“I’m not your run of the mill hair stylist,” Danial says.
And that is clear from the moment one steps inside his studio/salon at the Kachina Lodge, which is unlike any hair salon I have ever been to!
Large pieces of wood, some still in the process of being carved and turned into the sculpture that is Danial’s real passion, sit beside finished pieces displayed around the gallery-like space and hanging on the walls. Outside, a carved head with a braided wig and cowboy hat, greets clients at the door.
Charles Danial Vigil grew up in a family of hairdressers, artists and musicians. His father, Luis Vigil, and uncle, Jose Vigil were award-winning hairdressers who owned several salons in Spokane, Washington.
Luis Vigil had studied at the famed Pivot Point Hairstyling Academy in Chicago during the 60’s and Danial says he learned everything he knows from him.
“My father taught me the fundamental principles of hair design, movement and placement,” Vigil said. “He also instilled in me the idea of hairdressing as an art form.”
In this regard, Danial is a classically trained hairdresser as opposed to a mere stylist; an artform that is slowly dying out with the last generation of practitioners.
After he attended Cosmetology School in Spokane, he got his license and joined the family business. He began to enter regional hair competitions and won an award for fantasy hair design early in his career. Shortly after, he moved to Seattle and worked for other stylists who also influenced and informed his skills.
He began to do hair for local fashion shows. “That’s another side of the hair business I’ve always enjoyed,” he says.
Although he was born and raised in Washington, Vigil has ancestral roots in New Mexico. His paternal family was from Talpa and he grew up listening to stories about Taos and El Norte.
“Taos was always a part of my heritage,” he told me. “It was so unfortunate that my family had to leave this beautiful place in order to make a better life for themselves, but I cannot imagine being anywhere else since returning here.”
He first moved to Taos in 1991 and soon began to work (in the then flourishing New Mexico film industry), as a hairdresser during the production of Wild Wild West. He went on to work on several other movies, both here and in L.A.
He has also worked in print (editorial) and video.
After working at a few salons in the Santa Fe area, Danial opened his own salon in the City Different. He called it Montes Salon.
“My family’s original name was Montes Vigil,” he said. “They dropped Montes when they had to choose only one surname so I thought that it would be a nice way to pay homage to my origins.”
With the opening of his own salon, Danial now had the freedom to do whatever he liked with it and really make it his own. Whether this was choosing the colour of the interior, hanging up wall art like the classic neon signs from Neon Mama and similar sites, or deciding where everything in the salon was going to be located. It was his blank canvas and he was ready to create a masterpiece. This included bringing back the dying artwork within the hairdressing and barbershop industry such as the different styles and hairpieces that used to be the craze.
After closing his business in Santa Fe, Danial moved back to Taos in 2014 and worked with Delta Bayer at Salon X.
He was part of the team that put together Runway Vigilantes, an eclectic fashion troupe, that initially began as part of the Lighting of Ledoux.
“I worked with Matt Thomas, Shawna Yambire and several other wonderfully creative people,” Vigil said. “It was a fun and inspiring project that gave me a chance to create some fabulous hairstyles for the models.”
“I would like to have more community involvement,” he said. “I’m totally available to work with local theatrical productions as well fashion shows.”
Soon after parting ways with Salon X – Danial says being tied to dong hair alone is too restricting – he noticed that a space was available at the edge of the Kachina Lodge property and he decided to take it.
“A friend of mine once had a hair salon right here,” he said. “He was very good to me. It feels right to have my business in his former space.”
Salon Vigil offers the usual services found at salons around town; haircuts and color, perms and blowouts, but his true passion is in creating the fantastic and elaborate hairdos, involving braids and hair pieces, he is known for. The dying art of hairdressing.
“I love to sculpt hair,” he said. “But I try not to make it too ‘perfect.'” He explains.
Hair moves and it needs to be approached in that way, ” he tells me. “The same goes for cutting – you can’t cut by numbers, just as you can’t paint by numbers.”
“I look to see where the hair wants to go,” he says. ” And I follow its natural movement while giving it body and volume.”
After cutting and styling for almost forty years, Vigil says he is still excited by the opportunity to create looks that are quite literally out of this world.
He also teaches hairstyling classes, either one-on-one or small groups that meet in his studio.
“Hairstyling should be fun,” he said. “And It isn’t difficult to learn a few tricks and integrate them into your regular routine.”
His aforementioned wooden sculpture and masks are also available for sale at his studio/salon.
The day I visited, Elaine Nelson, a member of the band Out of Nowhere, was in Danial’s chair.
“Danial is an amazing hairstylist,” she smiled, as he trimmed her bangs. “He always does my hair before my performances.”
“In fact, I am on my way to a gig at the Taos Inn after I leave here!” She laughed.
They met years ago while playing music together. “Yes, this multi talented man is an accomplished musician as well,” she told me
What you won’t find at Danial’s studio are the requisite creature comforts one might expect from a “beauty salon”. There are no magazines on a side table in a comfy waiting area.Tea or coffee is not offered. In fact, although there is a shampoo bowl tucked into a corner of the space, it is only used for color clients. Danial cuts hair dry.
“I ask my clients to come in with clean, dry hair.” He says. “Whether I’m cutting or simply styling their hair, I like to see how it falls naturally before I begin.”
Dry cutting is a technique long used by several outstanding hairstylists including the late John Sahag (the movie Shampoo was inspired by him), and Dwight Miller in Santa Fe, the only American stylist at Vidal Sassoon’s London salon during the Swinging Sixties!
Danial has known Dwight since he started out in his family’s salon in Spokane all those years ago.
“He (Dwight), was at Pivot Point as well,” he recalls. “He and my dad were friends and contemporaries.”
“He’s a total master,” Danial said.
“So is Danial,” Elaine interjected,” and not enough people know that he is here.”
Dry cuts aside, Danial’s true mastery shows in his portfolio of intricate updos created by braiding and twisting and sculpting hair to create looks that are almost too fantastic to be true. Looks worthy of 18th Century icons like Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette, both of whom took hairdressing to new heights. Quite literally.
He is also equally skilled in beautiful, feminine and slightly more conventional updos that are highly sought after by the brides to be who choose Taos for a destination wedding.
Danial is happy to bring his bag of tricks to wherever you and your party are staying,
Salon Vigil is located at 713 E Paseo del Pueblo Norte (Kachina Lodge), just look for the vintage orange truck parked outside, or call (575) 770-2319 to make an appointment.
For more information on the esteemed Pivot Point Academy, see their site linked below.
Danial was photographed by Bill Curry at the Kachina Lodge.