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The year was 2018, hair color was more popular than ever, and no one was talking about something called COVID. Palm Sunday, a salon in Toronto, Ontario, had earned such a stellar reputation for doing and fixing all hair color, but particularly blondes, that owners Ronnie Dag and Kat Marcus wanted to develop a tool to illustrate, for both clients and hairdressers, the art and science behind the shades.

“We became known for creative color,” Ronnie Dag explains. “We were doing the gray hair trend early on and have always done a lot of color correction. We found ourselves explaining about levels of lift.” The duo decided to make a swatch book so they could have a visual presentation. They'd call it the "Blonde Book."

A Small Concept Grows Big

Then the partners’ ambition exploded—why not go really cool and creative and do their own photo shoots? They started turning their camera toward documenting the color evolution of their clients and friends. It was a lot of work while they still had clients to service.

“We were shooting every week, so gung-ho,” Dag recalls. “We did all of the work ourselves—asking people to be models, finding the photographers, directing the shoots. We thought it would take just a year for us to produce a coffee table book. That was naive.”

They continued doing shoots as 2018 turned to 2019 but opened up the opportunity to their salon team to contribute to the Blonde Book. That was a win/win.

“This gave our stylists a chance to produce their own shoots and stretch their creativity,” Dag reports. “They found people in the community or on Instagram to model for us.” The book continued to take shape all that year, and then everything about life as we knew it got weird.

Pivoting for a Pandemic

“Toronto had a long lockdown, closing for a total of 18 months in different spurts,” Dag says about the way COVID affected the business in 2020-21. “Our clients wanted to do their color at home.”

Dag and Marcus responded by saying “yes” and putting their energy toward devising a way to make it happen. They created Color at Home color kits containing each client’s customized hair color, which stayed fresh in vacuum-sealed jars that prevented the color from oxidizing. Then, over FaceTime, they or their stylists walked clients through the application process. 

“We dubbed ourselves ‘the Internet salon,’” Dag says. “Essentially, we were still doing color, just remotely. That was a mind-boggle! I never would have thought that would be possible.”

This kept money flowing into the salon and into the pockets of the staff of ten. Dag reports that the salon’s 2020 income dropped only 1% from the previous year. But work on the Blonde Book went on hiatus until 2022.

The Lockdown Lifts

As the pandemic began to transition to an endemic, clients returned to Palm Sunday and stopped doing their color at home, although the salon has continued to offer color kits for clients to have that option. Like other salon owners, Dag and Marcus gave a lot of thought to what moving forward would look like. They came up with a two-stylist service that would provide yet another route for the client’s color journey.

“The two stylists mirror each other’s application,” Dag explains. “That way, we can achieve seven levels of lift all in one day.” They photograph the process for what now is an expanded concept for the Blonde Book.

“Our latest pivot is developing a website and separate Instagram page for this content,” Dag says. “It will sort of be a big blog. We’ll talk about the person’s hair history and what it took to get them to their new level. It will go from dark to light—an 8 to a 12, which is where blondes live—and show that gradient through both the visual and the storytelling of all those colors.”

The owners see this as an entertainment/education hybrid—a look book of beautiful images with a compelling narrative. 

“Blonde has always been an enticing color, ever since Old Hollywood,” Dag says. “Why does some hair go lighter than other hair?” She says people find the topic endlessly fascinating.

“So Many Ideas”

She seems to be right, and the owners are in demand for even more than technical info. Marcus has become a guess speaker on Bloomberg Business Network (BNN), so far appearing three times as an expert on government grants and how businesses can get through roadblocks like a pandemic. This exposure caught the attention of an “angel investor” who might help the partners get yet another initiative off the ground—their own home color line now that they know that, with guidance, determined clients can get the job done at home.

“We use Davines color, and we want to keep that,” Dag says. “So we might start with creative color. In the salon, we could take someone to blonde and then offer that if they want to do something temporary in between visits, a pop of pink or something, here’s our color line.” 

Dag says she’d love to turn the new website into an online course to educate and entertain about all things blonde for laymen and hair pros alike. Meanwhile, she sees the website as a way for everyone to share their blonding expertise and experiences.

“The Blonde Book was always for people who don’t do hair to appreciate the blonding process, but also for hairdressers to share all the different ways to get to the same result,” Dag says. “I’m a purist; I still think that a book would be special. The smell of a book! Crack it open and think: ‘What page will I land on?’”

They may not be certain how it will end, but Dag and Marcus have every intention of continuing their work with the Blonde Book.

“This has been such a big part of our backstory for so long,” Dag says. “We’re super open with our clients and on instagram, so people are asking, ‘What’s going on with that book?’ It’s our love letter to bleach. We have so many ideas! We’ll just keep plugging away.” 

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