Studio Sashiko is not a typical tattoo shop.
The clean, contemporary interior, complete with sleek furniture and Japanese artwork, feels more like a deluxe salon than a place to get inked.
But if the world map hanging on the front wall is any indication, this cosmetic tattoo shop is a bustling place.
Tiny pins pressed into the map — each representing a client — cover the United States from coast to coast, with several more pressed into Canadian cities, and even more in places as far away as Germany, Hong Kong and Czech Republic.
Women from around the world are booking flights to Langley, B.C. for one fashionable reason.
The perfect eyebrows, a must-have trend in 2016, has Studio Sashiko owners Shaughnessy Keely and Kyle Otsuji barely able to keep up with demand.
Since opening their eyebrow studio on the one-way portion of Fraser Highway in Downtown Langley last September, the couple has had hundreds of people attempting to book into their 80 available appointments every month.
“It’s awesome, it still blows our minds I think,” said Keely, an art graduate from Emily Carr University and professional tattoo artist.
“We always tell people we never have a chance to just sit down, and reflect, and just enjoy what’s happening, because it’s just go-go-go all the time, but it’s so awesome.
“It’s crazy what people will do for eyebrows.”
Different from regular tattooing, which transfers ink into the skin, cosmetic tattooing uses pigmentation to enhance natural features.
Keely and her staff of five use a Japanese technique called Tebori, or microblading, where each hair stroke is stencilled on by hand, taking anywhere from two to three hours to complete.
“Instead of us using a machine that goes in and out of the skin, we’re almost scratching the surface of the skin,” Keely explained.
“This goes into the first layers of your skin, so it is semi-permanent. It will fade over time, which is good because faces change over time.”
“It’s a lot more precise, too, because we are working within hairs, and people are always asking if we shave off the hairs first,” she added.
“We don’t, we try to use as much as we can. So if you were using a vibrating machine, it would be hard to move around all of the hairs. This is more precise.”
Having both worked in the tattoo industry for nearly a decade — Otsuji as a body piercer and Keely as a shop manager — the couple is well aware of the stereotypical “man cave tattoo shop.”
So when it came time to venture off into their own business, they decided to take a more modern approach, creating a studio with a spa-like feel.
Even the name of their business — Sashiko, a Japanese word for stitching by hand — reflects this philosophy.
“I think that’s what we wanted, because we’ve all worked in those scary downtown tattoo shops with the big bearded guys,” Keely said.
“Although that’s what we’re used to, and we enjoy going there to get tattoos, we wanted something that was a little more relaxing, because it’s your face. People that come in here are a little more nervous.”
Currently, each artist is only able to take three clients per day, with appointments booked online by a lottery. On the 15th of every month at 11 a.m., hopefuls can log onto the Studio Sashiko website and try their luck at securing a spot.
Within 10 minutes, they are usually completely booked, sometimes having up to 2,000 people vying for spots.
Overwhelmed by the demand, Keely and Otsuji have recently opened a second private studio in Los Angeles Calif., and plan to expand across North America in the near future.
“It’s like getting concert tickets,” Keely said.
“We know the demand is there and we know you guys want in, so we’re working on getting more spots available.
“It’s the most fair thing we can do for clients who are travelling from all over the world and from different timezones. We have to give them all a chance.”
The studio has had clients from all walks of life, including twins, who flew out from Germany, and several wives of hockey players on the Dallas Stars NHL team. But Keely estimates about half her clients are women who have alopecia or have undergone chemotherapy and lost their hair.
“It’s so rewarding just to give them back what they used to have — just to make them feel like themselves again,” she said.
“It’s cool to see people’s reactions in the end, too” Otsuji added.
“Because they don’t really see what you are doing until you’re pretty much done. So once they pick up the mirror and take a look, some of them freak out, or cry, or give big hugs, or just are super excited.
“So that’s always very rewarding, just to see their reactions.”
Why the brow now?
Keely thanks Instagram, YouTube makeup artists and the Kardashians for making “#browsonfleek” a growing trend.
“Eyebrows are really in right now — everybody wants them,” she said.
“Most of our clients grew up in the ’90s and plucked them like crazy — I think that’s 90 per cent of our client list.”
Why bring this high-profile service to Langley?
The couple is part of a new generation moving to the Fraser Valley.
Both Keely and Otsuji were born and raised in Vancouver, but when it came time to buying a home, they found themselves priced out of the city.
Their real estate agent suggested they look in Langley, and just over a year ago they bought their first house in Willoughby.
Their business, naturally, followed suit, opening up in the City of Langley not long after moving.
“Vancouver is just too expensive to live in and to run a business, so that’s why we came out here,” Otsuji said.