A talk on intentional acquisitions, the practice of finding inspiration, and the definition of success
By Eleanora Morrison
To truly know Lisa Weller is to recognize and respect the quiet intensity of her creative vocation. Not just through the daily practice of her craft as a hair artist, but also through her career as a business leader and an innovator who competes at the top of her field with the best of the best all over the world.
From behind the chair at her salon Twirl in Southtown San Antonio, to behind the chair backstage on the most extravagant Fashion Week sets for the biggest design houses around the world, Lisa is a master at interpreting imaginative trends and visual escapism and bringing it all back to her clientele—and, luckily for us, into the pages of our magazine—as wearable evidence of her elevated eye for styling and her tireless perfectionism.
The place she brings all of the knowledge and inspiration before she shares it anywhere else? Her closet. We spent some time sipping Rosé from Provence on a summer Saturday evening before her 20th wedding anniversary trip to Capri, Italy talking about life and thumbing through a few of her favorite things and most cherished mementos…
EM: What was your childhood like, and how did it influence your path to becoming a creative artist?
LW: My childhood was kind of like a rollercoaster ride. It was feast or famine. I had a super creative father who is a brilliant mind: he was an investment banker, but he used his creativity on our finances. When it was feast, it was fabulous. In our early years my dad worked in New York City, so we were exposed to a lot more. And my mom always loved fancy things: dinners, diamonds, beautiful clothes…so I saw all of that. But when it was famine, it was really bad. My mom was cleaning houses and we were using food stamps. We had to get really creative with how to keep the fabulous in our lives. I had to rely on my imagination a lot and that was a big source of creativity throughout my years. On my father’s side, my grandmother was an actual artist in San Francisco and had a gallery. I grew up with her art being all around me. I always was drawn to art.
EM: What was the dream career you envisioned for yourself when you were young?
LW: Honestly, I don’t think I envisioned anything. I stayed in Texas for college because I chickened out on what I really wanted to do, which was move to San Francisco and work for my grandmother and go to art school. But at the very end of high school I met a boy who was going to the school my brothers both went to…I was scared of leaving everything behind. I took the safe route and went to Texas A&M University. I had no idea that they didn’t offer art classes or art majors at the time. I didn’t do that kind of research. I started looking through the majors and I had a little bit of a background knowledge of nutrition from my mother, because she was a health nut. And probably like every girl, at the time I was always searching for the solution to being “skinny.” Sadly, I thought that if I was a nutrition major I would find out all the secrets. (Turns out there aren’t any.) So, then I was completely disillusioned with nutrition as a career and it just became a goal for me to graduate. I was taking a bunch of science courses for my major that just were totally out of my wheelhouse. However, they ended up playing an important role in how I understand the chemistry of hair and skin in my career today. But…I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.
EM: At what point were you introduced to the thought of working with hair as a career?
LW: My mom would say that when I was 6 years old I first showed an interest in working with hair. My cousins and I were playing one day, and I decided it would be a good idea to cut bangs in my hair and in theirs. So I gave everyone a haircut. I remember my Aunt being furious…I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. Fast forward to my early twenties: after I met and married my husband (who was my Chemistry tutor in college), his job moved us back to San Antonio. I ended up working at a Vitamin store stocking vitamins and I hated every minute of it. All I could think to do was to start creating things, because I could feel inside of me that I was good at something. I just didn’t know what. During that time I wanted a Meg Ryan haircut (it was the 90’s) and I was given a terrible version of it. So I fixed it myself, and just somehow made it look exactly like her picture. Everyone was complimenting it. When my husband saw this, he encouraged me to quit my job and go to beauty school.
EM: Fast-forward to being through beauty school and your first job: what was your motivation to open Twirl in 2008, and what has been your inspiration to bring the best of hair back to San Antonio?
LW: I never wanted to own a salon. I didn’t want the stress of being the boss. But when I moved back from New York, after living there during my early years as a hair dresser, I tried to find a salon to work at in San Antonio (or at least somewhere where I could rent a chair). I just couldn’t find an environment that was the right fit for me. Then I figured out that the environment I wanted didn’t exist in San Antonio yet, so I had to create it. I just wanted a small private studio, and then it grew into what we are today: 13 employees, 7 stylists, and 3 apprentices (future stylists). I don’t want my girls to have to go to New York like I did, so I constantly travel and work around the world to bring things back here and teach them.
EM: What was it like to work for the most famous hairdresser in the world, Guido Palau?
LW: Guido was the game changer for me. He was always the goal. I had a CD when I was in beauty school and it said, “if you want to be the best you have to work for Guido.” I did end up making it to New York to work- for 2 years. I came home feeling like I failed, and when I was back in San Antonio a friend of mine I worked with in New York was about to join Guido’s team and recommended me. All of a sudden the opportunity was there for me to work for him. So I would fly to New York, and then around the world to the biggest fashion weeks and be on his backstage hair team. Working for Guido is incredibly hard. It’s the big leagues…like playing for the Yankees. The pace is intense, his expectations are impossible, which is what makes him the best. He is a genius and he has an amazing eye. He knows what he wants to see. If you’re not helping him get there, he’s frustrated and he’ll tell you, or fire you. I am so grateful for my time with him, because I am now able to see things in hair that I wasn’t able to see before I worked for him. I met hairdressers from all over the world. On our team there were four Americans and the rest were from different countries. For the most part, I hadn’t seen the world yet either – it was working for Guido that shoved me out of my comfort zone and helped me see the world. Every single moment of every single day working for him, I thought to myself, am I going to get fired? …for six whole years. I ended up leaving on my own terms when it was time for me to move on, and we are still friends (as much as anyone can be considered a friend to him). That’s just who he is.
EM: What are your main sources of inner strength?
LW: My faith. I became a Christian when I was nineteen, even though I was raised around it. Faith wasn’t ever real to me until I had a life experience in which I began to personally question God. It was a time when I opened myself up to divine intervention, and then it happened. Ever since then, I’ve had a very close personal relationship with God and a deep inner faith. That connectedness to something greater guides me in everything I do.
EM: Okay…because we are standing in this fabulous closet: what is the rhyme and reason behind your incredible wardrobe that you have collected over the years?
LW: I’m all about finding quality. Items that are beautifully made but that look expensive. However, sometimes you just have to spend the money if a garment is worth it. A lot of stuff in here doesn’t even fit me anymore. I hold onto things even though I’ve been so many different sizes. I’m attached to these garments because this is an art collection.
EM: How do you define your personal style?
LW: I tend to like anything that’s a little bit off and out of the ordinary. When I go shopping I look for what’s strange, or for what patterns catch my eye. I tried to go through a minimalist phase, but it just wasn’t me. The truth is, the person who is inside of me, this [wardrobe] is what’s happening in my brain all of the time…this craziness is always who I go back to over the years, no matter what life throws at me.
EM: What is your favorite garment in your collection?
LW: Probably my most favorite thing in my entire wardrobe is this caftan I wore for my 40th birthday. It’s from Bergdorf Goodman and I found it in New York on one of my work trips.
EM: Tell me about these mood boards.
LW: I’ve been doing these inspiration boards since I was in high school. My mom didn’t allow me to put any personal items on my walls, so I hung them on the back of my closet door. I needed my own little room to visually escape and figure out what to wear, and I always used a closet to do it. Even in our first years of marriage when my husband Courtney and I had tiny closets, I would sit inside of the closet on the floor and look at the boards on the back of the door. I make my girls at Twirl do their own inspiration boards every Spring and Fall, bring them all together and we talk about them over a potluck. It really helps with visualization, because at some point near the end of the season I have ended up wearing all of the looks I pin. This practice also helps me shop my closet. I always put the editorial headlines and sayings on my boards too, and they speak to where I am at the moment. It’s funny, because no matter how it comes out, I always say, this is the perfect board for my life right now. I would be lost if I didn’t make these boards.
EM: How do you organize your closet so that you don’t get lost in it?
LW: Every Sunday night I pick a color for the week ahead, and that really helps. I pull my clothing for the entire week and put it on this rack right here. Especially on weeks like this where I’m traveling, when I return and have to get right back to work, I’m not overwhelmed trying to figure out what to wear the next morning. On Sundays I enjoy pulling from my collection; it helps me stay organized, styled and prepared for the week ahead.
EM: What are some of your favorite sayings that you have adopted as mantras or beliefs?
LW: Well, because I am a Christian, most of these sayings on my mirror are proverbs. Like this one, Proverbs 31, ‘She is clothed in strength and excellence, she laughs at the days to come.’ I love that. A real beautiful woman, to me, is someone who laughs at her wrinkles. Aging is unavoidable now, so I want it to show a celebration of my laughter and my joy. This one is also crazy to me, ‘Dress in the wardrobe God has picked out for you: compassion, humility, kindness, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place. Be quick to forgive, always wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. It always fits. Never be without it.’ King James will have a different read, but that’s the modern-day translation of what that verse is saying.
EM: What has defined success for you over the years?
LW: Well, I’m glad I still can’t have whatever I want. There is emptiness in being able to buy anything and everything and it’s easy to get lost in that; I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s fun to hope for something and work for something, and then to get it. But, then when you have it, it’s the new normal and you’re on to wanting to achieve the next thing. So, I have really tried to work on the awareness that success is about appreciating the journey just as much as it is about appreciating the reward at the end of an accomplished goal. I actually look back on my younger years when I couldn’t have what I wanted as very special times, which has taught me a lot about what I can glean from the future.
EM: Why are you working on ELEANORA Magazine?
LW: I am so excited about this project because it’s the platform for those of us who committed to living here in San Antonio to showcase our creative work at the highest level. I have always felt like I’ve had something more inside of me that I can’t get out. I am confident that I have the skillsets to work alongside the best creatives in New York, but my life is beautiful here, and I’m not leaving. This platform is my chance to explore that passion for ultra-sophisticated artistry and collaboration that has been missing from my life.
Lisa’s Most Memorable Mementos:
- Special hair pieces from fashion shows that never made it to production.
- A perfume collection for different moods and memories.
- A personal mission statement from when she was 24 years old – it still rings true.
- Every backstage pass from each fashion week show she has ever worked over the years.
- Editorial mood boards.
- Her wedding bouquet in a shadow box frame- now 20 years old.
- Photos of her Goddaughter, June.
- Photos of her late Grandmother.
- Framed mantras, prayers and notes on her full-length mirror that she looks into every morning.
- Pictures of her late cat, Petey.
- Wellness tinctures.
- Dozens of hair scrunchies.
- Several pair of out-of-the-ordinary sunglasses.
Connect with Lisa Weller at TwirlHair.com, and follow her on Instagram @lolatwirls and @twirlsalon.
Edited from a series of interviews by Eleanora Morrison.