NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Stylist Elan McDowell is the picture of easy British elegance. With a quick wit, a refined aesthetic sensibility and deft, capable hands, it’s little wonder that she is drawing clients from all corners of Fairfield County to her new eponymous hair salon in New Canaan. She recently invited me into her charming studio for tea and a flattering new ‘do.
Walking into Studio Elan is like walking into a chic European flat. The cozy space is well-appointed with carefully chosen art deco details. A scented candle infuses the air with floral notes and Nina Simone’s mellow vocals over the sound system help you settle into Elan’s chair for a little relaxation and what feels like V.I.P. treatment.
“I wanted very much to create a space that would make people instantly relax,” says Elan, in her lilting London accent, mellowed only slightly by two decades of stateside living. “It was important to me to craft an experience where people aren’t being touched by ten different sets of hands just to get their hair done. That’s not soothing.”
This intimacy is one of the things that sets Elan Studio apart from the Fairfield County crowd. Elan herself will take you through each step of the process.
“People are very savvy, much more so than they used to be,” says Elan of her customers. “So some will come in knowing exactly what they want, using hairdresser terms, even. An informed client is wonderful. But some really want some guidance from me in terms of cut or color, and that’s lovely as well. I like having that kind of yin and yang in what I do.“
Those who do arrive at Elan’s chair unsure of what cut or color will work best should take heart. Elan’s training in hairstyling at the London College of Fashion was rigorous, compared to U.S. standards. “It’s quite different over there,” she explains. “We go through three years of school. We study bone structure and chemistry. We learn the real science behind creating color compounds. It’s rather intense.”
Elan puts her wealth of international study and experience into every client who walks through her door. “The most important thing to me, aside from making every client feel beautiful and happy, is maintaining the integrity and health of the hair. I want everyone to walk out the door with bouncy, shiny, healthy hair. What’s more beautiful than that?”
True to her word, the cut she gave me was full of body and life, while retaining the length of my hair, which was a specific request of mine. More impressive, though, was her ability to integrate the new blonde highlights she gave me with my last set of highlights from several months before. "I tried to really match things up, so you don't see any line of demarcation."
For all her European style, though, Elan has fully embraced the charm she finds in America, and in New England in particular. "This is my home now," she says. "I'm very comfortable here." And, perhaps as a nod to her new cultural home, she's planning on hosting a salon opening party on the front porch of the building that houses her business. "We'll do a lovely little party one afternoon when the weather warms up. We'll have lemonade and nibbles out on the porch. People can bring the kids. It will be quite lovely."
Studio Elan is located at 25 Burtis Ave. in New Canaan. Appointments are highly recommended at can be made by calling (203) 920-1010.