In an oversaturated beauty market, it becomes hard to stand out.
The beauty industry is growing to new heights, especially with the rise of social media. This is a market that continually makes billions of dollars in revenue every year, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. This industry is becoming an inclusive community that celebrates differences of all kinds.
The [iki] movement, located in downtown Lexington, totally embodies this philosophy. Salon owner Anna Stepka has been in the Lexington area most of her life. Stepka’s father comes from neighboring Ohio and her mother came to America from Japan when Stepka was a baby. Stepka started her salon back in 2017, gaining massive success in a short time.
Stepka’s salon totally embraces the idea of inclusivity and diversity. She mentioned that the word iki is derived from the Japanese word wabi-sabi, which is an aesthetic of celebrating imperfections.
Stepka and her [iki] movement employees celebrate diversity by creating an all-inclusive environment where employees and customers are equally celebrated and taken care of. A place that would typically be described as a women’s safe haven, the [iki] movement eliminates those typical gender roles by offering “hair sculpting” and “hair painting” instead of the usual women’s cut/color or men’s cut/color. This mindset is further reinforced with its unisex product line, Davine, that takes care of all your pampering needs, male or female.
“Let us pamper the shit out of you.”
The company’s iconic catchphrase catches you off guard the moment you read the words, making you do a double take.
Stepka recalled a memory that helped her create her salon’s raunchy catchphrase.
“I love the shit out of you,” Stepka’s cousin used to say, and it became one of those little things we all carry with us throughout our lives. It rides on the line of inappropriate, which made Stepka giggle as she remembered.
Stepka’s adult career started at an auto dealership, selling cars with a friend. One day, on a whim, Stepka and her friend decided to go to beauty school. A week before they were set to start classes, her friend backed out, but Stepka pressed on.
Stepka said she had begun to lose her language at the time, so her mother suggested that she come back to Lexington to serve the large Japanese population in the area. So Stepka made her way back to Kentucky.
Stepka and her business partner started the [iki] movement because “nobody provides what we do worldwide.”
Creating something different is a philosophy Stepka has faith in: a salon focused on self-care inside and out, an all-inclusive place, creating harmony with mind, body and spirit, a place where they wanted people to feel totally taken care of.
At the [iki] movement, employees are seen as just as valuable as customers, a mindset that is not often present in conventional businesses. The salon is open Wednesday through Saturday, in hopes to create a better work-life balance for employees. A four-day work week further emphasizes their self-care focus, putting service providers first.
The salon compensation structure is also unconventional: a team-based pay ideal where there are no tips. This again creates a stress-free environment for customers and employees, where you don’t have to worry if you offended someone by not properly tipping. These aspects put the customers’ mind at ease, and a salon that does not require employees to get add-ons or up-sell puts employees at ease too.
“It’s all about how you frame it,” Stepka said.
Something she and her team have seemed to master is creating an environment where beauty starts on the inside first, a place where everyone feels comfortable and self-care is put first.
“Beauty to me is security, confidence, everything is in line from the inside out,” Stepka said, an unconventional response from someone who values the unconventional.
Stepka and her team have big plans for the future, further expanding the salon and adding skin and nail services to their pampering list. They will be further pushing the boundaries of beauty, every well-groomed step of the way.
Written by Maggie Marrs
Photos by Emily Wrenn