Salon Stylists

“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.”

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One of the things Chase loves most about what she does is watching a client transform in her chair. Rather than generating a “signature look,” Chase prefers to customize each cut to suit her client. “Not just the bone structure and hair texture,” she says, “but fine-tuning it for each personality.” For Chase, form and functionality are paramount, which makes perfect sense given her background.

In 2001, Chase graduated from UCSB with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. She went on to work in Product Design for Modern Architectural Inc until 2008 when she decided to swap budget restraints and creative restrictions for her first love, hair. Having cut hair on the side for friends and family since college, she decided to formalize her training at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica. After graduating, she went on to work at the Vidal Sassoon Salon in Beverly Hills until 2011.

Chase loves building one-on-one personal relationships with her clients. Her roster is divided equally between men and women. “With men, it’s about attention to the finer details and creating a strong, masculine silhouette,” she says. “With women, it’s about the bigger picture. What kind of mood are we going for? Something sexy and beautiful? Or more functional?”

Relying on a strong sense of composition, Chase is inspired by fashion, design, furniture and architecture. She feels a beautiful haircut is akin to a beautifully tailored suit or couture cocktail dress. “It’s about suitability for the client,” she says. “And by the end of the hour when you can see them transformed – happier, more confident, more like the person they want to be – I feel an immediate sense of gratification that I have never experienced with any other art form.”

Chase joined Chop Chop in February 2011.

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Marissa’s expert flair for matching hair color with skin tone has earned her a loyal following and a reputation for producing hues that make complexions glow. Charming and warm, Marissa never shies away from offering inspired suggestions to help keep her clients looking fresh. “I’m a perfectionist,” she says. “And I’m not happy until I know we’ve maximized the highest potential for each client.”

Always game to experiment with new techniques, Marissa enjoys working with a blend of multi-dimensional shades from sun-kissed blondes to bright reds – as long as they adhere to her “flattering and functional” motto. While Marissa’s esthetic tends toward edgy, her work ethic is nothing short of old-school. She routinely goes above and beyond for her clients, and has been known to come in on days off when it suits a clients’ schedule. “I love what I do,” says Marissa. “My job is my hobby, and I love making people happy.”

An Orange County native, Marissa fondly remembers hanging out in her family’s salon. At the age of 15, Marissa discovered her natural talent when she first experimented with color in her own hair. Two years later, she began her formal education at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. In 2007, she left Southern California for San Francisco and landed a job at a high-end salon where she was trained under Vidal Sassoon instructors.

While it wasn’t easy for Marissa to leave her clientele in San Francisco, she returned to Southern California to be closer to her family. Since joining Chop Chop in July 2011, she says she couldn’t be happier. “I knew the second I walked into the salon that it was the right vibe for me. Chop Chop has the staff and clientele that I mesh with best.”

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“No matter what texture you’re born with, your hair shouldn’t be part of what stresses you out in life,” says Irene, who’s seen too many people spend their lives “hating” their hair. “Wash and wear hair can be for everyone once you understand how to work with it.”

Irene knows firsthand what it’s like to have challenging hair. She explains that her mom didn’t have the first clue about working with her curly hair when she was a kid, which motivated Irene to learn how to “tame the beast” on her own. She eventually decided to further her natural talent for hair mastery at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica where she graduated in 2003.

Though music and fashion history both influence Irene’s creativity, the real keys to her success lie in being a great listener and making sure that her clients can reproduce their look at home. “I see a ton of beautiful cuts, but they’re not always suitable for the wearer,” she says. “As a stylist, you have to remember that you’re an artist, but your work is more of a commissioned piece than your personal masterpiece.”

Apart from talent and taste level, what catapults Irene from being a good stylist to a great stylist is her ability to genuinely connect with people. Warm and approachable, she enjoys developing close relationships with her clients. “I take what I do very seriously,” she says. “But when you’re spending an hour together, I like to keep things fun and really get to know each other.”

Irene joined the team at Chop Chop in April 2013 and looks forward to working with you.

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Lauren has loved playing with hair for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until her hair stylist told her about Vidal Sassoon that she considered cutting hair herself. When she turned 17, Lauren sent off a perfunctory college application “just to make people happy,” but had her mind set on the Vidal Sassoon Academy. After graduating in 2008, Lauren landed a chair at the Beverly Hills salon. She remained there for three years before seizing the opportunity to move to Chicago where she worked in the salon and taught at the Academy.

“It was an incredible adventure,” says Lauren. “I’m so glad I took the opportunity to live somewhere completely new and different.” But after three years in the bitter cold, Lauren knew she belonged back home in California. She returned to the Beverly Hills salon for two years before joining ChopChop in April 2015.

Lauren comes to ChopChop with a masterful flair for working with her clients’ natural texture to accentuate their beauty. Her primary focus is on making people feel good inside and out – “even if someone wants to look like a crazy, robot alien,” she laughs. “I can make that work, too.” Both her skills and colorful sense of humor are no doubt responsible for turning clients into long-time friends. “It’s not just work to me,” she says. “It’s like hanging out with your friends all day long.”

Inspired by the welcoming, artistic vibe of the salon gallery, Lauren is excited by the diversely talented, close-knit group at ChopChop. “We work well as a team,” she says. “It just feels right.”

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Meghan’s talent crosses the spectrum from classically beautiful to fun, edgy color that accentuates her clients’ best features and skin tone. An excellent listener who stays up-to-date with current trends, Meghan feels a good consultation is the cornerstone of her success. “Sometimes you have to interpret a client’s goals to make sure their color will work with both their lifestyle and maintenance habits,” she says. Whether she’s working with vibrant reds, beachy blondes or rich brunette hues, her attention to detail and focus on upholding the integrity of the hair keep her clients’ tresses looking healthy and shiny.

Though Meghan always expressed a strong penchant toward creativity, she followed in her father’s business-oriented footsteps and graduated from San Diego State University with an economics degree. After landing a job underwriting business loans at a prominent bank, it didn’t take long for the confines of cubicle life to spark Meghan’s interest in exploring a new and more exciting career path. She made the decision to attend cosmetology school and never looked back.

Following graduation from the Vidal Sassoon Academy in 2012, Meghan worked as a color assistant at the Sassoon Salon in Beverly Hills until the spring of 2015. Thrilled to join the team at Chop Chop she says, “Everyone here holds themselves to high standards but it’s relaxed; there’s nothing pretentious. Clients feel that too, like we’re all part of a family.”

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Zanne earned her reputation as “The Artist” from her characteristic ability to cultivate a distinct, individual look for every person in her chair. She understands that people often want something “unique” but aren’t sure where to go beyond current trends. With her wheelhouse spanning the gamut from classic, to beachy blondes and punk rock, many clients rely on Zanne for her keen intuition, giving her free range to guide them toward their true style. In an industry punctuated with “signature looks,” Zanne instead focuses on building genuine relationships that inspire her creative vision. “If you’re going to be someone’s stylist, you have to get to know their personality and bring out their true soul,” she says. “That doesn’t happen without a good connection.”

Zanne’s penchant for scissors began in childhood; she loved cutting and shaping everything from fabric to her doll’s hair and friend’s hair. By high school, Zanne found herself waking up at odd hours of the night, sparked by a fresh new way to cut her own hair. “At first I thought I was going to be a cutter,” says Zanne. “But as I started to build shapes in hair, I started having visions for how I wanted those shapes painted.”

Zanne graduated from the Vidal Sassoon Academy in 1999. She went on to attend advanced training programs and master classes in addition to being awarded a one-on-one scholarship with Tim Hartly, International Creative Director of Vidal Sassoon. In 2007, after advancing from management to head educator and creative director for several salons, Zanne opened her own salon in Venice. In 2013, she relocated her business to Beverly Hills.

In early 2019, after 12 years as a business owner, Zanne decided to return to her first passion. “When you’re truly an artist, running a business can compromise that,” says Zanne. After considering a number of upscale salons from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, Zanne found the perfect home in Chop Chop. “I’m a down to earth person and it’s a family here,” she says. “And I love that we incorporate art in the salon.”

Also certified in functional nutrition, Zanne enjoys coaching clients, helping them to look and feel good from the inside out. “I really care about people,” she says. “It’s very gratifying to help clients achieve a transformative makeover where you see a change in their confidence and they walk out with a different strut.”

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