Interview between Clare Dowdy, independent journalist for Wallpaper and Mark Sawchuk, General Manager “L’OREAL Professional” Ukraine (Client).
Mark thanks for getting back to me. I’m travelling this week, so I hope it’s OK if I send you some questions by e-mail.
What is L’Oreal’s history in Kiev/Ukraine/ the region?
Mark: The L’Oreal Group has been present in Ukraine since 2003 – first as a Representative Office, then in 2005 as a full Subsidiary of the L’Oreal Group worldwide. The company has grown quite considerably – where in 2003 there were less than 10 employees, today the company employs over 150 people throughout the country.
Is this L’Oreal’s first academy in Kiev?
Mark: Yes – setting up an Academy is a time-consuming and costly endeavour (from concept to completion, this project took almost one year to finish). Because we are such a young company, we wanted to make sure we had the right people, location, and vision before going ahead with the project. Because the Academy serves as the visual representation of the brand, it was important that everything be perfect from the start.
Why have you set up an academy there?
Mark: We at L’Oreal Professional value being close to our clients – by having the Academy located next to our offices, we can stop in, say hello, and speak directly to our hairdressing partners every day. By having the Academy right on the premises, the marketing teams can also test new products, and the education team can try new techniques, hairstyles, and trends before actually presenting them to our customers. In this respect, it is essential to have this close proximity. In situating the Academy in the capital of Ukraine, this provides an inspirational opportunity for many hairdressers from the regions to come to Kiev and whilst spending some time training in the Academy, also have the chance to broaden their horizons.
What are the academy’s functions?
Mark: The main purpose of the Academy is to provide training opportunities for our hairdressing clients – most seminars involve theoretical “classroom” style training, followed by a practical “hands-on” segment where the clients can actually practice applying hair colour to models under the supervision of one of our trainers. The multifunctional aspect of the Academy allows us to perform two different seminars simultaneously. The Academy can also be used for larger seminars of 50-75 people of a “look and learn” format. Finally, the room can be completely opened up to host public-relations events, fashion shows, and product launches.
How would you describe the design?
Mark: When Joerg Rostock (the architect from m2r who lead the project) and I first saw the space, we instantly saw the potential in the multi-functionality of the room. We decided to leave the concrete foundation of the room exposed, while using contrasting materials such as glass, stainless steel, and Corian to give the Academy its polished feel. We wanted it to be a place of inspiration, but also a place where people feel they can work and learn in a relaxed environment – therefore we decided to leave many of the ventilation shafts exposed, as well as the racks for the lighting, which give the impression of a loft apartment, or a fashion show stage setup. Because of the south-facing of the windows, there is a lot of natural light coming into the room – very important when looking at hair once hair colour has been applied. To take further advantage of the light, we decided to use mirrors on the walls and in the wet-room (where the washbasins are located); in the end this gives the impression of the entire room being much larger than its actual size, 234m2.
How does it compare with your competitors’ facilities in Kiev or the region?
Mark: There is no comparison! We and our clients are convinced that we have opened one of the most beautiful and inspiring Academies not only in Ukraine but in all of Eastern Europe! There may be larger facilities, but none that combine the cutting edge design and functionality of this Academy.
What are L’Oreal’s ambitions for the region, and how will the Academy contribute?
Mark: As with most other L’Oreal Professional subsidiaries in Eastern Europe, we strive to become the number one professional salon brand in Ukraine during the next 2-3 years. To achieve this, we need to constantly gain new salons, and thereafter train the hairdressers on how to use our products and recommend them to their clients. We wish the Academy to become the center of excellence driving this training strategy and, hopefully, full of hairdressers who want to learn, grow, and together with us, succeed!
Thank you for your time,
Best wishes, Clare Dowdy
Client: L’OREAL Ukraine
Contractor: Denza Workspace
Photographer: © Taufik Kenan, Berlin
Completed: September 2008