“Hairdressing was the furthest thing from my mind,” smiles Birchler. Originally from the East Bay, Birchler ran in a tough crowd of professional boxers and kick boxers. Yet every time he visited his girlfriend at work he was inspired by the dynamic energy and creativity in the salon. With her encouragement, Birchler applied to beauty college in Sacramento. “I didn’t tell anyone,” he says.
While waiting to be interviewed, he bumped into the wife of a trainer at his karate school. Sensing his embarrassment, she let him in on a secret; not only was her husband a hairdresser, his mother owned the school. “Here was this mean, 6’3’, 215 lb, aggressive tough guy,” he says. “To realize this black belt instructor I respected was also a hairdresser completely changed my perspective.”
Darin was hooked from the first snip. He found a creative release he had never experienced having come from an athletic background. After working in Sacramento for a year and a half he slid into an apprenticeship at the “rebel black sheep of salons,” Architects and Heroes, in San Francisco, where he remained for eight years. “The artists had more freedom there, it was a looser structure,” says Birchler. “And they were turning out architecturally beautiful work.”
In the mid 90s, Birchler loaded up a U-Haul and struck out for Los Angeles with nothing more than a dream and a wad of cash burning his pocket. He landed a job at a Beverly Hills salon and in less than a year, Los Angeles magazine named Birchler “L.A.’s Hot New Up-and-Comer.” After 10 months, Birchler left the “restrictive salon environment” in pursuit of freelance work on photo shoots, commercials and music videos. “I wasn’t feeling the unity I was used to in San Francisco,” says Birchler. “The kids in San Francisco were artists, they loved what they did and they fed off each other’s talent.”
He teamed with friend and colorist, Amanda in an artist’s loft with panoramic views from the 11th floor of the old Asahi building. Word-of-mouth swept the city and soon Birchler’s reputation for architecturally genius cuts earned him a fierce following running the gamut from actors and musicians to college students and housewives. Within five years he had outgrown the space and began searching for a new location to expand his vision.
It was important to Birchler to hire the right staff in order to create a unique family environment where the artists could thrive and the clients would feel welcome. He encourages his staff to get to know everyone’s clients, not just their own. “No one’s going to walk in and feel judged by the staff. Some salons buy into that, they want the cattiness,” he says. “That’s not going to happen here. That’s why 18 years later I still love what I do.”
Email : Darin@ChopChopSalon.com