Corine Sim, co-founder of Chatters hair salons, which were started in Red Deer in 1991 and are now in eight provinces. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Hundreds of hair stylists gather in Red Deer for ‘energizing’ symposium

Trending are bright hair colours and curls

Red Deer is already on the map for being a sports city — why not also for being a hair town?

More than 700 stylists from across the country gathered this week at the 11th annual symposium hosted by Chatters hair salon.

Many were amazed to discover that the innovative nationwide chain that provides hair services, as well as a range of products, started in Red Deer in 1991 — “not Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver,” said Chatters co-counder Corine Sim.

“They say, Red Deer? I don’t even know where it is,” she added — which is a good reason to sponsor the symposium each year in the place where it all began.

It’s a chance to show the stylists “some family love,” said Sim. “Here’s the place that we talk about as our headquarters, so they tend to feel more in touch with us here…”

At the same time, she believes the annual event is a great way to invigorate people who work for the chain by exposing them to new cuts, colours and products.

Trending this year are saturated bright colours, including pinks and blues sported by people of all ages, not just the young, said Sim.

And people with kinky hair might be pleased to learn that curls are considered back in after many years of being flat-ironed straight.

The in-house event that started on Sunday offers trade-show like demonstrations of the latest hair implements and products, as well as on-stage instructional demos by top professionals.

Sim said there’s also a cut and colour competition in which stylists do makeovers on models, and an awards show with big prize give-aways.

The Chatters chain operates with 1,200 stylists in 115 outlets in every province — except Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

The company plans to keep expanding “aggressively,” said Sims, who noted about 70 per cent of Chatters’ outlets are corporate owned and about 30 per cent owned by franchisees.

Sim described the company as a “unicorn, because there’s no one like us in the world.”

She explained that Chatters is built on an innovative model: 60 per cent of its revenues come from hair products and the rest from hair services. Most hair salons focus more on one or the other, she said.

The company hosts the largest hair competition in Canada, called Dare to Hair, and is the largest Canadian retailer for a range of hair products.

Chatters also paid for the accommodations and symposium fees for the stylists who attended the Red Deer event.

Carmen Thio of Edmonton and Kori Williams of Saskatoon called it a valuable learning and “energizing” experience.

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