Resting in the ever-changing neighborhood of Bushwick on the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Willoughby Street is Pickthorn Hair Salon, a small, intimate salon that boasts one surprising element–a stage. Today, the stage looks different than when I last saw it, crowded with people and instruments at this year’s Color Me Bushwick festival. Today a purple plush chaise lounge rests on it, with golden cabinets full of products and trinkets on either side. The lighting is delicate today and the salon is quiet–also unlike the last time I found myself there crushing PBRs at 10pm to the roar of bands in the background. Today, it is a pocket of relaxation.
Owned and ran by Chelsey Pickthorn herself, the eponymous salon has made a name for itself around town for its unique stance in the neighborhood. Pickthorn turned the location from a social club to a salon in 2012, and since then has done coloring work for various models, musicians, and other Brooklyn locals of various notoriety. Pickthorn has earned her title as New York Magazine’s “Miracle Colorist” in 2013, with her unique foil-less treatment, hand-painting each strand of hair with all-natural coloring products made by Davines. But it’s much more than a hair salon; Pickthorn is also the host to the annual Color Me Bushwick music festival, which was headlined by some of Chelsey’s own clients, like Sunflower Bean, Honduras, The Nuclears, folks at Nylon magazine, and Mad Max actress Abbey Lee Kershaw.
In Chelsey’s chair sits Julia Cumming, front-woman of the Brooklyn trio Sunflower Bean, and Yves Saint Laurent model. Cumming, whose likeness has been featured on the pages of Vogue and on runways at fashion week in Paris, is a loyal client who has called Pickthorn her stylist for sometime. “You can build a community here [in Brooklyn],” Pickthorn explains, while separating Cumming’s hair into sections. “Here, you know your neighbors, you see the same people all the time, they become your friends and they make your day so much better. I feel that community and being really involved with everyone that’s come along is important.
“We’re really trying to find a way that the neighborhood can all come together, and music is such a good way of doing that. At Color Me Bushwick, we had 27 bands in here this year. It’s an awesome way to open our space up to people.”
Cumming, who is a natural brunette, sports white blonde locks–and her lifestyle (which often includes photo shoots) requires a stylist willing to be on call for the upkeep required of a drastic color change.
“I went blonde maybe three years ago, and I kinda like lost my mind and that is why I went blonde in the first place–I was going through all sorts of stuff. I went to a really bad place [salon] and the color was super horrible. My hair was yellow, I have pictures! I called myself the human Twinkie,” Cumming jokes.
Knowing a change was needed, Cumming found Chelsey and Pickthorn.
“It is just really hard to upkeep this kind of [bleached] blonde. It requires a certain amount of maintenance,” Cumming explains. “You need someone who will make it a collaborative thing.”
“I’ve never met any other hair stylist like you, that do what they do,” Cumming says to Pickthorn, as she coated her roots in bleach. “Before I have to do shoots, Chelsey always makes sure to touch up my roots and make sure anything that needs to be tweaked is ready.”
“And then I send her off!” Chelsey added.
The rest of Cumming’s band are also clients at Pickthorn. “I did some Dave Grohl-inspired highlights on their drummer, Jacob,” Pickthorn says. “He was so excited about them!” She even stopped by the band’s headlining gig at Rough Trade to celebrate the release of their 7”. “We are so excited for them!” she says. “This is such a big deal.”
“I’ve heard about small bands that are just trying to make it work in the neighborhood; [Pickthorn] will, like, give them a new look and help them express themselves in that way, which a lot of people want to do and they can’t because it’s expensive,” Cumming explains. “There is just no other place around like Pickthorn– you can never imagine a hair salon putting on a show for bands to play! I’m here all the time, I’d say these guys [at Pickthorn] are a really big part of what I do and what the band does.”
Chelsey Pickthorn is always looking for new clients like Cumming to begin collaborating with, but recommends consultations first. “That’s the important thing about consultation, is making sure of that client’s vision, where they want to go with it, and that were working together as a team to curate and come up with their new look or style,” she explains. “I definitely try to make sure every client is treated just the same, everyone deserves to feel pampered and beautiful and feel really good about themselves.”
with reporting by Tyler Koslow