Tucked away from the bustling crowds clamoring to shop and dine at Abbott Kinney’s trendy offerings resides Kristen Shaw’s one room hair studio. Easily missed, a simple, weathered wooden sign hangs above a narrow pathway leading to her back bungalow that reads simply – Cabin.
The newly opened, one room hair salon is unassuming, yet elegant, just like her sign. Rustic wooden touches and potted succulents read relaxed sophistication. And a phthalo blue accent wall displaying artisanal cards and trendy wellness brands, like Moon Juice and Agent Nateur, oozes good taste, but not the kind that makes you feel self conscious. Like most of Venice, the pretense has been stripped away. Here, a laid back beach vibe built on positive energy, inclusion and wellness is what you’ll find.
I arrived at the Cabin this morning for a styling appointment with Kristen and to interview, Shelby Wild, founder of newly launched haircare brand, Playa; the Cabin’s dedicated haircare line.
Similar to Kristen and the Cabin, Shelby and her brand, Playa, are of the same ilk: effortlessly chic and natural with just a hint of Parisian “I tried, but it doesn’t look like I tried” beauty flavor. The dusty blonde and native Mississippian, whom grew up in a small town on the Gulf near New Orleans, worked for years in fashion as a stylist for Italian Vogue and then at Intermix before leaving behind the corporate world and her East Village studio apartment. Los Angeles was on the horizon and launching a nontoxic, efficacious haircare line was, too.
Playa, which will be launching exclusively at Violet Grey in July, comes fashioned in chic, egg-shell colored packaging with rose gold print. The line feels, like the founder, beautiful, but accessible.
Yes, there are synthetics in Playa, but meticulously chosen ones. No harmful sulfates or harsh surfactants here. Rather, natural ingredients, like coconut derivatives and naturally derived honeysuckle preservatives, make up the bulk of the formulations, with one or two synthetics sneaking in that rate safe by EWG standards.
“Not all clinically active ingredients are toxic,” explained Shelby, “For us, we worked on identifying what is toxic and what is not, and what you actually need to get the results consumers desire. We wanted to create products with Oribe performance, but without the harmful sulfates or emulsifying agents.”
In the shampoo, coconut based derivatives are used. While they don’t have the same foam as chemical sulfates, she explained, they do create little bubbles that detoxify the hair naturally.
Balboa protein is used in the conditioner to seal the hair cuticle without weighing down the hair.
And sunflower and apricot oil are used in place of silicones in the Ritual Hair Oil to nourish, smooth, and protect the hair, along with lycopene extracted from tomatoes to provide UV protection. “I use it before I go surfing,” Shelby explained, “because it protects my hair from the salt water and the sun. It even helps prevent chlorine from damaging the hair, too.”
Kristen, also an avid surfer and wellness devotee, has helped contribute to the ‘how’ of Playa’s line with her experience working as a stylist for over twelve years. First, in New York City and then for ten years in Los Angeles.
“Kristen has been helpful bringing it into the real world,” explained Shelby, “She brings this easy, effortless hairstyle to all hair types and knows what products you need and how to use them. She has been the missing piece for my brand.”
We talked about Playa at length, but before long I’m curious about Shelby’s wellness lifestyle that includes surfing, beach runs, walking instead of driving, minimal makeup, and a communal garden where she and her boyfriend source weekly fresh kale, lettuces and eggs (the garden has chickens).
She mentioned balance as the cornerstone to wellness outlook, as well as the occasional glass of wine, and finding fulfilling work.
Her PR rep graciously offered me a Moon Juice green juice and Rainbow Juice & Seed Crisps (which I slipped into my bag for later) before guiding me into the Cabin for my styling session with Kristen.
Thirty minutes later I was washed, blown out and spritzed with Playa’s Endless Summer Salt Spray , (which may be my new favorite since it texturizes while leaving hair soft! No crunchiness!). The result: a refreshed scalp, natural body, and subtle texturized waves my stick straight Asian hair can only dream of achieving with the help of a curling iron.
But that’s the key here: texture, body and ease without all the fuss (or the hot tools).
“I wanted to make a product line that all works together, is effortless and easy, and gives you beautiful, natural hair without using styling tools and using a lot of product,” said Shelby, “Playa enhances natural beauty instead of masking it, so you don’t have to spend hours in front of the mirror and you have more time to go live your life.”
Written & Photographed by Amy Chang, founder + editor