- Edition 6, Chapter 2 -
The website Destroy the Hairdresser was founded by beauty professionals Caeleb Michael and Cyd Charisse with the goal to "provide consistent educational content & one-on-one mentorship for beauty professionals in order to create a smarter, more business driven artist." To that end, they interviewed Michael Gordon to discuss change in the hairdressing world, how Hairstory is responding, advice for novice hairdressers on what to do (be patient) and what not to do (hair shows). In addition, they asked Brian Casey about a day in the life of a young editorial stylist.
Destroy the Hairdresser: Why did the business model of salons have to change?
Michael Gordon: It’s not so much that we feel that the industry needed a wake up call as that it just happened. This new independent model (of renting chairs or suites) is giving stylists more of an opportunity to do well, make their own hours, and earn more money. What they don’t have is a sense of community, inspiration, or great product to use and recommend. That’s what Hairstory can provide. We offer small opening orders for our line, making it easier for independent stylists to purchase product and, in addition, we connect the hairdresser and client with a digital tether allowing the hairdresser continued commission if the guest purchases product from the Hairstory website. We’ve designed our system to help empower the independent stylist and offer them the tools necessary to succeed.
DtH: How are four products (three styling products and a wash) designed to meet all hair textures of the world’s needs?
MG: There might be 100, 200 types of hair textures in the world, but there are also thousands of shampoos and conditioners, all promising to be the perfect thing for your hair type. Sounds good, but you’ll discover that all of them have the same ingredients; shampoos all contain SLS or some derivative of it that makes your hair too clean and dry. It’s so unmanageable that conditioner, masques and styling products are required to fix it. I can tell you emphatically that our one cleanser, New Wash, works on any hair type in the world, on any age, simply because it does not contain detergent. If you don’t damage your hair, you don’t have a lot of fixing to do. If you air-dry, Hair Balm is perfect. We have an amazing blow-dry lotion called Dressed Up for those who like a little polish, and Undressed is an amazing texturizing spray that is almost invisible but brings out the natural texture perfectly.
DtH: We love that every collection on Hairstory has an in-depth essay about where, and why, and what if, not just how-to. Why are those details important to you?
MG: We try to make what we do here with beauty at Hairstory into more of a meal than a snack. Most magazines today don’t seem to shoot a lot of great original content on their own. If you go back and look at copies of American Vogue in the ’60s, you’d be shocked to see how incredible the beauty stories are in both imagery as well as writing. We want to bring that back.
DtH: How does Hairstory modernize education for hairdressers?
MG: It’s unfortunately just not practical for most hairdressers to fly to NYC. This makes it difficult to get enough education, and even the most enthusiastic salon owner can probably only get away once a year. As Hairstory grows, we want to be able to allow stylists to click on their phone before work, see what we’ve done that day, and get inspired daily. It must be working to some degree, because we get a huge amount of traffic from hairstylists and the public at large who are inspired by what we do.
DtH: How did you find Hairstory?
Brian Casey: I have been a long time follower of Michael Gordon, ever since the release of his book, Hair Heroes. The vast history of the industry became something I spoke of as doctrine to clients and anyone else who would listen. This book changed the path of my career. I started following Hairstory early on when a friend of mine told me about it. I heard about Purely Perfect and was amazed at what the product claimed it could do. Much to my surprise, my hair finally looked how I wanted it to look: It was not the frizzy, tangled mess I found myself fighting after using expensive shampoo. I instantly knew there was something special going on with this product and the place that created it. Shortly after, I found Hairstory’s haircutter, Wes Sharpton, on Instagram. I liked the way he dressed, and his cutting had something interesting about it that I hadn't seen before. There was a unique power to his approach: I believed the cuts on these girls. The work at Hairstory felt like something new with Wes' unique approach to cutting and Roxie Darling's incredibly creative approach to color. Finding Hairstory was great for someone like me who was searching for something he wasn’t sure existed.
DtH: Shed light on a week in the life of a freelance hairdresser.
BC: I start each morning off with 20 minutes of meditation. On Sundays, I go hunting for models, wandering around the city to museums, cafes, parks, consignment shops, everywhere. I’ve learned that scouting is about finding someone who inspires you, and not just cutting your friends because you know that they'll say yes. At Hairstory, we use models that we’ve found instead of industry models who are obviously going to take a "pretty photo." Pretty doesn't interest me, I prefer strength. Mondays and Tuesdays are cutting education under the watchful eyes of Wes and Michael. One of my favorite things Wes said to me when I first arrived was, “Guido was not made in a day.” Becoming a good stylist is a long journey and requires an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.
The rest of the week is spent creating mood boards for future shoots with photographer friends, model hunting, and showing up for early morning call times. This week, I worked three different fifteen-hour days with various publications. Working in editorial hair can be exhausting, but then I’ll remember what boredom feels like; I’d take a fifteen-hour workday any day. When you are a freelancer you don’t really leave your work at work, because when you love it it doesn't feel like work. It takes a lot of dedication to be a freelance hairstylist and I have the utmost respect for anyone who has chosen to pursue it.
DtH: How is technology a part of your career?
BC: I take photos of each client I cut because I think photography is an important part of our industry and always has been. I read that Michael thought that stylists should photograph all of their work, so I do just that; even if the photos aren't the best, the process helps train my eye to see something that I wasn't previously. It helps me to wake up.
DtH: Why did Hairstory's message speak to you?
BC: Hairstory's message was one that I hadn’t heard before but instantly recognized. I was always told to hold my comb a certain way, that I was breaking dress code, that I couldn't do something even though I knew I could – I just needed to be given the opportunity. Hairstory is more inclusive of the individual, which is what I had been desperately looking for. Hairstory allowed me to finally speak up and say what I wanted through my work and be myself; it's okay to be an outsider. In fact, Hairstory is composed of outsiders who answered that same call.
DtH: Tell us about your favorite Hairstory shoot.
BC: It’s hard to pin down just one. Girls have taken my breath away through their transformations; watching editorial stylist, Dennis Lanni, stick straight pins in a model’s hair to create something truly unique; every shoot is as important as the one before and the one after. Each model has a story that I want to hear.
DtH: Where do you see the industry changing in the next ten years?
BC: I see hairdressers becoming more aware that they have options, and realizing that they don’t need large product companies to define who they are. Freelancing and being your own boss can be a reality, and I think the industry is going to shift even further towards supporting independent hairdressers. I think hairdressers will realize that they created this industry, and that they should be the ones in charge.
DtH: What are the top three things most vital for success as a freelancer?
BC: 1. Have an open, honest attitude. Be accepting of critique and keep an open mind when receiving feedback. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
2. Develop a strong and flexible work ethic. Some days are beach waves and some days are Julien d'Ys, treat them as one and the same.
3. Be on time. People may forget your work but they will remember what time you showed up.
And one more: When you are working, put your phone away and listen.
DtH: What is your personal aesthetic?
BC: I like things a little fucked up, as if they were dragged through a hedge rather than pristine and polished. I thrive on the minimalist beauty of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. I focus on silhouette and refinement rather than superfluous details. I like a little madness in the undercurrent.