A sea girt beauty biz mogul now offers both an award-winning studio as well as a store that carries makeup, skincare and other items
by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Eric Taylor
When Kellie Diana Johnson opened Elan Hair Studio in 2005, she knew exactly what she wanted to bring to the New Jersey beauty landscape.
“I wanted Elan to be full of likeminded artists who are passionate and dedicated to their craft.” Johnson said, describing the posh salon experience she’d developed in a smallish storefront space in Brielle. “I wanted to produce high-end styling in a comfortable and personable atmosphere.”
So she carefully compiled a polished team in a boutique-styled shop next to the Manasquan River. After two and half years of steady growth, she added another 1,500 square feet to the salon floor. In 2012, after winning accolades as one of the top 200 salons in the United States and outgrowing the space, Johnson moved her stylish digs to a larger shop in Sea Girt.
“Our first location had a boutique feel, and when we moved I wanted to keep it warm,” she noted. “I was looking for a sort of Manhattan style, but it also had to represent who we are.”
So, the owner added brick “everywhere,” as well as dark cherry wood cabinetry, slate tile, and stainless steel accents. Contemporary brown leather square chairs and silver beaded curtains counterpoint with modern elegance.
“We wanted to bring in different textures so that the salon was not too feminine and not too masculine.”
There’s a color bar, lather lounge, and bubbly pendant chandeliers that all complete Johnson’s Elan vision.
Not long after the move, Blush 35, Johnson’s sister company was born.
“I’ve always been passionate about hair and makeup; it’s what I know best,” Johnson said. “And with this new location, I felt it was time to pull it all together—offer a studio setting for application and a store where we carry different brands of makeup, skincare, and beauty items—so I took a leap of faith.”
Located in a shopping plaza on a busy strip of Route 35, both Elan and Blush 35 have garnered local and national attention. Their work has been featured on several of Bravo’s Housewives shows as well as in American Salon Magazine and in several national competitions.
For Johnson, who has been in the beauty industry for 28 years, the result is a combination of her love of beauty and art.
“I always did my friends’ hair and makeup growing up, so beauty was always an interest of mine,” she explained. “I was all set to go to college and I think I shocked my parents by switching gears and enrolling in beauty school instead. But I saw this industry as simply a better outlet for my artistic abilities.”
Johnson almost immediately started working on photo shoots and other mainstream events, which she says catapulted her career into an artistic and inspired direction.
“There are many outlets in this industry,” she said. “Stylists are not always behind the chair. I gained a lot of inspiration by working at Fashion Week events and photo shoots, for example. I learned that stylists can tell a story simply by changing a person’s hair and makeup.”
Today, in addition to owning and operating Blush and Elan, Johnson also serves as a national educator, teaching stylists in her salon’s on-site classroom.
“Everyone on our team is certified in color and design,” she said of her team of 36 stylists. “Having our own on-site classroom is pretty rare, but I think that’s what makes us really different,” adding that it’s the best way for stylists to stay ahead of an industry constantly growing and changing.
“I think color has experienced the most drastic transformation: When I started, foils were relatively new and some stylists were still doing caps. After the entrance of the ombre a few years ago, we’re now transitioning into color melting and blurring, even baby lights, which is softer color at the root and more color at the ends. Hair painting is creative but very technical at the same time.”
And the technology of styling is changing too.
“Hair color used to be associated with damage,” the stylist said. “Now there’s all kinds of non-ammonia color that actually leaves hair stronger and more fortified.”
“The absolute best compliment we get is when a client tells us how comfortable they feel here,” she offered with a grin. “If they walk out of here not only looking beautiful but feeling beautiful as well, then we’ve done our job.”
Elan Hair Studio
2150 Route 35, Sea Girt / 732.449.9122 / elanhairstudionj.com