I'm happy when people bloom at my touch.
Veronika Polakova, Studio Veronika, Prague
Veronika Polakova's path to becoming a hairdresser was simple - her mother is a hairdresser. The creative Veronika took up the trade with the tenacity of a ram and the results of her rapid progress were soon evident. The experience she gained while working at an international salon in Chicago was inevitably of great benefit to her as well. She's been running a popular salon in her home Dejvice and although she claims to be somewhat conservative, her work in the field of creating hairstyles is quite remarkable. She herself maintains, however, that what is most essential for her is that a customer leaves satisfied, happy and self-confident. "From my early childhood," remembers Veronika Polakova, "I used to love going to my mom's work, the then 'Hygie' salon", and helping her. Not that I had had a clear idea of what my future profession was going to be, only that I really liked working with my hands, creating something." Deciding on a school was then relatively easy. Even in the hairdressing apprentice training centre Veronika had brilliant results and was among the best in the class. "I'm very glad that I got to work with quality hairdressers immediately after finishing school because contact with them quickly helped me with orientating myself in the field." Veronika began working at the prestigious 'Efekt' salon, where the clientele was partly made up of very well known personalities. The next fortunate step in the young Veronika's life was becoming part of Mr. Dohnal's team, who had opened a large, private salon in Pankrac. It was there that Veronika Polakova started having a clearer idea of which direction to take her style of hairdressing. Mr.Dohnal regarded Veronika as a person with a lot of prospects and in January 1992 sent her off on a one-month stint at a leading salon in the States. "I worked at the luxury Italian salon, 'Capricci', in Chicago. There I learned mainly what it is to provide service to the customer, and understood what 'The customer is the boss' means in America". Upon returning home, she applied her new knowledge to her work here. She was successful overall in incorporating the use of a computer to her profession. Considering different hairstyles directly with the client with the help of a computer, enabling both to see, at the touch of a key, the numerous variations, is a helpful tool found in all leading salons.
At the beginning of August 1992, Veronika Polakova and her parents opened "a small, family salon" on Jugoslavsky Partizany Street. "It was my parents who actually founded this hair salon. Without their significant help I probably wouldn't have started a business on my own. Right from the start we have been able to deal with all aspects of running this business ourselves. The fact that we can all rely on each other helps me a great deal even now, where my mom no longer works with our clients but takes care of all else involved with the smooth running of a salon. Four hairdressers work in our salon. We have clients of all ages, even whole families come to us. Because we don't focus on a certain type of customer, or age group, we are given the opportunity to gain ever more experience. Thanks to the fact that our personnel can speak English, a large part of our clientele is from abroad. I'm happy and fortunate that our customers are pleasant and friendly. I think that I've been very lucky in my choice of profession, and when asked whether I would rather be doing something else, I happily respond, 'no chance!' and that I like my work more and more each day. It's not solely the work in itself that interests me, but thanks to the contact with people, I'm all the more aware of the other wonderful aspects of my profession that one can enjoy. I find it enriching to meet people and exchange ideas and opinions with them. Just one example is that many of my customers travel extensively and, as I also love travelling, enjoy talking to them about their trips. The ability to speak a foreign language and to share life experiences and opinions are things that belong to the hairdressing profession. I definitely wouldn't trade it for anything."
"When choosing an employee, I rely mainly on my instincts and on the feeling I get from the applicant," explains Veronika. "An interest and desire for the work are the foundation of being a great hairdresser." Regarding her profession, Veronika Polakova is of the strong and definite opinion, "Our work is about feelings and awareness. A good hairdresser should know how to adapt to the feelings of their client, recognising their wishes and taking the time and care to fulfil them. When it comes to my own work, I don't give in to fashion trends. My philosophy is to make people feel satisfied, happy and self-confident - and these are all feelings. It isn't hard to give some one a hairstyle that's 'in', but the art lays in 'the right' hairstyle for a particular person and their character." What does one do when a customer insists on having a particular hairstyle done, even though the hairdresser knows that it isn't one suitable for them? "That happened to me when I was first beginning," smiles Veronika, "and because I didn't have that much experience, and my certainty itself wasn't strong enough for me to convince them otherwise, I tried to comply with their wishes, even though I had a different opinion. This is not the case today. I do, however, have to present the kind of arguments that would convince the customer that what I say is indeed true, and that the style they want simply wouldn't suit them. Of course, this approach is, in this line of work, not as easy as merely conforming to the customer's wishes. However I'm not only glad that I chose it, but more importantly, know that it works. Another immeasurably important thing a hairdresser needs is an open, hospitable atmosphere. If one is surrounded by it, especially when doing something creative, one can do completely amazing work, but, when one isn't (and it's enough if a client doesn't fully trust you), then you haven't got a chance in thinking up something solid. In the last while I've been lucky not to have had to spend energy allaying doubts of my customers. Those that come to me, then believe in me. Because I'm well aware of the fact that one must always strive to improve themselves, it is very productive for me to take part in international hairdressing fairs throughout the year in places like London, Bologna and Paris. I discuss the picture material which I bring back from these trips with my colleagues and the ideas we come up with are then used in hairstyle shows in the Czech Republic, in which I regularly partake.
I'm into the classics. What I hold in high regard is when a person's whole look is in total harmony. I like simplicity and a natural look. It's the hairdresser's task to bring out and emphasise the customer's natural beauty and physical type.
I believe the future of hairstyle creation will lean towards simplicity and the perfecting of haircutting techniques. Ever more people will demand a high degree of professionalism from hairdressers.