When did you first realize that hairdressing was your passion?
My older brother Joss was a hair stylist in a well-known Parisian salon. As an enterprising 13-year-old, I asked if his boss would give me a job on Saturday without pay. I would feed the meters, pick up lunch for clients, walk their dogs while they were having their hair done…and hopefully get tips. As soon as I spent my first Saturday in the salon, I fell in love with the whole experience. I knew this was to become my career.
How did you get into this industry?
In Paris in the ’60s, you could become an apprentice at 16. During the summer of my 16th birthday, I became an apprentice in the same salon where I was helping on Saturdays.
Who are your professional heroes?
My brother Joss, who inspired me to become a stylist. Marc Benaim, who taught me how to work very hard and have a lot of fun with your clients. Vidal Sassoon, who made hairdressing an honorable profession.
How did you end up in Chicago?
One of my brother Joss’ coworkers, Marc Benaim, was one of the best and busiest stylists I had ever seen. He moved to Chicago in the mid ’60s to open his own salon. Joss told him to call me, and three months later, I was a 19-year-old stylist in Chicago.
When did you open your salons?
I opened my first salon in Oak Street at the age of 23. Five years later, we opened the Deerfield location with my cousin Pascal Ibgui. Then came Oakbrook and Naperville.
What is one hair trend North Shore women should try this fall?
The “Bab” (not “Bob”). The Bab is a feminine, very short, mini-graduated Bob. It has volume at the crown and the front pieces swing as you move. For hair color, “Ombre” and Fadeaways will still be the rage for fall; the color is applied underneath the hair with hardly any color on the top. The more you move your hair, the more you see it.
Who is the typical Charles Ifergan client?
I would insult our clients if I categorized them. We do not advertise ourselves as fancy expensive salons but as fashion-forward at various price points.
What is one hair product/tool every woman should have?
The flat iron is a woman’s best friend; it straightens, curls, waves, and flips. It gives the option for one haircut to be styled in many different looks.
What are some hair styling “don’ts”?
Don’t think that styling products are unnecessary; they enhance the fullness of your hair or remove the unwanted curls. And they perfectly finish the look. Don’t get stuck with the same cut or color. Have fun! Life is short.
How do you keep a fresh and inspired outlook in your profession?
I am a visual sponge and an avid reader of hair, fashion, architecture, products design, and photography magazines—anything that has a visual element.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I try to enhance a woman’s vision of herself through a great haircut and empower her to feel and look good. It’s an instant gratification. We kiss, and my client and I are happy.
What’s the secret to your success?
My human relationship with my clients. I learned so much by listening for so many years, and I love to give back. And we train all the techs that come to work for us and constantly rejuvenate our business. I call it the “Madonna concept.” Every so many years, you have to reinvent yourself.
If you could style any celebrity’s hair, whom would you choose?
Charlize Theron. I could make her look so different for many occasions.
Who are the most important people in your life?
My wife and four children. Family life fills my heart and soul.
What do you love most in people?
Generosity, straightforwardness, compassion, and a good sense of humor.
What do you like least?
Pettiness, close-mindedness, gossip, conceit, and a lack of humor.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I am a student of the Buddhist philosophy. Most of the time, I live for today and tomorrow morning. So, 10 years from now does not exist.
—Words by Jenna Schubert