miomia apothecary

Storefront of miomia, 318 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Apothecary interior

The mysterious Katie Chang

Miomia is a delightfully unique apothecary catering to mens' skincare and grooming needs. It's located at 318 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, and New York Magazine ranks it as one of the city's top five beauty stores. I had the great fortune to meet and share some laughs and and a few stories with the shop's owner and curator Katie Chang.

How did you get started with miomia?

I love products! I needed a career change from the corporate world- I hated it. I wrote my thesis on men's grooming in grad school because I was interested in the emerging market in the United States. And then also, growing up being a beauty junkie like every other girl, I reached the point where I realized that apothecaries were no longer offering anything different than department stores. You could go into apothecaries and find those cool underground corporate-free brands, but by the time I reached college every apothecary had Bliss, Kiehl's, Molton Brown, and the same lineup that you would find at Saks or Barneys. I was going to focus on men's grooming, and I wanted to create a space that was 100% corporate-free. And from my understanding, no other business in the world has done that as an apothecary, so I'm really proud of that. That I stick to.

What were your main observations from your thesis?

Norms of heterosexual male identity in America were very cyclical. I felt that it was repeating itself within a seven to ten year cycle. That's not the case any more; with the internet it's increasing at a different speed and disseminating in different ways. Norms of straight male identity are unusual. They're different in America than in southeast Asia, eastern Europe, western Europe. The US market: it's still sort of new, the corporations are still not quite sure what to do with that demographic. The bottom line is that I treat my guy customers with the same respect I would with women. I don't treat them as an afterthought, and I think a lot of salons make that mistake. They treat guys like, "oh yeah, and men's haircuts are little cheaper and we do have some men's shaving cream." 

What was your catalyst for doing this? Did you just see a need in the market?

It happened organically. I knew I wanted to open my business, I had this academic background, and I'm really passionate about men's grooming; so why not capitalize on it and see what can happen? Slowly and organically.


Charmaine Olivia

Charmaine OliviaStackedBears in Hair

Your work tends to involve many interpretations of hair. Tell me what significance this plays in the finished product.
Hair has such a tremendous power to 'make or break' it. It has this transforming effect on even the strangest of faces that I draw. Crooked teeth, tiny noses and unibrows mean nothing when their hair is done right!

Many of your pieces are very organic: integrating animals into hair, painting on wood; tell me how this evolved.
I have this issue with things looking too plain. Whether that's how I look or how my art looks. Tangling animals and faces in to the hair is usually a good solution to my unease.

In your paintings I see contrast in how you address the realistic textures and finishes of skins and how you may leave textiles very flat and treating the hair differently. Why?
I've always had this sort of split identity when it comes to art, the way I draw and the way I paint are very different. I've been trying to mesh the two styles, and I found the best way to do that is to leave the hair very illustrative and the skin more realistic.

How does art influence your personal hairstyles?
So often I live vicariously through my art. I get to try out hairstyles without actually having to style or cut my hair. I usually end up drawing the hairstyle I had at that time, and I notice that when I start drawing different hair, that usually means I'm ready for a new haircut. ha. One of my recent drawings is a girl with a half shaved head. Yes, I may go there, as I'm kind of obsessed with Carmen Electra's new 'do.

How do you like your hair to feel?
Thick and wavy! Anything but flat. ugh.

Wanna give your stylist a plug? Who's your stylist and where do they work?
Eep.. no stylist! I cut my own hair.  (But if I do something drastic, I won't be cutting it myself. That may be dangerous.)

Charmaine Olivia has been seen in Juxtapoz, Urban Outfitters, and on my laptop. She is a self-taught artist in San Francisco and her work is important part of my personal collection. See more of her work at


Alexa Wilding


Recording Artist Alexa WildingWhat are some of your personal style influences? Women in the world like Patty Smith and Anna Corinna, and I kinda like to meet in the middle of that. This is definitely an an Anna Corinna day. My daily aesthetic is very rock and roll meets French ballerina. I love puffed sleeves, and I love things that are more costume.

Who cuts your hair? Esther at Arrojo Studio. She's a friend, and she's the best.

How do you merge fashion and music? I wear Ivana Helsinki practically every single day because to me, it's the easiest embodiment of my style. It's innocent girl/woman with a little bit of an edge to it. I would always wear a dress like this with black tights adding sort of a beatnik edge to things instead of going Alice in Wonderland with it. I think for me, since music is my life, I try to be Alexa Wilding all the time. For me there really isn't much difference between the stage and everyday life. When I get up on stage, I try to bring that whimsical darkness as well.


Voodoo Ray

Voodoo Ray of 21 MercerHow did you get here? I has hired by Nike as a concierge at 255 because I danced all my life and I knew mad people in the industry, so that's why I was hired there. But then, I was always a sneakerhead and used to mess with the builder, and I'm a consumer with a fashion background so it was easy to switch from concierge to design consultant. That's how I got here at 21 Mercer.

What are your fashion influences? Yohji Yamamoto, Matsuda, even as simple as American Apparel. Lately Nike has been really stepping it up with their apparel; like all that Loopwheeler stuff? I've been snatchin' up like all that Loopwheeler stuff- it just feels great, ya know? I don't like boxy t-shirts, I like t-shirts where the sleeves cut down so it fits better on the arm instead of sticking out all boxy. Those 21 shirts were purrrrfect; I got a couple of those. It makes it look like a grown man's fit: like an expensive t-shirt.

If you could design shoes for anyone, who would that be? It has to be somebody who would appreciate it, like an older audience, but I don't think older singers would appreciate this as much as the newer cats. I would like to work with Drake because right now he's on fire and i know he would like it. He would definitely get hooked and keep coming back to me over and over. Ultimately, it would be Stevie. I love loooove Stevie Wonder.

Tell me about Stevie: There was a time in my life when stuff was going crazy with relationships, and I was trying to move, and I couldn't find a place, and I couldn't afford the one I was at, and nothing was going right, ya know? So that's when I would just smoke a jay, and just listen to some Stevie, and it was like an open book- it was like The Bible. I would be fine.

I've danced for a lot of celebrities and there's a handful that when I met them, I lost my cool. I was Like, "uhhhhhhhhhh." Stevie. Michael. Sade. All three of those made very influential music to me and when I met them I had a loss for words. With Michael it was like, wow. Wowwwwwwwwwww. WOW. I must have said, "wow" like twenty times.

What would you do with Stevie? Would you concentrate on exotic textures? I would select colors from particular albums and let him know that I did the research. "Talking Books" was these colors, "Innervisions" was these colors, "Music for the Masses" was these colors. I would love to textures he could touch that would reflect the feeling and colors of these albums. It would have to come from this (Bespoke) section.

What are you doing with your hair these days? I need a damn haircut. I was gonna cut it all off. I tried to let it grow and I haven't had this much hair in a minute. I'm liking it, but it's in that half-stage where it's like, "whoa, what the hell is going on?" Let me keep a little hat on, let it grow a little bit more, I'm letting it poof little bit more, but I'm keeping a crown on it right now. Yeah, but how long you in town? Like I said, I need a cut. I need your help.

Make an appointment with Voodoo Ray for your custom Nikes at 21 Mercer.



Sasha Alekseyeva

Sasha Alekseyeva of Woodley & Bunny

We work in an industry where people choose us; what makes people choose you? I started at sixteen and I've been doing this for ten years. I've been here at Woodley & Bunny since October 2009. I'm less in this for fame and glamour, but I'm in it for the people. I make personal connections with my clients. My biggest strength is that I listen and take into consideration people's limits, boundaries, their work and lifestyle to create a style that's all theirs.

If you could pick one person (living or dead) to cut, color, or style; who would that be?  That's tough. I'm gonna have to get back to you on that one. 

Describe your viewpoint on the evolution of our industry: It's definitely getting better in terms of texturing services and tools. Color techniques have also come a long way. But with cutting, everything new is well-forgotten old. The cuts that are coming back are retro styles given new life. I love it; it's always so inspiring to see the Sassoon creative team do all these avant-garde crazy futuristic themes using the same techniques that have been developed already, but putting them in different sections of the head.

What motivates you? Definitely music, since I'm a musician. I play bass guitar and bongos. I also do photography, so I get inspired a lot by nature. The different shapes and colors and textures that I've found outside of my world. Architecture is also big with me. Gary House, my ex-boss will always have a very special place in my heart because of his work ethic. He helped form my approach to hair and the business. And Erin (Anderson), she's done an amazing portfolio and is definitely an inspiration in terms of editorial work. But, I love being behind the chair and working with people. I like the one on one connection.

Why Williamsburg? I'm definitely drawn here because of how creative it is: there's a huge artist community here, so I find the work a lot more fun. People take a lot more chances. People are more likely to do something a bit more crazy than in the city, because they don't have the 9 to 5 office job... well, not everybody.

If you could change anything, what would you do to be revolutionary? I would make the salon experience a more personal one. In the bigger, more corporate salons, an assistant takes them to the station; one person cuts them, then they're rushed off to another assistant who blow-dries them, and they're rushed off to another person that colors them. So, I would get back to using less assistants to set ourselves apart from all the other hairdressers out there. A lot of stylists are cutting down on their times so that they can fit more people in and make more money. I think I would do it the other way around and in the long run I would make more money, because people do care about stuff like that.

What do you think of the hair reality shows that have become so popular? I think they're entertaining, but they have less to do with our craft and more to do with the ego and personalities the hairstylists, and to me that's not attractive at all. But I don't have television. Haven't had TV in three years- I feel like it leaves more room for arts and music, you know?

What are you listening to these days? It depends on my mood: Television, The Shirelles, RJD2, I like it all. I like electronic, I like hip hop, you name it.

Sasha will give her personalized touch at Woodley & Bunny in Brooklyn, NY.