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Is JCPenney's New InStyle Salon That Much Different?

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In July, 15 JCPenney stores across the country unveiled The Salon by InStyle, which brings an entirely new and revamped program to the department store's salon. Two of these salons are here in South Florida– at Dadeland Mall and Pembroke Lakes Mall. Eventually, by the end of 2016 all 850 of JCPenney's salons will be receiving this new glam treatment, so before this major explosion could happen, I decided to give the beauty chair at Dadeland Mall a test spin.

The Salon by InStyle at Dadeland is tucked between the juniors and petites section at JCPenney and I'll admit: when you first walk in, you won't be impressed. The walls are a dreary beige and grey, the faux wooden shelves feel pretty antiquated, and the floor tiles give nothing to the impression that the salon is "Fresh! New! Modern!" Maybe its the lack of windows that makes it look lackluster, maybe it's the choice of colors. Either way, the furniture is new and contemporary, and the images on the walls have been swapped out to show cool, trendy haircuts on models of all races– black, white, hispanic, and asian. (#MulticulturalWin), which is a nice little fix up.

So what's changed then, you ask? You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that the level of service has been elevated beyond what you'd imagine. Before you meet with your stylist, you're handed a "Trend Book" with pages upon pages of trendy hairstyles for ladies with short, medium, or long hair. I was impressed to see that the book boasted a pretty solid amount of really "in" hair styles right now, like fishtail and crown braids, purple ombré, and even the hottest hair color of the moment: "grandma grey."

Once I got over my initial disappointment with the decor, I was able to sit back and relax with my stylist, Miguelina. As she massaged in a Paul Mitchell shampoo (one thing I'll say about the salon is that it uses pretty good products like Matrix, Redken, Sexy Hair, and Carol's Daughter), she chatted me up on what was different about The Salon by InStyle. What impressed me the most was the new training that all of the stylists were now undergoing– not just once, but every six months.

Like fashion, hair trends change seasonally and if they're popular enough (like an ombre or a bayalage), they become a standard in the hair industry. Whereas these training programs didn't exist before, now every stylist at every JCPenney salon is required to learn how to cut, color, and style the season's hottest hair trends, as selected by InStyle's artistic director, Nick Stenson. In addition, these stylists are taught how to properly service their clients as they would at a high end salon. As Miguelina put it, "they're supposed to know how to do it all."

I emerged from my chair with shiny curled strands and a new outlook on JCPenney's salon. The fact that the company– often perceived as drab, dreary, and of your grandmother's time– is putting in the effort to appeal to a younger clientele in its salons is a great sign that its moving with the times. And while I do think the salon missed its mark in terms of design, the trends that InStyle is focusing on are on point and the bi-annual staff training program may really make a difference. Plus, you won't find a friendlier, more welcoming staff, and if you can get passed judging this book by its cover (or just close your eyes and relax) you might be surprised at your experience and outcome.

Dadeland Mall

7535 N Kendall Dr, Miami, FL 33156 (305) 665-6228