Alright friends, time for another chat with someone who not only inspires me, but is literally one of the kindest people I know. As soon as I met her, I knew I wanted to learn more about what make her tick and why she decided to do things differently at her brand-new salon in Avondale. Morgan Mondy owns two salons in Birmingham (Morgan Ashley Studio and Mae Studio), but she’s leading the way in the safer salon movement by making huge strides toward a cleaner environment for her stylist and her clients. And–wait for it–she’s a mom of three as well! Here, she shares her thoughts on community, her recs for salon-quality safer products, and what advice she’d give her younger self.
Give me a few sentences to sum up your bio/background. How would you introduce yourself?
My name is Morgan Mondy, and I started Morgan Ashley Salon 14 years ago when I was only 22. Before that I had every intention of living in another country being missionary. I soon realized that I was going to stay here in Birmingham and develop my love for people and beauty and life as a business owner. I am married and have three kids, and just recently started Mae Studio in the Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham. I absolutely love creating and dreaming with people and being on teams and really just living life in community.
What led to opening Mae Studio?
I felt led to open Mae for several reasons. My initial draw was to be a part of the revitalization of Birmingham and to be closer to my community of friends, and as I was exploring where Mae should land, I realized how much I wanted to be a part of a community–that led me to Avondale. It is such a great mix of cultures and people from all different backgrounds that are really inspiring. I also wanted to open a salon that carried clean products. I want to do everything I can to provide products and services that are not going to compromise anyone’s health and that are actually environmentally conscious as well.
What’s different about Mae Studio?
We carry products that are environmentally aware, cruelty free, and health conscious. It is actually pretty hard to find hair products–especially color—that is not going to be harmful to your health in some way.
Another way I would say Mae is different is that we are wanting a relationship with our clients. We want our space to feel like every soul is welcomed into it. Genuinely, it makes me so happy to meet new people and hear about their lives and create a look for them that feels so right—like a really fun coffee shop where you get to catch up with your friends while getting your hair done–and my staff at Mae definitely carries out this heart and vision so well.
Why does this matter to you? Why do something different?
I have always felt drawn to this industry–it is the most fun job–but also, there are so many ways in which this industry can do things better and cleaner. I think that being different to ensure people are being protected from products that are harmful is so worth it. I think that being different to make people feel better (health-wise and emotionally) and more served is just fulfilling the call to do good for others. It is more expensive and a more limited way of doing business, but at the end of the day, it is bettering people’s lives.
The big one: What brands do you recommend that perform at a salon level and are safe?
I really love Kevin Murphy products and everything they stand for. They are a line that has so much integrity in the actual ingredients in their products as well as how they source them. The other line I love that we carry is Cult + King. It is a minimalist line that is all organic, and they have multiple purpose products so you get more than one use out of each; also, they have refillable containers that keep waste down.
Is it difficult to practice safer/more conscious living when your job involves, by the very nature of it, so many chemicals? What are some of the most important swaps to you and how do you practice this at Mae Studio?
It is more difficult to find safe products in this industry. I see things changing as the emergence of health and beauty become more prevalent, but it still takes a lot of research and do-diligence to really know what we are using, breathing, and applying to our scalps and hair.
We have recently found a safe, non-formaldehyde straightener. Straightening treatments have been something that we just have not even done because of the harsh chemicals in them. But we recently found one that we think will be a great fit for us and our clients.
We also use only Kevin Murphy color, which is a honey-based formula that is awesome-no PPD, no ammonia; it’s truly an amazing product.
What other ways do you live intentionally in your life?
I try to think about the products I purchase–what’s in them, how are they manufactured, who are they supporting. I try to filter my purchases through this lens. It is definitely a process to learn about what is coming into my home and how I am personally impacting environment and lives.
If you could go back and tell your 10-years-younger self something, what would it be?
Oh, if I could tell my 26-year-old self something, it would be to savor each season. Don’t rush through them. Each season holds such gifts and amazing lessons, so enjoy them and take more pictures.
How would you sum up your "life mantra" or "life philosophy"?
I try to live by the notion that tenderness is strength; it’s hard to stay tender when you get hurt or make mistakes, but I believe that tenderness keeps me authentic and able to empathize. Also, the good old golden rule–treat others the way you would want to be treated.
Thanks so much, Morgan!
Isn’t she amazing, friends? Truly changing the world by making little choices that add up in big ways. I personally get my hair cut and colored by Morgan, and every time I go she makes me feel so loved and encouraged. I feel like it’s not a chore, but such a special treat to spend time at Mae Studio. Her staff is welcoming and friendly, and you never feel like an outsider. If you are local to Birmingham, check out Mae Studio and tell Morgan I sent you 😉
130 41st Street South. Suite 101 Birmingham, Alabama 35222