Like many artists in her line of work, Dionna Owens never imagined that doing hair would be her gift to the world. The North Carolina-based hairstylist, wife, and mother had often been told that she should do hair. But after hair salon experiences that only measured from sub-par to downright awful, she was convinced that it was a job for the struggling. So she followed a “dream” to become a computer engineer.
“All the engineers have cool cars,” she said. “And a cool car was a yellow Camaro to me. That’s what I wanted.”
But when she unexpectedly became pregnant while working towards that dream, Owens and her husband found themselves in financial straits. A cool car was no longer a priority or a consideration. Eventually, she had to quit her job just to get proper health insurance. Unemployed with a husband who had just gotten out of the military, Owens applied for public assistance and was babysitting and braiding hair—gigs she got through ads she put on Craigslist.
It all seems like a lifetime ago when she recalls the story now. But it was just in 2011 that her journey in the hair business began. And as she went from braiding, to doing sew-ins, to making units, and now her own hair extensions, her business has also evolved in every way. When she started out Owens was charging $80 for braids to compete with the African braid shops charging $180. Slowly, as her skills increased, so did her pricing.
Today, if you’re looking to get your crown blessed by Owens’ sacred hands you better be prepared to spend some serious coins. But it’s not just because she now has a client roster that includes Marsai Martin, Kaelynn Gobert-Harris, Simone Missick, HBO’s Insecure, and your next favorite Marvel blockbuster. Going to Owens and her salon Sew Natural is an experience, and she executes each look with the precision of a well-trained surgeon performing a complicated medical procedure.
“It’s seriously a procedure. Everything is tailored specifically to that person, there is no one stop shop, there’s no cookie cutter basic thing of what you’re going to get,” Owens explained. “I don’t plan out the pattern until you get there. There’s nothing about Sew Natural that is going to be duplicated on the next person. You will never look like someone else, because I’m designing it specifically for you. So every single detail, from the first braid I put in, from the first track I put in, it’s custom.”
“I have interviews before they even come to me for the sew-in. I don’t take more than one person a day. So it’s your time from when you step into my chair to the time you leave. You’ll never have someone interrupt you. You will have privacy, you have Wi-Fi, you have lunch, you have whatever programming you want. It’s all tailored to you. I’m focused on that one client and we’re going to get this thing perfect for her or him.”
And if you want a custom unit, you won’t get anything like synthetic wigs you find in your local beauty supply store.
“I’m not done with that job until I put [the unit] on you and you feel and look like yourself. You can’t move until the customization process is over,” she told ESSENCE. “I know it’s going to fit you, but will it fit your personality? Will you feel confident when you walk out? I walk out of the room and let them examine the unit for themselves. Turn this way, that way. Anything they can think of that they need to have done, will be done. I go through steps that people don’t even realize I go through. I have sold perfection and that’s why everything that I do has to be done properly.”
If it sounds like star treatment, it’s because Owens wants each client’s experience to feel like exactly that—a stark contrast from the experiences she’d had getting her hair done before she became a professional in the industry. And while she’s tight-lipped about some of the A-List celebrities and TV shows she’s currently working on, she transfers that experience to all her Sew Natural clients, whether they’re hitting a red carpet or the office block.
“I feel like everyone I work with is a celebrity. I know that may sound cliché, but everyone that I work with is a celebrity to me. I don’t change my prices according to who you are,” she said proudly.
Extension services start at $500 (not including the purchase of hair), and go up to $1500 and more to have a stylist come to your city. And if you can get Owens, you’re lucky, because the beauty is busy. But if you can get on her book, she guarantees that it’ll be an experience like nothing you’ve had before.
“You need to become a master of what it is that you do. And that thing for me is the sew-in,” she concluded. “People are paying for a piece, but they’re also paying for an environment. They’re paying to feel like they can let go of whatever it is that they’re doing, be pampered and be just all about them. And that’s priceless.”