Benjamin Mohapi gets to the heart of Salon Benjamin in this one-on-one interview with Vanichi Magazine.

Vanichi sat down one-on-one with Benjamin Mohapi, the mastermind behind Salon BENJAMIN in West Hollywood, California. This beauty destination is a mecca for the creative spirit. Aside from making hair look amazing, the salon also offers a feast for the eyes through a dizzying collection of contemporary and indie artists. Benjamin is going against the flow of Hollywood business mentality.

Where most strive to get famous through the heads of the anointed, a.k.a. famous, the BENJAMIN crew is focused on doing great hair without compromise. When one strives for excellence, success is usually a natural result. Yet, BENJAMIN is going beyond success to build something we can only equate to a tribe of like-minded spirited souls. Don’t take our word for it. Scroll below to read what Benjamin told us about the brand’s philosophy and where things are heading next.

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Q + A

VM: What is the philosophy behind BENJAMIN and BENJAMIN with NEGIN ZAND?

B: Essentially to focus on excellence in execution, appreciation of the craft and a real focus on preferential aesthetic and identity.

VM: How did so much art find its way into your salon? (and/or) Why is art so integral to your salon?

B: I feel that including art is all part of the experience in the salon. BENJAMIN pulls the art of hair and hairdressing toward being part of a wider cultural understanding. The art we have, found its way here from me working with a few gallery owners and a wonderful curator, as well as adding to the artwork from my own collection.

VM: How are you redefining the modern hair industry?

B: It’s really about focusing on where we pull from for inspiration. The American hair industry, especially, is greatly lacking in terms of education and cultural understanding of the history of hairdressing and the history of identity. As a company, we are really extending the reach for that and are attracting other like-minded individuals creating a culture all its own.

Benjamin Mohapi

Benjamin Mohapi is redefining the hair industry one cut at a time.

VM: Are people’s expectations of, and needs from, a haircare brand different now than they were 10 years ago?

B: There have not been any great changes in the last 10 years; although, price points and what people are prepared to pay for certain services have changed. Blow driers, for instance, are cheaper now due to the rise in blow-dry bars. The real differences you will find if you go back 25-30 years… Hairdressers were artists and clients were patrons of the artists. You would go and see the hairdresser before you knew the hairdresser, because of his or her artistic output; you would want them creating their art on your head. Now, with the collapse of conventional hair trends, there is no longer the same artistic weight on the hands of the hairdresser.

VM: What is your definition of modern luxury? Do you see simplicity and simple beauty as a type of luxury in today’s world?

B: Yes! Luxury is really defined for me as excess.  The simplicity of lines and ease of use provides space and time in excess. Therefore, it can be read as a new luxury.

VM: How has travel shaped and expanded your approach to hair/beauty?

B: What you experience and what you expose yourself to, informs what your output ends up being. Therefore, the more you learn the more you have to say; it is incredibly important for people to amass as much cultural and aesthetic knowledge as they can if they want to produce work of any worth.

VM: What’s one of the scariest things you’ve ever done? What did you learn about yourself from doing it?

B: I think opening a salon (laughs). Taking all my money, and therefore the future of my family as well, and opening a hair salon with all my money is by far the scariest thing I have ever done. However, I at no point lost any belief in the idea that it would work. I always believed it was going to work and, if anything, all I have learnt is that I have to trust myself and know that my feeling is usually the right thing to do.

I’ve not yet met anyone in regards with running the business —from accountants to lawyers, designers, architects— no one has a better idea about how your business should run than you do as the owner.

VM: What’s your definition of freedom?

B: My definition of freedom? (laughs heartily) I think, really, it’s just to do whatever you want. I know that’s very cliché, as that’s what freedom is, but it’s very easy to do what you want if what you do is what you want. I think it is incredibly important to choose wisely how you spend your time. Luckily for me, I found something I really enjoy doing and, therefore, have always felt completely free.

VM: Do you ever get creative blocks? If so, how do you overcome them?

B: I definitely sometimes feel overwhelmed with other responsibilities. Therefore, creativity will take a back seat to the general running of the business, but I tend to do things very collaboratively.  I might have a conversation with one person that will spark an idea which will lead to a conversation with another person; then, we will come up with something and speak to a few other people; finally, together, we come up with something new. The company is always going to be about community, always collaborative, but there is always one build-up point where it goes to, which will be on me.

VM: What humanitarian efforts do you support and why?

B: One thing we certainly want to look at as a business is towards the idea of educating people that wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford to educate themselves in what we do. I think that is really important: any forms of education that will help lift people form certain stuff that normally wouldn’t allow them to be exposed to. Certainly anything that helps fight the AIDS epidemic is something I will always give my time to. I also regularly give money to LGBT organizations.

VM: What is your dream?

B: Without wanting to sound really cheesy, I’m going say: to do what I’m doing, to have people come through my company and become great hairdressers, and for them to become interested in art and culture and artistic endeavors. Ultimately: to have a company financially strong enough to continue to do this for as long as possible.