It is often said the route to success is indirect. For Maria Cavard, General Manager of DESSANGE & Camille Albane USA, that could not be truer. Maria’s beauty story began in the 1990s, when she was a hair model for luminaries such as Arnie Miller. Her passion for skincare led her to a career as a successful esthetician and salon owner. Maria moved to the South of France, where she worked as a hotel chambermaid in order to become fluent in the French language (très romantique!). She continued to cultivate her expertise as an esthetician and became one of the first in France to use the Dermalogica skincare line. Not long after, Dermalogica elected Maria as their ambassador and Regional Sales Manager. Additionally, Maria fulfilled the role of Spa Director before being handpicked by DESSANGE International to establish the celebrated luxury French salon franchise Camille Albane in the United States.

INTERVIEW: Maria Cavard, GM of Dessange, Is on a Mission

In 2012, DESSANGE International acquired American salon chain Fantastic Sam’s. Already operating in 41 countries with thousands of employees, this acquisition will significantly increase the Dessange network and Maria Cavard is set to pioneer a massive and rapid expansion of luxury salon environments throughout the United States. Maria has already opened the flagship Camille Albane on Newbury Street in Boston, with more locations to soon follow nationally.

I was lucky to sit down with Maria while she was in New York City. Maria’s multifaceted understanding of the service and beauty industries is an obvious asset in the very ambitious assignment she is on and it is with warmth and sophistication that she leads her talented team into this new frontier.

MODERN SALON: You entered the beauty industry as an American-born esthetician in France. How does your history as a skincare professional inform your current role as General Manager of a luxury salon chain?

MARIA CAVARD: I actually started my career as an aesthetician in the US in 1999 in Salt Lake City running my own business with a hairdresser, shortly thereafter I moved to NYC. I continued working as a master aesthetician at a Spa on Park Ave and was a hair model for various brands, it is then that I gained a great respect and passion for the hair industry and hairdressers. I moved to France in 2005 where I launched an American skincare brand for three years. Afterward I was Spa director for an organic make-up brand as well as skincare, giving me a wonderful insight into the world of global beauty. Launching an American brand in France allowed me to see how the two countries are so different, yet any brand can flourish with the right concept. I believe that hair care, skincare and make-up are all part of global beauty, which is exactly what the concept of Camille Albane and DESSANGE is all about.

MS: Camille Albane currently has locations in Chevy Chase and a flagship in Boston. What factors influenced your decision to launch in those cities? Where will the next Camille Albane appear in the U.S.?

MC: Our CA flagship is on Newbury Street in Boston and our DESSANGE flagship salon is in Chevy Chase. We chose our Newbury Salon location because our headquarters are in Beverly MA and Newbury Street is a prime location in Boston, it made perfect sense. Our DESSANGE location, which has a Spa as well, has a wonderfully eclectic and International community, the demand for a luxury salon in the Chevy Chase area was evident. We are currently working on opening locations in the West.

INTERVIEW: Maria Cavard, GM of Dessange, Is on a Mission

MS: As a chain of luxury salons, how will the brand maintain consistency both nationally and internationally while satisfying the uniqueness of each market?

MC: Camille Albane is in 11 countries worldwide, established in 1994 and DESSANGE is in 41 countries, established in 1954. Our success story is proven in these countries because of our dedication to the hairdresser and global beauty. Our unprecedented techniques and training, our bi-annual collections and incredible marketing masters in the field allow for each market to have a team dedicated to each specific area. Also, salon teams are trained perfectly in the Camille Albane concept from our French training team. Our salon operation managers know exactly what defines CA and are constantly reinforcing that with the franchisee.

MS: Who is your American salon guest? Were there challenges establishing a French salon brand in the United States?

 MC: A Camille Albane woman has that certain “je ne sais quoi”, a uniqueness all her own driven by her trendy, fashion forward lifestyle. We understand that women look the way they feel and our concept really allows the hairdresser to create that unique style, but with a luxurious French touch that she won’t find anywhere else.

We believe beauty is a universal language; our concept is well respected in other international markets and has immediately been well received in the US.

MS: What is your approach to retail? Do you set goals or institute incentives for your salon professional staff?

MC: The products must be quality, professional and absolutely give results. A client must feel excited and happy with the product they are using as well as the hairdresser. It is the hairdresser’s responsibility to inform the client of the benefits so the client understands them. We do give our staff incentives and set goals for selling product because if a client isn’t buying her products at our salon she is certainly buying it somewhere else. Motivation is fueled by incentive and passion allowing the professional hairdresser to sell what they believe in. Camille Albane products are exclusive to our salons, hairdressers sell something the client cannot get anywhere else making it easier to sell and maintain the client’s loyalty.

MS: For a salon owner or manager, selecting which products to be retail and use at the back bar can sometimes feel like an ever evolving project. What do you and the salon look for in a line? What do you expect from manufacturers?

MC: Our strength at Camille Albane and DESSANGE is that we work with our own brands at the back bar as well as retail. We not only expect quality we create quality products. Apart from our Camille Albane and Dessange full range of products we also have our Phytodess luxury line and our Natural Pigma shampoo which is a henna based shampoo blended and customized specifically to enhance and prolong hair color, all of which we manufacture internally.

MS: Nicolas Tisler was named the US Artistic Director for the brand. What defines his approach to styling hair? What is his signature technique?

MC: Nicolas was hand selected by France to come to America and head up our flagship on Newbury. After twenty years of working in cinema and fashion he was inspired by the Parisian spirit and joined Camille Albane. He chose Camille Albane to exercise the excellence of his techniques and fulfill his intent to make all women look and feel beautiful. He is a stylist, which is his specialty. His signature is beauty, glamour, and avant garde.

MS: In your opinion, what are the most effective ways for a salon professional to expand their client base?

MC: You are your best publicity. A professional hairstylist has their own personal touch that makes them unique and special. However when any hairdresser has a brand and concept that they are passionate about and implement on a daily basis it reinforces their professionalism. Camille Albane creates and drives that passion. Having pride and dedication while working with a brand/concept that is clear, result driven and innovative is not only a perfect combination for success, it is essential.

MS: Where do you see the Camille Albane US brand in ten years?

MC: I see Camille Albane as a well- known respected brand that franchisees love to run and hairdressers are proud of and love to work for. Becoming a household name amongst hairdressers is the highest achievement to ascertain, that is where I believe we are headed.

MS: What is the most gratifying part of your work? What is the source of your passion for this industry?

MC: Watching the artist, the hairdresser create. Seeing a make-up artist or aesthetician deliver the results a client requested. Seeing their dedication and passion in turn evokes the same passion in me. When a client walks out with a smile ready to take on the world, feeling beautiful, attractive and empowered, that is what makes me smile on my way to and from work every day.

MS: In beauty, there are many examples of successful woman (entrepreneurs, corporate trailblazers and artists), finding a work/ life balance is a popular subject and a challenging prospect. How do you seek to achieve balance between your life as a wife and mother and your role as General Manager?

MC: I make sure that the people I love and care about in my life know it every time I speak with them and I cherish my time with family and friends. I am passionate about the beauty industry and it gives me great pleasure to work with such caring and talented people on a daily basis that I don’t think of the stress of it as much as I think of the benefits. I remain positive and try to see the best in everything and don’t beat myself up if I can’t get it all done in one day because sometimes the idea you come up with later is the one that made all the difference. I also get myself a haircut or massage or facial because treating yourself every now and then is essential to maintaining the balance as well.

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