Five years ago, Claude Courtet walked a spacious, airy 4,900 square-foot space on Towers Crescent Drive in Tysons, and knew instantly that his search was over.
"I knew right away that it was the one," said Courtet, artistic director for the recently opened Dessange Tysons salon.
Courtet has been working with the Parisian luxury brand Dessange for the last 22 years — and his career has taken him from Paris to Switzerland, Germany, Italy and the United States. In 1999, Courtet moved to Washington D.C. to become artistic director and training manager at Dessange Chevy Chase, but he eventually decided to pursue his dream of opening up his own branch. It took five years to realize that dream, but on Sept. 12 Dessange Tysons opened its doors to the public.
Courtet knew that he wanted to find a location in the Tysons Corner area because many of his clients at Dessange Chevy Chase were from Great Falls and McLean.
"I knew this area would need a salon with highly skilled people and excellent services," said Courtet.
CURRENTLY, the newly opened Dessange Tysons has eight employees, all of whom were hand-picked and trained by Courtet. The salon will ultimately have 40 employees once it is fully staffed.
"We had a lot of people apply, and they all went through trials with Claude and he chose them based on talent and personality," said Tim Brockhoff, general manager at Dessange Tysons.
Masseuse and makeup artist Marie Ritz made the cut and moved from Paris to Fairfax last December. Ritz said she did not hesitate to take the opportunity to live and work in the United States.
"I first heard about America when I was 8 years old, and I said I wanted to come here," said Ritz. "I prefer to be here because everything here is bigger and the people are so nice."
Ritz speaks French, Italian and English and has been training and working as a professional masseuse for 18 years. She has studied techniques in China, Japan, the Middle East and Europe. In Paris she worked at the Cannes Film Festival and has worked with many celebrity clientele. Ritz said her favorite massage technique is a special method that combines both Thai and Chinese styles.
"This store is amazing," said Ritz. "It's so nice to work in a new place where we can show the clients our knowledge."
Stylist Marisol also picked up and moved away from everything that was familiar to her to work at Tysons Dessange. An established stylist in Puerto Rico, Marisol left her home of 30 years to train with Courtet, and said she has no regrets.
"I have learned so much just in the last three months of training because his style technique is so different from Puerto Rico," said Marisol, who moved to Alexandria five months ago. "I am feeling so many emotions right now, but it has been the best working experience of my life."
THERE ARE 1,000 Dessange salons in 36 countries around the world, and Tysons Dessange is the 10th salon in the United States. At almost 5,000 square feet, it is one of the largest Dessange salons in the world, and it is the largest Dessange in America.
Outfitted with high speed Internet access, a fully stocked bar, a private suite and luxurious reclining massage chairs in the shampoo area and manicure-pedicure area, Tysons Dessange is geared toward a discerning clientele.
"The client has a remote control to choose their own massage setting," said Brockhoff as he demonstrated the state-of-the-art Shiatsiu massage chairs connected to pristine, white tilting shampoo bowls. "Dessange is about the total experience."
Brockhoff said that part of creating that experience meant paying close attention to each minute design detail as the salon was built. In the hair coloring section, special ventilation units suction air out of the building, sparing customers from chemical fumes. The spa area has its own sound system and heating and air conditioning units, to ensure a mellow and relaxing atmosphere that is separate of the hair salon and retail sections. After a haircut, women are given a complimentary cosmetic touch-up, and men a hot towel moisturizing face treatment.
"When people walk out of here we want them to not only look beautiful, but feel beautiful," said Brockhoff.
Now that Tysons Dessange has finally opened, Courtet says he has one goal — and that is to be the number one salon in the Washington D.C. area. However, business goals aside, Courtet simply loves what he does for a living.
"I love cutting hair," said Courtet. "I love making a woman look beautiful and then having the reward of seeing a smile on the face of a client."