Sharon Dorram is a master colorist, but when you visit her pristine salon in a townhouse on 71st street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, expect more than a full head of highlights. From brows to makeup to manicures to hair cuts and coloring services, Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger is a top destination for women and men who take their beauty game very seriously. Dorram, who specializes in the kind of subtle, flattering hues that are notoriously difficult to (convincingly) achieve, has an extensive resumé that a global coterie of highlight enthusiasts have committed to memory. But it’s the serene environment and high level of service she’s cultivated at her eponymous salon that are truly rare—to visit it on a bustling weekday afternoon is to sense a throwback to a more rarefied era, and experience a modern purveyor of tips-to-toes beauty.
Sharon, what inspired the decision to open your own salon in 2009?
I had just given birth to my second child. I was in between salons, and a friend of mine told me I should go in business with Sally [Hershberger]. Sally and I were friends, and we’ve worked together on an endless amount of celebrities—Tom Cruise, Nicole [Kidman], Julia Roberts. Sally was very downtown and Los Angeles; I had the whole uptown gig backed. She was very open to the idea, and together, we found a space. It was probably the worst time to open a business—everything was boarded up on Madison Avenue—but we did open. W magazine gave us a beautiful two-page spread when we were under construction. The people came, and little by little, stopped being afraid to spend money on themselves.
How did you build out the space?
I wanted this to be more like a jewel box. We’re on 71st street and Madison Avenue, and between Tom Ford, Pucci, Bottega Veneta, Céline, and Chloé. I don’t think it gets better. So the salon had to be elegant, and have panache. I was speaking to a client of mine and said, I really wish I could have Daniel Romualdez design it, and she said, I’m having dinner with him—I could ask. I knew of him through one of my clients, Tory Burch—he’s done her apartment and her stores, but I never thought we’d be able to afford him in any way. Long story short, he just got it. He was flawless, and very easy to work with.
Why did you adopt a full-service approach for the salon?
When people sit in my chair, I’m looking at the whole picture, in a holistic way.
How far-flung is your clientele?
I have clients flying in Tuesday from Saudi Arabia, and routinely, women come from Canada, Boston, D.C., Atlanta, Kentucky, Santa Barbara, Aspen…we have clients who come on a regular basis from all parts of America.
How do you find talent?
Some of it is homegrown—people come to us, and we build them—but I still have some members of my initial team of people I started out with.
Are you competitive?
I don’t think of myself at all as competitive. Maybe I was years ago, when I first started out, but I feel like there’s so much room in this beauty industry. There are so many signatures, and there’s only one me. I have an art background, so I see things in a different way. It’s not just technical work—it’s creative as well. When you’re confident and good at what you do, you’re always in demand, so there’s no need to feel competitive.
The pastel moment has come and gone, but do you frequently see trends like that in your salon?
Not at all. IF people come in wanting stuff like that, I would definitely send them down to Aura [Friedman, a colorist at Sally Hershberger Downtown]. She would do it so much better than I would. I really focus more on creating a beautiful couture look more than trends. When you come to me, you will not leave with the same color as someone else.
What are some of the biggest changes in the industry?
It’s really sad to me, but I just don’t think there’s huge talent out there. There are so many people doing hair now, and many are busy operators, but aside from a few major names, there are a lot of people doing this in a mediocre way.
You’re very instinctive when working with clients. How long does it take you to decide on an optimal color?
I get to know women so well that I can read them really quickly. I look at body language, the way they’re dressed, their personality, and of course, their hair. I can assess really quickly what’s wrong with someone’s hair color and where it needs to go. Most of the time, clients want to know what I think before they even tell me what’s on their mind. My batting average is really high.
Do you frequently refuse requests?
I wouldn’t say frequently, but I would say, “I’m not putting my signature on that.” I had a girl come in years ago with a picture of Nicole Kidman. She knew I did her hair, and there wasn’t any part of her natural color, skin, eye color that had anything to do with Nicole. And I said, “You just can’t have this.” It takes a lot of courage to stand up to somebody, because they may leave you, but I uphold what I believe in with hair color. That said, I’ll push boundaries. If somebody wants to go for it, we’ll go for it!
Where do you see your salon in 10 years?
Well, I hope it’s here. I’d love to be in this space, and I think that we could grow. I’d also like to do my own product. I have great ideas for products that don’t currently exist.