Chicago's Rising Stars: Want to be “in”? Add these names to your speed dial

Posted on Dec. 19, 2012

There’s no shortage of salons, boutiques and med spas in Chicago. However, if you prefer to set the trends, not follow them, here’s the talent you need to know about.

AJ Johnson, owner of AJ's of Chicago (648 Randolph St.)

If you want healthy, shiny hair, AJ is your man. This beauty industry vet got his big break styling supermodel Iman's hair, and he's been in the spotlight, very comfortably I might add, since. His salon specializes in African American hair and has been catering to a high-end clientele for 16 years.

What to expect: When you enter AJ's of Chicago, you'll be greeted with welcoming smiles. Then you'll quickly realize the Zen decor is not just attractive, it's necessary. Even AJ admits it helps balance the outgoing personalities of his team. He handpicked his skilled staff and while some exhibit a diva-like behavior, they can get away with it because their work is that good. AJ and his team styled this photo shoot shot by the fabulous Maria Ponce, and the hair and makeup definitely impressed.

What's next: What I admire about AJ is that even though he's got a successful career and salon, he's still hungry for more. His next goal is to turn his business into a brand, and he's starting with two launches. Earlier this year he debuted an at-home haircare collection. Next up is a lipstick line that he's launching in collaboration with the beauty company Beauty Addicts. AJ credits his lead makeup artist Katrell for encouraging him to venture into cosmetics and assigned her the task of creating the lip colors. The finished product is six lipstick shades -- not too many, but just enough so there's a color for everyone. Based off the hype, I'm expecting these lipsticks to be a hit.

Veruca Salt boutique (520 N. Kingsbury)

Named after the infamous Willy Wonky character who wants it all, and wants it all now, Amber Warren's boutique Veruca Salt satisfies sassy shoppers.

"If you don't want to walk in a room and see someone else wearing the same thing, if you're fashionable without being too trendy, and if you want to mix expensive pieces with bargain items," this place will speak to you, says Warren. Her must-have winter buy -- something faux fur. "I like the brand Love Faux because she does vintage inspired lining on new faux stoles and vests. You get that vintage feel and the prices are very affordable."

In the above, Warren is wearing a Yoana Baraschi dress ($410) and her own Pedro Garcia booties.

Cellular Intelligence Med Spa (100 E. Walton St.)

If you want results, head to Cellular Intelligence Med Spa in Chicago's Gold Coast. The staff of medical aestheticians and plastic surgeons is all about the latest technology and employ ultra sound, lasers, microcurrents and other modalities to primp the skin. "If you are looking for a foot bath and botanically scented candles this is not the place," says Spa Director Rich Campbell. The signature treatment is the $125 DermaFlash facial, which involves a deep cleanse, exfoliation and peel customized to your skin's needs.

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