BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
The sixth in our All in A Day’s Work series spotlights Dianne Petersen, co-founder of Oak Street’s newest beauty mecca, Platinum 34 Salon.
An immigrant from Poland who grew up near Damen and North Avenue, Dianne opened the salon doors on Valentine’s Day with business partner George Long, realizing her teenage dream. Some of Chicago’s social arbiters, longtime customers of Dianne, are celebrating in her in the sun-filled salon where champagne, chocolates, and croissants come with the styling.
“In Chicago we see two groups: stylists and colorists. Stylists often lose business and delay clients because all depends on the amount of time a colorist takes. At Platinum 34, we are all skilled at doing both cuts and color, so there is no drama, no delay.
“For us, it is all about how to go beyond the structured skills we have learned and to examine a person’s head and face first and then make them look fabulous.”
Meeting Dianne, it is not surprising that her fluid blond hair, cut just below her ears, is what you first notice. As she talks, her hair swings with grace and, like all the staff at Platinum 34, she is dressed impeccably—no blue jeans or tennis shoes allowed for salon employees.
Three of Chicago’s most elegant and influential women, Monika Betts, Biba Roesch, and Anstiss Krueck celebrate Dianne. Anstiss describes her as “the opposite of a prima donna, but with all the talent of a prima donna, and an extremely good heart.”
Biba, who has known her for almost 15 years, commented:
“I love the pride she feels after each visit. Sometimes people stop me on the street afterwards to compliment my hair. One time my husband, Peter, actually called her to tell her how great I looked with my fresh haircut.
“I also admire her for her personal life. She raised four boys to all be very successful. She loves her family very much.”
Born in the Tatry Mountains south of Krakow, Dianne came to the United States at age eight. Because she was quite artistic, her mother, who worked nights at a factory, signed her up to study hairdressing after school. Her studies continued when the family moved to Morton Grove and she attended Maine East High School.
“I apprenticed at the Michael Thomas salon after school and learned the techniques of Vidal Sasson, still the gold standard. By 21 I had bought my own townhouse, but at 26, I was burned out and decided to go to Paris. Because I have dual citizenship, I was able to get a job at Jean-Marc Maniatis.
“When I moved back to the United States and married, my main concern was raising my four sons. About five years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to be dictated to by the colorist’s schedule and decided to pursue an early dream.”
With the help of one of her sons who wrote the business plan; clients, including architects and designers who joined in along the way; and the partnership with George Long, called by Allure “the most sought after colorist,” Dianne celebrates her one-month opening of Platinum 34 today.
All of her previous clients came along, including many of Chicago’s social leaders: 85 percent women, 15 percent men.
With a new client, Dianne puts her own brand of face time first:
“I might ask, have you ever thought of changing your part? Often one eye is wider than the other and you should show off the more beautiful eye. If you have a tiny face, we need to bring out your features.
“Same is true with texture of the hair, whether you might have a cowlick or somewhat frizzy hair. Many people want to just put in product and then want out of a salon. We want you to make a statement.”
Dianne recommends that clients not wash their hair everyday. The shop carries organic products, such as a dry shampoo, that add volume and color that contains no ammonia. For customers with thin hair she recommends vitamins such as biotin, Viviscal, and products from the French company Phyto.
We asked Dianne what are her most popular hairstyles and colors:
“The layered out bob, which is done with movement and texture in mind. It can be shoulder length or shorter, where you can put it behind your ears. It is an adorable cut.
“The balayage technique supplies strategic hand-painted color, often four shades lighter. Our clients who are busy professionals and mothers love it. It doesn’t need to be reapplied as often as highlights and appears to be the work of the sun. With younger people, highlighting done with iridescent colors, such as pinks and blues, is popular.”
What celebrities do you think have great hairstyles?
Nicole Kidman always looks good and Jennifer Lawrence is versatile with colors. Hair extenders are very popular—and really good wigs—in the entertainment industry.
How often should you get your hair cut?
Fine hair gets so frayed at the bottom, and it keeps fraying just like fabric. With thick hair, you can go months without cutting if you choose.
What are your recommendations for older clients?
Lighter hair is better because when one is older, there are often more shadows on the face. Hair should be lifted away from the face.
You hear that stylists are often like psychologists. Is that true?
It’s like what happens in Vegas stays there. I often do both husband and wife and even if one has told me something, when the husband asks, ‘Didn’t my wife tell you this?’ I always say no. Even if I know someone is pregnant, I never say when asked.
You also have to be aware of fashion. Clients will sometimes ask, ‘What do you think of this dress?’ And I would never say it looks great if it doesn’t.
I love to travel, and we share tips—also restaurants. It’s often an information exchange as I work.
And it is most important that stylists keep up. I continue to go to classes, study motivational materials, and study fashion trends.
What is the hardest thing about working with new clients?
Many of my clients have been with me for years and years, since the time I was in a tiny loft space. But developing trust is the most important thing. If a person says they only want a fourth of an inch cut, that’s what I will do. Next time, they might let me cut more.
We welcome your suggestions of other guest stars who have turned their daydreams into their day jobs. Please write to us.