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Vidal Sassoon Academy

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on June 11, 2011

Vidal Sassoon AcademyVidal Sassoon Academy in Toronto is the place to go when feeling adventurous and/or broke. That's because the Academy, which is always looking for hair models, will give you a free (or almost free) cut in exchange for control and about three hours of your time. But there's much more to Sassoon that we often don't see when popping in and out for a quick new 'do. So I dropped by one afternoon to sit in on one of the classes, and see if I could glean what all of the world-renowned fuss was about.

Vidal Sassoon sits unobtrusively on Avenue Road in Yorkville, housing its salon and academy in a narrow, four-storey space it has occupied since 1968. Creative director Nhi Tran meets us in the reception area and leads us up a narrow winding staircase, stopping on the cutting floor. "We have 10 stylists here," she says, pausing by a male stylist refining a geometric-looking bob. "And it is some of these stylists who teach in our Academy."

Vidal Sassoon AcademyNhi teaches a class herself, one which I will be sitting in after the tour. But as we climb yet another set of steps up to the colour floor, she takes the time to tell me about the man--the legend. "Vidal Sassoon really revolutionized hairstyling," Nhi begins. "You know, at that time, women were dressing their hair; they were teasing it, molding it into shape."

Vidal Sassoon AcademyI was beginning to think Nhi was just referring to last season of Jersey Shore, but I decided to keep my mouth shut. "But then Vidal came along, and he spent nine years experimenting with geometry. He took the modernist movement, and applied it to hair. Now it was about the shape of the cut, meaning you wouldn't have to tease it or anything after."

I would hear this same sort of rhetoric about shape in Nhi's class a little later. That afternoon, she was to teach the final class in a five-day ABC Cutting course, one of several advanced courses offered at the Toronto academy. The courses are available to already-licensed hairstylists as a way to brush up skills or build on pre-existing techniques. There are Sassoon academies in the UK, USA, Canada, and Germany, and this five-day course in the Toronto Academy--the only one in Canada--was costing students over $1,400, plus 13%t HST.

Vidal Sassoon AcademyBut unlike the classes in London or California, this afternoon's class wasn't planned for a group of up to 32. Instead, there were just three students--two from Toronto, and one who had flown in from Chicago--there celebrating their last day by uncorking a bottle of wine and settling in to watch Nhi remedy a model's head of hair. The model had committed what surely must be the most vile and heavy-handed act in the eyes of the professional hair stylist--she had cut her own hair. So Nhi had paused the instructional DVD playing the background to outline her plan of attack.

Vidal Sassoon Academy"Let's analyze her hair," Nhi says to the students, pulling up a strand. "She's been cutting it, and her line here," she says, motioning towards the model's nape, "is quite vicious." The group begins to discuss, talking about the model's jawline, face shape, the idea of "flirting with circle and square" and something called "internal graduation." Nhi takes her time sectioning, and then the cutting begins.

Vidal Sassoon AcademyI'll admit, before arriving, I let my imagination (and prone-to-stereotyping mind) run wild. I had envisioned an uncomfortably quiet classroom where a woman with a severe haircut (and possibly an English accent) ran the program like some sort of anti-perm boot camp. But the atmosphere was actually quite the opposite.

Between moments of instruction, Nhi and the group chatted about what the student from Chicago should do on his last day in Toronto (consensus: Steam Whistle tour), their own individual allegiances to their comb of choice (apparently the red comb has wide teeth?), and gawked over a select pair of shiny new scissors. They also discussed dilemmas that come up in consultation, such as when the stylist knows a certain cut will look great on a client, but doesn't know how to convince her without seeming pushy.

"Remember," Nhi says. "Often clients are coming to you for your professional advice."

Vidal Sassoon AcademyThe class winds down with a bit of a love-fest, as the students discuss returning to their workplaces. "I feel like I can go back and cut to my full potential," one says. "This really addressed so many things I wasn't sure about." Another one says he knows his colleagues will respect him a little more since they know he has now completed the Sassoon program.

Of course, since I'm not part of the industry I don't think I'll be able to truly understand what it means to say you've been "Sassoon trained." But it does seem to carry quite a venerable message, one that's apparently understood universally (quite literally). And for the rest of us there's another message that seems to resonate fairly clearly--that is none other than: Free Haircut!

Vidal Sassoon AcademyPhotos by Dennis Marciniak

Discussion

18 Comments

Moi / June 11, 2011 at 11:35 am
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Read more about "becoming a model" here: (sign-up info)
http://www.sassoon.com/shows-events/become-a-model.php

whoop!

Nice write up, but nothing about HOW to get a free haircut ie:
information on how to sign up
simuls / June 11, 2011 at 02:36 pm
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Haircuts for men are only $18 at the Aveda school on King West (make sure you ask for the Institute and not the Academy) and include a nice aromatherapy scalp and shoulder massage, coffee/tea/water, and mini-facial! Women get similar treatment for the same price. You need about 2 hours. Wicked deal.
simuls / June 11, 2011 at 02:36 pm
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I meant King East (just east of Church).
Greg / June 11, 2011 at 06:26 pm
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Looks like wearing a tie while cutting hair might get in the way.
jb / June 11, 2011 at 07:11 pm
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Been there a couple of times. Very expensive and so-so cuts.
Derek / June 12, 2011 at 01:19 pm
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" ... one that's apparently understood universally (quite literally)."

Cool, even aliens understand this!
Adriane / June 13, 2011 at 10:47 am
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This place is a dinosaur among hair salons. Their cuts are boring and stylists follow their antiquated training with no consideration of what might look good for the client.

Yes, Derek, I think the aliens must be the only ones that understand their training because an alien is exactly what I looked like after my unfortunate experience here.
Rebecca Fleming / June 17, 2011 at 09:55 am
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I had a terrible haircut there. They gave the the "rachel" cut from 1995, despite me telling them that I did not want layers. They didn't listen to anything I requested and even told me they were the stylist and knew better.

I noticed every white woman who came in was given the "Rachel" style whether they wanted it or not.

Stay clear of this place!!!
Candace / July 29, 2011 at 02:08 pm
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I had the great privilege of being one of Nhi Tran's models for a similar class she was teaching on June 15th. Even though I was a model getting a free haircut, I really felt that I received the royal treatment from everyone at Vidal, Nhi and her staff offered me a warm welcome and spent a considerable amount of time with me before the cut, examining the shape of my face and discussing my hair; how I wear it, what my goals were, and which style of haircut I generally go for.

I felt very comfortable being the subject of Nhi's lesson as her students took pictures of my haircut and talked openly about everything Toronto as well as my at home hair dying techniques and even some of the bands I had recently seen at a music festival the weekend past. As someone who was having her first hair modeling experience that day, I must confess that I arrived with many horror stories from other models and looks of apprehension from everyone I had told my plans to in the week prior to the appointment, drifting around in my head. I was so happy to have had such a wonderful experience with Nhi and her team.

Nhi reshaped my entire haircut, using a star pattern and cutting the Vidal Love Fringe into my bangs. I work at a Starbucks store, and every day customers are bemused by my frequent hair changes. I must say that when I showed up with this new haircut the next morning, everyone stopped to compliment me on how wonderful it looked, and my hair has never felt healthier.

I would absolutely recommend the Vidal Yorkville Salon to anyone who is looking for a great haircut because I have seen firsthand that the stylists there are both highly skilled and exude a great interest in their community and in making their guests feel welcome. I feel privileged to have been there as a model, and would happily return again in the future.

If anyone would like photos of my haircut, or is interested in modeling for Vidal, please feel free to contact me at any time.
mike / January 29, 2012 at 05:35 am
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Great shapes and precision... Thats what Sassoon is about. Their cuts sit whether its wet or styled.. and personally, I do not think they even have the tools to give you a "rachel" haircut...

I love how they just use scissors and no texturizers... barely any machinery as well. This takes serious talent and my haircuts are always perfect!

Sometimes you need to find a stylist to specify your look, and at Sassoon, you'll find it. There's a reason why they are of the highest standard! They work at it! It's pretty refreshing knowing its not about the money. ONLY about the hair!

Loretta Bradley / February 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm
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At Sassoon they know how to cut hair,
every haircut is perfect! :)
Tom replying to a comment from simuls / March 1, 2012 at 04:55 am
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They cut hair like gardeners. At Sassoon they cut hair like surgeons. Everyone passes at Aveda.
Eiko / March 1, 2012 at 01:06 pm
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Totally agree with Mike. A Sassoon cut is a different experience. If you want the best, go see Tricia Mcquillan, who's back in Toronto after heading up a fantastic salon in Vancouver (she was also Creative Director for Sassoon in London for many years). She's seriously talented, has great style and knows how to work challenging hair like mine. I've been seeing her for ages and she gives me such great cuts. The salon is lovely too -- nice, relaxing vibe.
vishal sharma / May 27, 2012 at 03:31 am
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hii my name is vishal m from a city named as MUMBAI(INDIA).by proffession i am a hair stylist m in this feild since 4 yrs and wanna go ahead and learn further so i wanna learn from vidal sassoon so can u help me out that do u have special courses for international students i desperately wanna learn infact its my dream to get treained from VIDAL SASSOON so pls help me out.
lisian / June 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm
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I on the immediate receiving end of all the goodness inspired and delivered by Sassoon, always believed that hair is grown to be cut, or more exactly, crafted. Thus, what is better than FREE haircut but first class skills and treatment. More so, they are so friendly and welcoming here and the environment is amazing! Here, you will know what is treating the work truly like a piece of artwork, they appreciate the natural and boundless beauty that can be created with simply one pair of scissors, with the best of all craftsmanship, and not to mention, science and wisdom. As a kid that grew up to be extremely picky of my hairstyles and always had difficult time getting a hair that is presentable and easy to handle, I am so thankful that I have met them.
Kelly replying to a comment from Candace / November 19, 2012 at 12:04 am
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Hey Candace! I would love to model a new haircut for Vidal Sassoon. What's the selection based on and may I see some of your haircut pics? Thanks! - Kelly
sionead / January 12, 2013 at 05:17 pm
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I Called in, they said they dont cut hair for free. there's a $20 fee. it looks like all school are charging now.
Nancy / November 28, 2013 at 11:14 am
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I have been getting my hair at by Vidal Sassoon stylists off and on since 1981. And if I ahave the time, I like the almost free cuts at the Academy. I had the privilege of Nhi almost completely recutting my hair at an Academy training class and she was great. Very happy with the cut. Went yesterday and it was a complete nightmare. Not sure of the guy teaching but the cut is a mess. Despite my telling the stylist NOT to layer the front pieces I have NASTY layers, no shaping between the back and front and the length is not even! And he told the stylist she did a great job! Take my advice and wait to book on Friday when they have a little more training. Wednesday haircut classes should be free if the instructor is not going to fix the mistakes.

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