Face Time: Erwin Gomez

Hair artist, brow guru and salon owner

Following the very messy (and very public) closing of his eponymous salon in Georgetown, Erwin Gomez decided he’d treat his next project as a chance to make himself over. Much like the tresses and brows of D.C.’s elite he’s been transforming for years, the stylist/brow shaper’s new West End salon, Karma Beauty Lounge — which is opening Tuesday ­— is a better version of what used to be. Offering a level of service on par with his shuttered biz, the new digs also come with the hugs and intimate-but-not-intrusive chat that Gomez clients have come to expect.

How will Karma be different from Erwin Gomez Salon and Spa?
It will be so much better. Every artist has their own private station, so you’re not going to be able to listen to someone’s gossip. I’ve also created an interview process where clients get to interview the artists, so now the artist has to impress the client, just like any job interview. And I’m being much stricter in my culture training.

What is culture training?
It’s teaching my artists how I want my customers to be treated. Every detail, from how we greet people to how we speak to them, is important. We don’t welcome people to the salon with “What’s up!?” No, no, no, no, NO. I grew up with manners and etiquette, and that’s how I train my staff.

Is the client always right in your salon?
I’m very blunt. My artists always joke, “Don’t ask Erwin because he will tell you the truth!” [Laughs] When you have a 99 percent retention rate among clients like I do, that means they like your taste. It’s all about honesty, but still being considerate.

What kind of service can your guests expect?
Every guest who gets a haircut gets a head massage. It releases tension, and who doesn’t like a head massage? I train my artists as a family with no egos and no jealousy. So if a client decides they want to try another stylist, there’s no hard feelings. And I don’t have to charge $900 a haircut because that’s not considerate. We have to be fair.

You’re also working on a cosmetics line. What will that be like?
I’m so picky. I didn’t want to just get a generic product and throw my name on it. That’s not me. So I found a great manufacturer in Germany, though it’s expensive. Thank you, investors! It’s a lot of work and it’s going to take some time, but I’m really excited about it.

Describe the salon’s interior.
Very industrial modern. I had to reinvent myself. I didn’t want to do the dragon [motif] again because Erwin’s coming back. It will be a very sexy, Moroccan feel. It’s going to be very timeless. I wanted it to represent my new life and explain who I am: more structured, more confident, more freedom, and it’s all about karma. You’re going to feel a lot of energy.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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