How many years have you been a professional stylist, and what prompted you to pursue a career in this field? I have been a professional stylist for 25 years. I can remember getting my hair cut in the early ’80s when I was in high school at the cool salon in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, which was owned by my sister’s friend. I would sit in her chair and we would design the cut together – I always had a strong idea of how my cut should look. I loved being in an environment where people were so happy and creative… it seemed like a party! She’s the one who suggested I should be a hairdresser. Although I struggled internally and with my parents with the decision to choose beauty school over college, I know I made the right decision. I followed my heart, and worked at that salon for 10 years.
Please give us a few details about your background, from your early years through joining Oribe? Why did you choose Oribe? During the time I worked in the first salon in Philadelphia, I took a course with Martin Parsons and loved his approach to education: He would go beyond hair and talk about creativity and art. I was very engaged and felt something shift for me. I was considering opening a salon in Philadelphia, and when I was visiting New York salons for inspiration in 1997, I walked into Bumble and Bumble Salon and was inspired by the hair that was being done there. I wanted to learn their approach, so I moved to New York and got involved in education right away there. I became involved in refining and articulating their education programs. In early 2009, I was again considering opening up a salon – this time in New York City – when I received a call from Tev Finger, a friend from my Bumble days. He shared with me the brand and the products he was developing along with Daniel Kaner and Oribe. Daniel and Tev asked me to meet Oribe. I was flattered, as I have admired Oribe’s work forever. When we met and I got to watch him at work, I was completely blown away. There was no question what my next step would be.
You are also an educator. Can you please explain that role? My role as an educator is to articulate the distinction between each product and provide clarification on the who, what, where, why and when of each one. I also create looks and textures inspired by Oribe and translate them for salon use.
Where do you unearth inspiration for your looks? What influences your hair styles? I love movies and television programs with cinematic production value. I look at the hair and try to figure out how the hair was done and which products I would use to recreate it. I then determine how to use that style as a base for something more current, so it doesn’t come off as costume-y. I also love looking at clothes. I often look in the girls’ clothing section in stores and try to imagine what hairstyle the girl should wear with each dress. (I sometimes get funny looks from salespeople when I hold a gown up against myself when imaging the look.)
Do you always base your styles on current fashion and trends, or do you have a style earmark that has consistently proven successful as well? I have been following the fantasy of Old Hollywood as a base because I love that hair and have admired it since I was a kid. It still feels new, and I never get tired of that romantic, healthy, confidant but soft texture. Oribe products get me to textures I have only dreamed hair could have.
How have you seen hairstyles change over the years? What can we look for through fall and into 2013? I don't really follow trends – I suppose my years behind the chair with clients have taught me to be sensitive to each person and to be in tune with how they are feeling. I help them let their hair express where they are in their heads. Although it’s great to stay current, I never want my clients to be fashion victims. For 2013, I think that haircuts will or should make a stronger statement. Everybody and their mom – literally – has long layers, and very bold women have cut their hair… and even fewer have gotten the right short haircut. I think women will be making a bolder statement in their cuts, but still be feminine and pretty.
What is the Oribe Signature cutting style? I read that you concentrate on growth patterns and head shape in order to provide a personalized, individual look specified for each client. Where did this concept originate and how do you determine the look for each client? The concept has been with me forever, and it seems to be unique, although it just seems logical to me. I started gaining confidence in my voice at Bumble and saw that people would respond positively because it spoke to the artist. Oribe’s work has graced the cover of countless magazines; he is responsible for so many amazing images… it is what he does intuitively. I just seem to be able to break things down so that other people can understand and provide them with new ways to best provide their clients a very customized service.
Oribe’s client list is quite recognizable, from Vogue and Marie Claire editorials to Victoria's Secret models and Jennifer Lopez. How are you able to transition from working with celebrities and high fashion publications to styling the hair of the every-day woman? When I look at images from magazines or the red carpet, I notice mostly the texture and the shapes. They act as references to help communication between hairdresser and client. It’s mostly the vibe of the image that creates the inspiration, and then I can see if the actual cut or style would work. I think finding a great hairdresser is meeting the person who sees you as having many possibilities.
For people who are unable to afford high-end salon haircuts and big-name products, what advice can you share about making the most of your look when these are out of reach? Having strong, healthy hair is the best way to make any hair look expensive. A lot of it is about properly shampooing and conditioning and taking care of your scalp (massage it well while washing to get circulation going). Your hairdresser can advise how often you should be washing – it depends on how active your scalp is in producing oil. Being more conscious of your cleansing routine and the impact it has on your texture costs very little. Also, if you are on a budget, stay clear of a lot of layers, as this look requires more maintenance.
A hairstyle or cut can completely transform the way a woman looks and feels. Do you think a hair style is capable of defining a woman? I definitely think a haircut or style says tons about a woman. Is the look strong sexy and confidant? Is it quiet and reserved? Is it youthful and sweet or rebellious and rock and roll? Being in tune and listening to what’s going on in clients’ lives is a key component to success. What clients are pouring out to you in your chair is their emotions, how they feel, what’s going on with them, etc.It’s up to a stylist to determine how to make them feel free to express. A woman and her hairdresser have a very special relationship built on trust.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see your clients making with their hair? I am fortunate to have a long-lasting relationship with most of my clients, but when clients jump from one chair to another, that’s a huge mistake. It is really hard to “get” the hairdresser on one visit… or to have them “get” you.
What is your mission for conducting the private styling class at The Salon by Lora Brown on Oct. 4? I like to approach most education experiences like a yoga class; we all know how to breathe in and out, but we go to class to become more aware of our breathing habits and then see that other options are possible. Classes should be a time to step back from our habits in our everyday work and examine another point of view or to try something else. That provides a refreshing experience for the attendee and inspires hairdressers to try new tricks… and to stretch.
What do you hope clients walk away with at the end of the session? I hope that clients walk away from each experience with a sense of renewal and a refreshed and exciting new way to look at themselves!
Win a free consultation with Tom and an opportunity to be a guest at the exclusive event Oct. 4 featuring Tom and hosted by THE SALON by Lora Brown, in addition to a makeover with lashes by Patti Stapp of First Impression (to be used on a separate date) and products from THE SALON by Lora Brown. For more details, visit our Facebook page!