Imagine a place where a 50 year-old man in a three piece suit, a jobless college graduate, a successful young entrepreneur and a teenage boy with a high top hairdo would hang out together. Chances are they would probably be at Notorious Barbershop; a welcoming haven where men of any background whatsoever are invited to sit back and relax while being taken care of.
Located on Notre-Dame Street, in St-Henri, Notorious Barbershop is Montreal’s Corey Shapiro’s latest endeavor. Shapiro, widely known for The Vintage Frames Company, an online boutique offering said vintage frames as well as frames from his own designed collection, has sold glasses to Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Pharell.
Here, he explains the concept and inspiration behind the modern hair salon.
Baron: Your style seems to have been influenced by hip-hop to some extent. What was your first encounter with hip-hop culture?
Corey Shapiro: When I was in high school, hip-hop was a heavily labeled interest. People would say: “Oh! He wears that type of clothes; he must be into hip-hop.” I was kind of pushed into that category, but originally I really liked the way that it was a movement of artistic expression.
B.: Did it influence your business?
C. S.: The barbershop salon is not really a hip-hop barbershop. It is an eclectic place, where we did use a reference of the Notorious B.I.G. Since we built the place all out of Versace and he definitely had strong ties to the brand, I was thinking about how they now play his music around the world in real establishments. I was just in Paris last night eating at the fanciest restaurant and they were playing Wu Tang, Jermaine Dupri and all that type of stuff. I find it interesting how years later Notorious became such an accepted person to people who were generally against hip-hop.
On the other hand, when you think of Versace, it was the first non-segmented designer brand. When he died, you had gay dudes, black dudes, Tupac, Sharon Stone, Silvester Stallone all gathered in one place to pay their respects. We wanted an inclusive place that was completely eclectic and that would welcome everybody from all around the world and any segment. We wanted to offer a service that a lot of people, unless they’re well traveled, can’t experience.
B.: What kind of experience are you trying to create and build here?
C. S.: It’s quite simple: we want people to come here and be able to relax for an hour. We want them to simply come and forget about all of their problems.
B.: Some of your clients are celebrities, what do you think attracts them here?
C. S.: Besides the atmosphere, I would say definitely the fact that we have the best barbers in the world. Scott, Oli and Leo are by far the best. Every single one of them has very different skills and each one of them looks like he’s from a different place, from a different walk of life. They all bring something unique to the shop.
B.: How do you manage to treat your other clients just the same?
C. S.: Anyone who comes here is a celebrity. We don’t treat people differently because they’re a celebrity. At any given time, we’ll have rappers in here, but we don’t want anybody to feel that they’re better than the next. We don’t bump an appointment for a celebrity. It’s as simple as you come: you take an appointment, wait for your turn and that’s it.
B.: How big of a role does art play in your business?
C. S.: It’s huge. Every single one of our guys here is an actual artist. One of them is a tattoo artist, the other one’s a painter, and another one’s a graffiti artist so it plays a very big role.
B.: Do you see yourself more as a businessman or as an artist?
C. S.: A businessman. I’m more of an artist when I do my sunglasses designs but not as far as the barbering is concerned.
B.: Do you think art and business get along together or is rather problematic?
C. S.: It depends; things are a struggle when you make it a struggle basically.
B.: You’ve received quite a lot of media and press coverage and you travel often… from the outside, some people might even think that you’re living a glamorous life. How do you stay humble in the midst of it all?
C. S.: Well, what really is a glamorous life? A glamorous life is whatever you value. Success is not what I value in life, I value more my family. My job is a mean to an end, a way so that I wouldn’t have to come home everyday hating what I do. That’s the whole point.
B.: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
C. S.: Hopefully, 10 years from now, I’ll be retiring, hopefully. You know I work really hard so I just want to start relaxing. I have a son and I prefer the company of my son than anything else. I have several businesses, a real estate company, retiring might be the wrong word but at that point (ten years from now), I’d like not to be involved with developing new businesses.