Creating your own career path can be challenging. The more I have opportunities to chat with people, the more I realize that success is about knowing what you want and going for it.
After putting on my big girl pants and chopping off my hair a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to share a little more about the woman who not only makes me and much of Sacramento look and feel pretty, but has also been pursuing her creative career with determination and persistence for years.
Meet Adrienne Cheng: hair stylist, fashion designer and super inspiring woman.
Adrienne quickly became one of my favorite people in Sacramento after my first appointment in her chair and I'm constantly in awe of her incredible sense of style and the way she approaches everything with creativity and a keen eye.
She kindly answered a few questions regarding her path toward a creative career, so let's see what she had to say!
Jen: When people ask you what you do for a living, how do you generally respond?
Adrienne: I am a hair ninja who dabbles in fashion design. I am in the salon five days a week and sew on the side when inspiration hits me.
J: I love the title of 'hair ninja!' We're rolling with that from now on. When did you begin your creative venture(s)?
A: I was sewing clothes for my Barbies and cutting my little sister's hair from a pretty young age, but got into both fields professionally late in life (when I turned 30). I've been in the hairdressing industry for 13 years and am currently at Deeda Salon in East Sacramento. I'm a network educator for Bumble and Bumble and I'm absolutely smitten with my job. Growing up I spent summers with my father who was in construction. The first day, he would pick me up and drive me around town to look at all of the houses he had built. At the end of the day, I can also look back on what I achieved and hopefully I brought some ease and happiness to each person's life by making them feel attractive.
The clothing thing is a little more selfish. I do it as a form of expression. It's like journalling or writing or creating a song. It makes me happy and if it makes others happy too, even better. In the past I've sold to local boutiques but now I just do limited edition runs of collections of clothing that inspire me and sell them individually to friends.
J: Did you work any strange/odd/boring jobs before you started your creative work? If so, what were they?
A: I've done about everything that could be done in the food service industry from waiting, hostessing, dish washing, you name it. I've been a nanny and I worked for a maid service in San Francisco, which was amazing because I'd get to explore some of the most incredible apartments and art galleries and often got tipped in bottles of champagne. I've never been bored by any job because I think there is always an element of entertainment in any job (be it the work itself, the employees, behind the scenes drama and the like). Plus I have a pretty strong work ethic. I had a short stint as a stay at home mom and I got really depressed. I admire women who can do that and truly enjoy it, but I've always felt if I wasn't bringing in an income, anything I acquired had less value.
J: Did anyone ever tell you to "have a back-up plan" or advise you against working in a creative field?
A: I've been lucky to have a supportive, loving and creative family so I was never advised to do anything other than what fueled me artistically. I do find that there is a certain stigma when I talk to some people about what I do for a living, especially hair.
When a person tells me they have a son or daughter interested in doing hair they often tell me they have higher hopes for their children and I find that funny. This field can be so diverse and you can make of it what you want: day to day behind the chair, editorial styling, working in the entertainment industry, working in education, the list goes on and on.
J: What inspires your creativity (people, places, things, experiences, etc.)?
A: I am usually inspired creatively by everything around me: music, nature, children, old movies, the weather, food, architecture, contrasts, the improbable.
J: Are there parts of your career that provide less income than others? If so, what drives you to continue doing those things?
A: The business of hairdressing is fairly consistent because, thank my lucky stars, people's hair does grow on a regular basis. The clothing thing I -- at best -- break even or make the tiniest profit. My clothing is a little fantasy based and Sacramento is a play it safe kinda town and relatively frugal as well. I am often told if I put my stuff in different markets I'd make more of a profit. At this point, the fun in designing clothes is creating a story, documenting the story via photos or short film, showing it to my friends and family and maybe the world, selling a limited run of pretty items to friends and others and seeing the items being loved by their owners. When I make something that several people want to wear I get bored with sewing that shape or seeing that fabric again and again and want to move on to the next endeavor. And no, I have absolutely no desire to go on Project Runway.
J: Ha! Fair enough. No Project Runway for you. If you weren't doing what you're currently doing, what would you be doing instead (In other words, have you ever envisioned yourself doing something else for a living)?
A: If I wasn't doing what I do now I'd love to teach. I worked with an intern from the Met High School last year and really enjoyed teaching her color theory and hair cutting techniques. It was cool seeing that "AHA" moment where it all made sense to her. She just graduated from high school this past summer and is now enrolled in a cosmetology course at Sac City and I can't wait to see where she takes her career.
J: That's so great! I love internships that really inspire young people to test out a career path. So, are you involved in any events/happenings around town or on the web that we should know about?
A: Right now is a busy time for me, both in and out of the salon. I am lucky enough to work with a supportive, artistic team at Deeda. There are stylists here that are so much newer in the industry than I am that push me to do better work and also joke around with. We were involved in helping Anthropologie put on their winter fashion show at the Fountains in Roseville this past weekend and we're working on a fashion event called Wine Women and Shoes later this month. We've also been participating in the GOOD Street Food and Design Market by setting up a braiding bar and interacting with the community, which has been a blast.
As for my clothing line I just created a capsule collection titled RejectXDeeda inspired by Japan, the 60's and French bohemia (editor's note: see photos below).
I feel like each item would be befitting of both Audrey Hepburn and Kurt Cobain. Fluffy coats and dresses and silky karate pants. I assembled a team of 15 people to shoot a short fashion video featuring these clothes that we are hoping to put up on YouTube, the Deeda website and maybe in the salon on screens as well. We filmed it up in Lincoln on a gorgeous piece of property and based it on Sophia Coppolla's movie The Virgin Suicides. We are in the process of editing the film right now and the clothes are currently for sale at Deeda.
I feel pretty excited to be in a salon that nurtures me as both a hairstylist and fashion designer. The best way to keep up with all of the fun stuff we have going on is by following me on Facebook at Adrienne Cheng at Deeda.
Well, you heard the girl. Go follow her shenanigans. You'll be glad you did!
All photos in this post are courtesy of Adrienne Cheng.