Street cred For Chicagoan Karen Marie Vanoni, deciding to be a hair colorist was a no-brainer. “I was always into hair and art,” she says. After attending Pivot Point Beauty School, she started as a colorist assistant at Lincoln Park’s Michael Anthony Salon, and over the years has received advanced training through Vidal Sassoon, Wella and L’Oréal Paris, among others. While her passion for coloring hasn’t wavered, her desire to work in a corporate environment did. So after 15 years of working at the top salons around town, this master colorist struck out on her own by opening Karen Marie Salon in November 2009. At the laid-back Bucktown shop, Karen works with like-minded artists who not only share her passion for great hair but the environment, too. The shop incorporates practices such as using ecofriendly hair products and furniture made from reclaimed and recycled materials, plus it donates all its hair clippings to Matter of Trust, which uses them to soak up oil spills around the world.
Why I love her I met Vanoni when I moved to Chicago 12 years ago through an ad for a free haircut with color. The hairstylist was okay, but it was the skills of Vanoni’s coloring that sold me. Did I mention I walked in with light-pink roots from a DIY job gone bad? “If you save someone from a bad hair color, they’re with you forever,” Vanoni says, which pretty much describes our relationship. I’ve followed her from salon to salon like a lovesick puppy—or, in this case, a prematurely gray-haired gal—knowing that I’ll always walk out with exactly the color I want, which is to say, totally natural-looking. Come summer, she knows to go a little lighter, while in the winter, a bit darker to keep up my “only-my-hairdresser-knows-for-sure” status. But it’s more than just Vanoni’s eye for color. When I moved to Spain, she gifted me with a couple months’ supply of coloring products, and I’ve had plenty of freebie blow-dry tutorials even though her then-boss would give her the stink eye for doing so. Coloring by Vanoni at Karen Marie Salon is $65 (single process)–$140 (full highlights); cuts $70. 1859 N Milwaukee Ave (773-227-4003).