Without skilled people you’ve got absolutely nothing, you’ve just got hairdressers working in a space. So training is the core principle … but not just skills training, people training. We hire for attitude and train for skill.
Oscar Cullinan, Founder/Owner of Oscar Oscar Salon Group
Industry icon and founder of the Oscar Oscar group, Oscar Cullinan talks culture and collaboration in the face of change. Only the fittest will survive.
To most, Oscar Cullinan is the sharp-shirted business leader of luxury salon group, Oscar Oscar. And that he is. He’s also a down to earth Irishman who landed in Melbourne, Australia 30 years ago – longhaired and with little knowing of the fortune that lay ahead. In any case he’s a legend open about the good (and bad) decisions made over the years, and more poignantly, the perfect storm we face: An industry future of change, growth and careful collaboration is on the horizon, and he’s armed and ready to roll.
Like all successful brands – from The Rolling Stones to Range Rover and the House of Gucci – evolution is key, but at the core an honest, ironclad culture to stand the test of time.
“The Oscar Oscar culture is so diverse yet it’s so tight. We’re all about people and culture. Culture is driven through leaders, and from this comes a belief system around how things should be done,” says Oscar.
“Training is essentially the cornerstone of what we do – the heart of our business. Without skilled people you’ve got absolutely nothing, you’ve just got hairdressers working in a space. So training is the core principle … but not just skills training, people training. We hire for attitude and train for skill.”
Invaluable perspectives acquired over three decades in the business. But it hasn’t been all bespoke, high street salons and integrated staff.
“Oscar Oscar started as a one salon operation where I went and turned the key, everyday, for seven years. From there we grew into two and three salons before I took the title of Australian Hairdresser of the Year in 2001 and 2005. We used this momentum to look beyond Brisbane and to the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne … and we haven’t looked back.”
And while as a business owner there are few constants in a day, week or year, Oscar has always insisted on the investment of likeminded brands – people and products are what make this industry great after all.
In 2013, Oscar made the decision to partner with luxury care and treatment line, Shu Uemura Art of Hair. It’s about creative collaboration before commercial exchange, and has seen the Oscar Oscar team broaden their belief in the potential of product from both an artistic and retail point of view.
“I have been following Shu Uemura since their rise in makeup some 15 years ago. So when they launched The Art of Hair in Australia we said, ‘we want that haircare.’”
“It’s beautifully bespoke and a brand that guests truly engage with … clients will genuinely move heaven and earth to find it, and this is the kind of status we want to align with; this is the engagement our business wants,” says Oscar.
And it is these more privileged offerings that, together with a strong culture and skilled professionals, will charge salons forward to great success in the face of change, or the ‘perfect storm,’ as Oscar puts it.
“The ‘perfect storm’ is all about different forces coming together to create change. Look at Tesla, Range Rover, Mazda – every car is changing at such a rapid rate, why? Because the consumer says so. They’re more demanding than ever and on a constant quest for what’s new – what’s next – and it’s up to us to continually raise the bar.”
For Oscar Oscar, that’s over 3,000 ever-demanding guests walking through the door, weekly, making the support and prestige of a brand like Shu Uemura Art of Hair essential.
“I need the alliance of a product line with uniqueness and commerciality. Shu Uemura Art of Hair is a performance-based line that’s workable and customizable. On top of this, it’s got that cool factor – it looks good on the shelves, it looks good in everyone’s bathroom … it’s just slick,” says Oscar.
And it supports his people. Since the pair united six years ago, the Oscar Oscar team has taken advantage of various creative incentives and editorials (including a location shoot in Tokyo as part of the Gallery of Style project), and the opportunity to form part of the iconic Shu Cru (Art Team).
“I think because the brand is born from such an influential creative in Mr. Shu Uemura, this artistic DNA stays true in the professional haircare range, and as a result, inspires stylists with an intermixable workability you won’t find in any other line. It gives us the confidence to create freely, and that in itself is invaluable,” says Oscar.
Create with confidence. Something this Australian hair hero has never failed to achieve in both business and art. The best part? He’s just getting started.
“Oscar Oscar has been a sleeping giant for a while … but we’re wide awake and ready for our next big push. It’s about survival of the fittest, and we’re in our prime.”
Try and catch them …
For further information on Shu Uemura Art of Hair, visit shuuemuraartofhair.com.au