A Clandestine Affair at The Department Store.

I’ll be honest here, ok. Brace yourself. I’ve lived on the North Shore of Auckland for at least 10 years of my life. But, after all the years I’ve lived on the Shore, being firmly re-ensconced in central Auckland only reaffirms my feeling of being a foreigner when it comes to Takapuna. I mean, cliché as it is – it really is the land of BMW, Audi, white pants and now – the offshoot brainchild of some of New Zealand’s finest creatives – The Department Store. Which I think has and will continue to be a destination shopping & beauty experience for Aucklanders!

Therein, the conflict of interest lies. You see, I’ve had a bit of a lucky streak lately which started with winning $150 worth of The Department Store vouchers, which as Twitter informed me… doesn’t get you much. So, the very un-fashionista me… needed to go to the centre of high style in Takapuna. What a wicked tale of indulgence it begins..Oh, how I love to LOOK. Fashion magazines, hair salons, shoes, handbags, jewellery, beauty treatments… I’ll read and read and read all about it and look look look – but actually be brave enough to wear it or do it? Heavens no. Perhaps though, the brilliance in the concept store is the presence of the Stephen Marr salon with Lucy & The Powder Room downstairs.

A quick look in the mirror confirmed it with horrors and gasping, “I’m only at least six weeks overdue for a cut & colour!” Mere hours later, I had an appointment for a couple of days time and a guilt headache setting in.

My relationship with my hairstylist is one of supreme loyalty. We’ve been together at least 6 years, weathered short, long, the awful growing out stage (I was a real bitch during that one). And we’re friends, on Facebook and everything. So I had to choose my words carefully – discreetly. However, I may have landed in an affair I can’t escape from, Stephen & Lucy are seductive, wonderful creatures.

Before I even left the comfort of the city, I received a phonecall from Andrea at Lucy & the Powder Room. They had “noticed you’re a client upstairs but you’ve never visited us, so we’d love to offer you a free 30min facial.” Well, technically I wasn’t a client yet, which made it feel even more tantalizing. Freebies and bonuses before I’ve even stepped foot in the place? Temptress! Of course, I said yes.

Even the mandatory run down of Sans products (all natural, all NZ made, all organic, all bound to rejuvenate and prevent aging with proper use) during my cleansing, exfoliating, massaging facial ritual was pleasant as I soaked in all the luxury. I held myself back from buying all the serums and cleansers at once, relishing the dewy, glowing feeling in my cheeks instead.

Then upstairs to Stephen Marr and their newest stylist, Matt. I’ll be honest – I’ve known for a while now that if I ever cheated on Aimee (aforementioned amazing stylist at Servilles Albany) it would be for a male hairstylist. Plus, one who’s worked in film & TV and is so affably charming as Matt? Hard to resist. There’s a cute little “get to know you” piece on The Department Store blog actually!

The choice of Waiheke wines offered on my arrival (at lunchtime, darling!) served with tender olives was perfect.

The consultation, colour and cut was exquisite – lots of attentive questions, suggestions and the usual getting-to-know-you conversation.. of course, mostly I was just anxiously awaiting Matt to get his hands on the regrowth that became more and more hideously obvious with every flaxen haired Shore beauty that walked in!

Dry cutting, then colouring with Matt’s confident but not overly presumptive suggestions of lowlights, highlights and contouring, followed by the hair-washing.

Let’s not neglect the importance of a good basin. Postured behind a living wall of ferns that give the industrial space a feeling of oxygen, wellbeing and light – the basins and reclining chairs are beautiful somewhat uncomfortable. Delightfully honest, Sally (the most thorough hair-washing I’ve ever had) admitted that the placement hadn’t gone quite right with those chairs and basins. I felt better that it wasn’t just my unfashionable 5’2” frame that wasn’t working!

Consider me wooed, where consulting by the basin, Matt assured me I wouldn’t need toning. For the first time in nearly 5 years of reddish, blonde hues and no toning necessary? I nearly didn’t believe him, but I was grateful to be out of the chair.

“More wine? A coffee? More water? Anything at all?”, I was asked frequently but I was just fine. The cut perfected, the blowdry was thorough and had movement, body… even with a touch of finishing serum for dry ends and (gasp!) mousse. Only at the roots for volume, but not on my somewhat sensitive scalp. I mean, the last time I thought about mousse my mother was still getting a short 80s cut “frosted on the tips”. You know that look. Nothing pretty about that past 1989.

But mousse me, he did. And I converted. That kind of experience could almost be considered spiritual. So now, I’m perfectly exfoliated, with a coat of gorgeous Jane Iredale mineral foundation with stunning hair, sated with wine and olives.What more could a girl ask? Well, I was sent away with samples of the Sans range with explicit instructions and a little sales pitch that was seductive in of itself – mostly to help with scalp sensitivity.

Oh wait, there’s more. Just when you’re think you’re done, Matt says..”Now, I’d love you to come back in a couple of weeks. Let’s do a complimentary one-on-one! I’ll show you a few tricks, we can check in on the colour and try out a few things, we’ll see how the shampoo is going for you. Make sure you come on a night before you’re going out.”

I mean, Matt is so delightfully unassuming and the antithesis of everything I feel intimidated, that it’s the height of fashion and style while feeling completely comfortable to be yourself.

Swoon. I think I’m having an “emotional affair” with another stylist. Then they plied me with The Department Store chocolate bars. Melt.

What do you think?