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Barcelona welcomes Europe’s largest L’Oréal academy

5 April, 2013

An investment of 2.5 million euros in a space designed by the architect Benedetta Tagliabue has made the city’s new professional L’Oréal academy possible.

“Oh!” This is how Benedetta Tagliabue summed up L’Oréal’s instructions to her. “They wanted people to say ‘oh!’ when they walked into the academy; they didn’t want people to be indifferent, they wanted them to be surprised by the beauty, originality and uniqueness of the space,” said the renowned architect from the firm Miralles Tagliabue. To achieve this effect, work has been carried out over the last two years at a central location in Barcelona in carrer Còrsega near Passeig de Gràcia. Over a thousand square metres full of extraordinary details will be used to receive professional stylists from the company.

Small details that speak to Barcelona

The new academy is a versatile, open space dominated by curved ceilings and tiled flooring that immediately conjures up images in the visitor’s mind of the Catalan modernism of Gaudí. “Twenty people worked on the floor alone and 55,000 handcrafted tiles were made for it,” said a L’Oréal representative. For Tagliabue, transforming the premises into an excellent business card for L’Oréal to present to its clients all over Europe was a huge challenge. “At times like these, when the architectural sector is going through a major crisis, this project was a great opportunity to work for the city of Barcelona again.” A lover of details that compete to take centre stage, Tagliabue explained how she tried to keep white from completely dominating the scene: “The pieces of bamboo on the doors and ceiling gave the academy a natural touch and prevented it from having an overly stark look. We tried to make the most of natural light sources and emphasised the space’s transparent elements.”

More than 10,000 hairdressers are expected to attend the academy every year. This has directly created 16 jobs. “We want it to be a benchmark in European hairdressing. Here we’ll teach stylists not only how to apply new products but also how to make a hair wash an experience, a beauty treatment a moment of relaxation,” said the director of L’Oréal Professionel in Spain, Jordi Trilles. The company, he says, has created “a hairdressing cathedral to provide top-quality training.”

Key sector figures

Trilles, as well as other top L’Oréal executives from Spain and the rest of Europe, attended the academy’s grand opening in Barcelona in January. “Now we have twice the space for training and the city has also joined the company’s international training network along with Rome, Paris and London,” said Trilles.

The director, who shows around a good part of the company’s new facilities, is pleased to make Barcelona a reference point in the hairdressing sector. However, he says, “the sector is going through tough times. The VAT hike from 8% to 21% was a hard blow to take. That’s why we have to stand by our clients and stylists, support them and encourage entrepreneurs in the hairdressing industry in Spain.”

Indeed, the industry, according to L’Oréal data taken from the National Association of Perfumery and Cosmetics, is made up of 48,000 hairdressers all over the country. A quarter of them work in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. At the moment there’s one hairdresser for every 961 inhabitants in Spain, a ratio surpassed only by England and Germany, according to company data. Furthermore, these centres create around 110.000 direct jobs for the State.

More business activity

Nevertheless, hairdressing activity in the European market has decreased by 3 %. In this respect, the head of L’Oréal Professionel underscores the importance of escorting hairdressers over the course of their business training.

Both Trilles and L’Oréal talk about the dual ‘hairdresser-businessperson’ role, a combination they are keen to promote through the training opportunities to be offered in Barcelona. “The best way to boost the sector is to commit to the stylist-cum-businessperson, someone able to manage his or her own company, help it grow and generate jobs. We also have to make it so that clients don’t only go to the hairdresser when they need to. If we turn going to the hairdresser into an experience, we encourage client visits and that involves transforming the service we provide and making it into something closer to a service of sensations and experiences,” argues Trilles. For Trilles and the company he represents, committing to the academy was also a way to add prestige and service to the profession.

With an extensive social area that includes a café and a boulevard-style entrance, the L’Oréal Academy in Barcelona will host different activities throughout the year. In addition to courses on the latest techniques and trends, the event calendar will include fashion shows, photo sessions, hairdressers’ association meetings, conventions and annual meetings for sector businesses.

L’Oréal, with salons in over 130 countries, had a total turnover of some 20.3 billion euros in 2011. It has a portfolio of 27 international brands. In Spain alone it has 2,000 workers distributed between the corporate offices and the four divisions located here. It also has two factories in Spain, including one in Burgos which makes professional hair care products for the international market.

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