Sugar livin' as Brown Sugar celebrates 10th birthday
Brown Sugar Dublin was the brainchild of hairdresser Mark O'Keeffe and his then wife, make-up artist to the stars, Paula Callan. Back in 2005, their idea was revolutionary: hair and make-up under the same roof.
Seems incredible that this wasn't the case already, doesn't it? It's a concept that is in practically every city and town now. In 2008, Brown Sugar opened a second branch in Blackrock. In 2013, Mark -who is now also enjoying photography - launched Sugar Cubed on Clarendon Street, a destination salon for cool, young people who see their hair as an opportunity to further express themselves, while enjoying the Brown Sugar experience at more youth-friendly prices. To Mark's delight, he often sees cool seniors in Sugar Cubed, who tell him they love the atmosphere and the music.
This year is Brown Sugar's 10th birthday and to celebrate, Mark has overhauled the place where it all began, 50 South William Street.
"It comes down to the fact that we have to keep surpassing people's expectations," Mark tells me. "When people come into Brown Sugar, they need to be blown away. So many people have imitated us, and, in a way, what we created has become the norm.
"What we are doing now with the brilliant new design by Celine Cummins of the Design Store, for 50 South William Street, is deepening the luxury experience of Brown Sugar," he explains.
"The idea is that a busy woman who wants to sit down and work in privacy, while getting her hair or make-up done, can do that," Mark tells me. "And we are going to use it for wig work. We will do complimentary wig work for people who are ill, because we know that it is a very tough time in their lives."
But the dream doesn't stop with Brown Sugar. Just a few weeks ago, Mark opened his first barber shop, Sugar Daddy, on Exchequer Street, next to Rustic Stone.
"It is a traditional barber shop with a kind of Godfather vibe," Mark explains. "I see Sugar Daddy as being a dapper man - with a cool attitude. We have teamed with Teeling Whiskey, so the idea is that he can enjoy a drink while he is waiting for his barber, he can get a shoe-shine, he can read."
Next year, in 2016, Mark is to open a Brown Sugar in Ranelagh. Then a super-fast blow-dry bar to be called Sugar Rush, a high-end manicure salon called Sugar Coated (locations to be confirmed) and a brand-new training-for-industry school called the Institute for Hair and Make-up.
"Fundamentally, it is all about getting the best in hairdressing," Mark explains.
Cutting-edge interiors, new technology, friendly staff, an awareness of hectic, serious lives, is what Brown Sugar is all about. Expect to see the copycats in a town near you.
It's homage, darlings, and it is perfectly fine with Mark O'Keeffe; he has plenty more ideas up his sleeve.
Photography by Mark O'Keefe
Styling by Rob Condon
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
Sunday Indo Life Magazine