’t how I grew up in the industry, to me knowledge is power and sharing that knowledge gives you a lot of respect and support from people.
Past being a hair stylist, and entrepreneur, you also have taught and are a leader in setting trends in your industry. Have you always enjoyed teaching the next generation and passing on your experience?
In different ways I have been teaching from the get go. Leading Ottawa Fashion Week was a big teaching moment because I was teaching stylists how do a look. I could sit there and actually show them, look we didn’t think this was possible but we got there and now I am going to show you, that to me is a really powerful thing, because I know how to do this and the next powerful thing is I am going to teach you. The other thing is you are never beyond your craft and the ones who want to learn from you, they have ideas that you want to know how to do and I am not too proud to ask to learn from them!
That is amazing, I mean that is why Kaja and I fell in love with working with you, we just loved how open to collaboration you were and so down to just experiment and push the idea and ourselves creatively. Ok quickly going back, when did you officially open The Loft in Toronto?
Oh, thank you, I mean that is why I love doing events like Fashion Week, you really do get to meet fellow creatives that you will work with for years to come. So, I officially opened April 2, 2013 so we just celebrated our 8th anniversary.
Obviously 2020 was a crazy year for all, on top of closures and dealing with your business, you became a mother. Béatrice was born in April; how has it been becoming a mother during such a unique time in history?
Over the last year we have been able to create rituals, which has been so nice. I really wasn’t planning on taking that long off after her birth, but with everything being shut down for so long we have been given time with her and has been cherished. It has taught me to calm down, but I also feel like I don’t have a tether to my life prior to 2020. I think it will be great to get back to work and have that piece of myself back and I do feel like I will be a better mother and partner. My career gives me so much confidence, it is something that I don’t question what I am doing and to have that taken away this year has been hard, I am ready to have it back.
What did March 2020 look like and what have you done to keep the business going?
I was still working in March (Béa was due in April, I had a scheduled C-section) so I was on the floor with a client when we got word that we would have to shut down. At the beginning everyone thought this will just be 2 weeks, so for months we had a sign on the Queen St location that said see you in April! I was mega pregnant when we shut down, then had a newborn, so my partner would go by to make sure it was all good, but that sign just stayed up there!
Throughout the first lockdown I was doing orders through email and curb-side picks ups and by the end of the first lockdown I realized I needed to upgrade my website to allow for e-commerce, which is when we opened our Shopify account. This is definitely a downfall of mine, I am reluctant of doing anything digital because I don’t know it and also, I am reluctant to delegate, so I needed to bend on both of those. Once I accepted that, I paid someone else to do it for me!
** When Sylvie and I talked, her reopen was planned for April 12th, (her shop and stylists hadn’t worked since Nov. 13th) but unfortunately that was pushed as another lockdown was put into place. Before posting this, I reached out and asked how this month has been staying busy.
We are still selling online and I am constantly working on updating the space to make sure when we do reopen everything is safe and ready to accept clients. I am also taking classes every Friday to keep my creative edge and I am doing some cheeky custom embroidery to stay busy.
What are you currently reading?
Expectation by Anna Hope
Sylvie is the definition of an entrepreneur. She is always pushing to make herself and her business at the top of their game, she passes her knowledge onto the next generation and is eager to learn from them as well. I always felt lucky to work with someone like this so early in my career, she set the tone and example of how I wanted to conduct myself in my own company. I adore working with her, seeing her company grow and getting my own hair done by her. Her industry has been greatly overlooked this past year and half and I highly recommend finding ways to support your own hairstylist in whatever way you can, whether it is through products they sell, gift card and booking an appointment as soon as they have a reopen date. If you are in the Toronto area, Sylvie and her team of stylists at The Loft are exceptional, you can check out the products they offer here.
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