The Bright Side of Business: Award-winning hairdresser elevates Ottawa at international fashion competitions

Blushes Hair photo
Editor's Note

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The Bright Side of Business bimonthly column is presented by Star Motors.

When it comes to hairdressing, few represent Ottawa like Silas Tsang, an internationally-recognized, award-winning master stylist.

Tsang and his wife – fellow hairdresser Dorothy Tsang – are the co-owners of Blushes, a Kanata-based luxury hair salon. This month, the couple added to their business’ many accolades, each taking home awards from the 2020 Contessas. Now in its 32nd year, this photo-based competition attracts top Canadian hairdressing talent.

Tsang’s photo collection won him the most coveted prize as the Canadian Hairstylist of the Year.

“I worked with an amazing photographer, an amazing make-up artist, and an amazing stylist,” Tsang says. “I learn from them a lot.” 

Silas Tsang
Silas Tsang

This is far from Tsang’s first award. Just this fall, that same photo collection got him shortlisted for the prestigious 2020 HJ's British Hairdressing Awards.

“To be able to show the world that you have that (recognition) – it’s a hairdresser’s dream,” he says.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Tsang says knew he wanted to be a hairdresser even as his family encouraged him to explore other career paths.

“My mom said, ‘Hairdressing is not really professional, maybe you can do something else.’ But I said ‘I love it.’”

“My mom said, ‘Hairdressing is not really professional, maybe you can do something else’ – but I said ‘I love it,’” he recalls. 

Tsang stuck to his guns – or in this case, his scissors. After a teacher told him he must repeat grade 11 to prepare for higher education, Tsang – who didn’t want to go to university – took a leap of faith by moving schools entirely.

“I ended up serendipitously meeting Dorothy at this new high school,” he says.

After graduating, Tsang moved to London, UK to study hair design and kickstart his career before moving to Ottawa with Dorothy in 1992. 

Recognition builds

Nine years later, the couple set up shop with Blushes and quickly grew a local client base. Tsang’s wide-reaching renown would come later, thanks to a tip from his mentor at L’Oreal Professionnel, Jennifer Scott.

“She told me that the only way to get recognized in this field is to enter competitions,” Tsang says. “I am so grateful that I listened to her advice.”

Blushes

In 2007, Tsang entered his first-ever competition: the international L’Oreal Colour Trophy Awards.

"I didn't place even in the semi-finals,” Tsang says. “It was a little bit discouraging, but I didn't give up.”

And it was a good thing, too – just one year later, Tsang would take home the competition’s Newcomer of the Year and People's Choice awards.

During this time, Blushes kept growing from strength to strength.

“Working with my wife, who is also a talented hairdresser, brings great comfort, as we share the same goals and values,” Tsang says. “We’re able to use each other's strength to get through challenging times, and also to celebrate our successes.”

Blushes Salon

COVID-19 fell into the former category, as Blushes closed for the first three months of the pandemic.

“During the first wave, we decided to start selling and delivering hair products once a week,” Tsang says. “We also asked our landlord for some rent relief, to mitigate the challenges of having to shut down our services.”

Building back together

As Blushes re-opened, Tsang and Dorothy prepared new safety policies, purchasing disposable masks, shoe covers, single-use hair capes and more.

“Our clients were very happy to be back,” Tsang says. But despite a busy few months, the couple estimates that business is still down 30 to 40 per cent.

The pandemic might have slowed down business, but it hasn’t stopped Tsang sweeping up awards. And next summer, he will be hosting a show with the North American Hairstyling Awards, scheduled for Las Vegas.

“I’m focusing on that now – I want to show the world what I'm going to do,” Tsang says.

While Ottawa might not have the biggest fashion industry, Tsang believes that “the more people we have, the more creativity will flourish. My wife and I couldn’t imagine starting a family and owning our salon anywhere else. This city has given us the opportunity to share our craft with the world.”

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

This column is presented by Star Motors, Ottawa’s original Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes Van dealer.

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