Photography - HIRO
Text - MINA
Photography - HIRO
Text - MINA
TECHNE Hair and Salon
Photography - HIRO
Interview - MINA
"TECHNE is like a child, so I want to nurture it. And maybe this is a place where I can make the most of myself and perform. It continues to be a stage where my staff and I can express ourselves"
Japan is one of the largest hair salon countries in the world. Many skilled hair stylists in Japan dream of expanding overseas, and Zen was one of them. After more than ten years of experience in Japan, Zen came to Canada and worked at a Japanese hair salon in Vancouver before setting up his dream hair salon in Olympic Village. Today, Zen's salon is so popular with the local community that there is a 2-3 month wait list for an appointment.
Despite its location on a busy street on West 2nd in the Olympic Village neighborhood, the salon provides a lot of natural lights and hip music picked up by ex-DJ Zen himself. There is also a small outdoor patio where you can relax. With good vibes and friendly staff, you can forget about daily hustles and bustles in no time.
We asked Zen, a good old friend of VOICE, to share his Canadian Dream and his passion as a hairstylist.
VOICE(V): How did you become a hairstylist?
Zen(Z): Ever since I was young, I wanted to do something with my hands, and it all started with a light-hearted feeling that being a hairstylist sounded fun and hip. To become a hairstylist, you go through a national exam in Japan, so I studied by correspondence course while working on the side. Because I was working, it took me three years to complete the two-year program, but it was there that I learned the very basics of hairstyling. I worked at a couple of hair salons in my hometown of Gunma, and finally moved to a salon in Takasaki, which, at the time, had a reputation for being "hip." The building itself was very interesting, with a general store on the first floor, a Reggae and House music record shop on the second floor, a hair salon on the third floor, and a playground-like hideout for the owner on the fourth floor. The staff working there were all interesting and cool people, and besides being stylists, they were also doing side jobs as fashion buyers and something creative. There was even a DJ booth in the salon! I worked there for four years, from the age of 21 to 25. This salon made me realize for the first time that being a hairstylist is very interesting, and at the same time, it changed how I approach my work as a stylist.
No wonder I also got into music around this time. I held DJ events outside about twice a month, and after work, I would go to clubs in Tokyo until the wee hours of the morning, then come back and work at the salon. It was a very play-hard-work-hard period of my life!
V: What brought you to Canada?
Z: I had been interested in going abroad for a long time, and when I turned 30 and started thinking about becoming independent, I decided to give it a go. I had two daughters, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for their education.
After researching Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and other countries, I decided on Vancouver based solely on online information that it was "the best city in the world to live." I had no English skills and had never been there before, but I was fortunate to be granted a work visa to work at a Japanese hair salon in Vancouver.
V: What was your motivation for starting TECHNE Hair&Salon after that?
V: As any hairstylist would think, I started to grow a desire to make a business of my ideals when I was around my 40s. I wanted a salon that would not simply target Japanese customers but be rooted in the local community and help create cool styles. When I started looking for a potential location, I found a takeover property of a former hair salon listed for sale in the Olympic Village. The size was perfect for a one-person salon (at the time), and since the Olympic Village has become one of the hip places to live for many fashion-conscious people in their 30s, I thought this was an ideal place to start. I signed the contract at the end of 2015 and opened TECHNE Hair&Salon in January 2016. During my first year in the salon, I had no one else, so I did everything myself. Often I would answer the phone for appointments while cutting hair.
V: Where does the name TECHNE come from?
Z: TECHNE means “art” and “technic” in Greek. It sounded cute, so I decided on it for a while. In English, it means craftsmanship. My philosophy is that the salon offers cutting-edge techniques, but not too far ahead, and maybe about half a step ahead. As a business, I think this half-a-step style is more approachable to the people of Vancouver. I added the word "& Salon" after TECHNE because I wanted it to be where people gather and connect.
V: What are some of TECHNE's specialties?
Z: We are obsessed with music! As an ex-DJ, it is my job to be on top of the music scene, so I play the music others don't usually play. I often hear customers saying, "The music is good here. " So it is well received by music lovers.
We also use products, especially perm solutions, made in Japan. Japan has many high-quality hair products, so we try to stock them even if the price is a little high. For shampoos and treatments, we use Davines and Olaplex.
V: Do you have any sustainable initiatives?
Z: Not as much as I would like to do, but we have started selling and using a plant-based hair wax brand called O'Douds.
V: Has anything changed between the pre-and post-pandemic?
Z: My work style has changed. During the pandemic, I realized for the first time that I hadn't rested in a long time and that my body had taken a toll. I now try not to overdo my schedule and try to have some leeway. Also, I have noticed that more clients work from home now, so we are evenly busy throughout the week. That's why we have changed the salon hours to the same for all but Sundays.
There has also been a change in customer requests. During the pandemic, people didn't go out much, so they went crazy with new styles and trendy colors they had never tried before. It was like people enjoyed the freedom of self-expression and did not worry about what others would think. After the pandemic, many people went back to a more conservative style. It was pretty interesting.
V: How do you spend your days off?
Z: I like to eat, so I try to find new restaurants and go out to eat. I also like nature, so I often go hiking in the summer. I keep work and play separate.
V: If you weren't a hairstylist, what would you be?
Z: A chef, I guess. When I thought about a career as a teenager, I had always wanted to be either a chef or a hairstylist. My father was a third-generation carpenter, so I guess I also like working and making things with my hands.
V: What does the future look like for TECHNE?
Z: I would like to open another branch by the time I am 50 years old. In the future, I would like to challenge myself in a department other than hair styling, such as creative management, where I can make the most of my staff and people. It's completely different, but a food truck would be fun, too. I don't like to limit myself to a hair salon, so I would like to "keep it loose and light" as our salon greeting card says. I want to be frank and not so formal. When I work, I do a good job. I want to keep the essence of my work strong but still be friendly and relaxed. That is my motto.