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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Life of Mousse and Mascara

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Greeted by the soothing sounds of falling water and surrounded by cool white walls, clients entering the Grand Salon Sebastian at 31/16 Ulitsa Prechistenka are transported to a new dimension of image and style, says general manager Marianna Gromova.

"There are a lot of salons in Moscow, but this is something brand new," Gromova says. "It's a new level of salon: [It brings] new norms."

Dressed in a light gray summer suit with perfect makeup and hair, Gromova — living proof that brains and beauty are not mutually exclusive — says her salon sets itself apart from the many new salons in Moscow because it is the first to meet the rigorous requirements set down by Los Angles-based Sebastian, a hair-care products and cosmetics company, to qualify as a grand salon.

A native of Baku, Azerbaijan, Gromova has lived in Moscow for 15 years. She graduated from the economics department of the Plekhanov Academy of the National Economy. An interest in fashion, beauty and style combined with her economics background landed her a job at Wella, a German manufacturer of styling products, and finally led to salon ownership.

Two years of planning, remodeling, training staff and negotiating went into creating Gromova's Grand Salon Sebastian, which opened for business in March and joined Sebastian's worldwide group of grand salons in June.

It is Gromova's fourth salon in Moscow. She currently owns two — the Grand Salon and a smaller salon on Ulitsa Malaya Dmitrovka, which she says is "a completely different type of salon" in that it is not based on "the image and culture of Sebastian."

Gromova first learned of Sebastian products while traveling abroad. "Sebastian stands out by saying 'We are different,'" she says.

Twice a year each Sebastian grand salon must update its collection of specially designed makeup styles and signature Sebastian haircuts and hairstyles. Gromova's team of seven master stylists also attends seminars and classes each month on topics ranging from new Sebastian products to new haircutting methods. They are even visited by psychologists who explain how to communicate with the clients and how to make them feel comfortable — in short, how to make the salon experience as mentally relaxing as possible.

Gromova's stylists also often attend conferences in Europe sponsored by Sebastian. Gromova travels to Los Angeles several times a year to attend seminars for grand salon owners and to meet with her colleagues to stay up-to-date on Sebastian's new trends.

Earning a place on Gromova's team of stylists is no easy task. Each stylist must attend and pass a specialized Grand Salon Sebastian training course. Those who are admitted to the course must show originality, creativity and an ability to challenge the status quo. Gromova looks for talented new students at beauty schools in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Voronezh.

The look of Gromova's salon is carefully crafted to relax clients. Everything is minimalist. The walls are white with recessed lighting. There are no tables of combs, curlers or hair dryers. The furniture is black or white, with no distracting colors. The stylists wear black linen uniforms. The balanced decor reflects the influence of feng shui. A ceiling-high waterfall serves as a wall between the entryway and the salon's main room. Calla lilies rest in tall, simple vases along the salon's far wall.

The salon's client base is made up of many foreigners. But Gromova says the people who are drawn to her salon are those who are focused on image and style: the type of people who are the first to try something new and who aren't afraid of experimenting with their image.

Big plans are in store for the salon. Gromova is planning to add cosmetic dentistry to its list of services. She also plans to open a cafe at the salon where friends can meet for a healthy meal — no doubt low-calorie delights and freshly squeezed juices will be on the menu.

Gromova says "it's the details that present the biggest obstacles," but despite all the roadblocks that too often frustrate local small business people, she pushes on. "We are always moving forward," she says.