A simple black door on leafy Queen Street in the upmarket Sydney suburb of Woollahra belies the luxury that exists behind it.
Flocking to the door that fronts the George Giavis Salon, the rich and famous enter the hairdressing store that is like no other to be pampered in private, antique-heavy rooms. The most well-known of these is The Blonde Room.
“When we opened our VIP room, The Blonde Room, we really captured the imagination of the fashion and beauty writers,” says Giavis.
“We received a lot of press. The name just seemed to strike a cord with everyone and became synonymous with my business. When I launched a website of the same name, I knew that it was time to protect the trade mark, largely because I’d had warnings from my clients – many of whom are well-known business identities – about people stealing your intellectual property, and after all my hard work building up the business I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
The salon – located amid Woollahra’s antique shops, galleries and cafés – is now in its sixteenth year. Non-blondes are also allowed, of course: Giavis and his team look after brunettes and redheads in The Mirror Room and provide beauty treatments in The Beauty Palace and The Green Room (the latter is named after an 18th century green chandelier located within).
“The first thing most people say when they come into the salon is ‘Oh my god, I’ve never seen anything like it’.”
Giavis, himself naturally dark by dint of his Grecian background, has drawn inspiration from the likes of his mother and even the late Gianni Versace, who he once met.
“My mother would serve everybody home-baked Greek cakes and cookies and the business just grew,” he recalls.
A love of cutting, dying, tinting and styling runs through Giavis’ veins.
“I spent some time overseas training with the best of the best, building up contacts. When I came back to Australia, I worked at the best salons in the most prestigious suburbs.”
Word of his colour expertise spread and, realising he had found his niche, Giavis moved quickly to protect his business on all fronts.
“I managed to secure the exclusive distribution rights to some of the world’s hottest cult brands,” he says.
“We registered our own business names, the domain name [www.theblonderoom.com] and we secured trade marks over The Blonde Room both in Australia and overseas.
“I applied using the Madrid Protocol system, which meant we only had to make one application, nominate the countries in which we wanted trade mark protection and pay one set of fees. We lodged this application through IP Australia. I applied directly to the US, as they aren’t part of the Madrid Protocol system. Even with this protection, we have had many instances of infringement.”
Giavis’ client base is so loyal that it often helps him identify trade mark breaches.
“I am fortunate that my clients are normally the ones who find out about it and bring it to my attention. This has happened on a couple of occasions and I think that it is important to act quickly before things get out of hand. Usually it takes a few stern legal letters to do the trick and eventually the infringer will see the error of their ways.”
Recently, though, his solicitor was forced to warn two infringers of Giavis’ trade mark protection.
“In one case on the north coast of New South Wales, I discovered a salon trading under my name but it looked like it was a home-based business. A polite letter from me worked there,” he says.
“It can be hard to police the market, but you need to be vigilant in checking it and defending your rights. I do a search on Google whenever I can to check for infringers and my lawyer also does extensive overseas searches periodically.”
Like all good businesses, the Giavis salon has evolved.
“I currently have four employees [in The Blonde Room] and juggle the dilemma of making sure we don’t grow too fast, so that we can ensure the personal service and attention to detail that my clients have come to expect,” he says. “Staff is where you can make the greatest gains or losses.”
With the Woollahra salon and website styled to suit his dream, Giavis is now looking to put his stamp on his own range and take it overseas.
“Watch this space,” he says. “I’d love to open a salon overseas. That’s why I went to so much trouble from the start to protect my intellectual property. I am trade marked in the US and the UK, which I hope will be key markets in the long-term.”