Where Credit is Due

Hedi Slimane for Celine SS19; Men’s hair by  Didier Malige

Hedi Slimane for Celine SS19; Men’s hair by Didier Malige

Fashion Month (or as I call it, “Fashion Show Woopty-Doo Time”) has come and gone again, and I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on something that has bothered me for a very long time. As far as hair goes, a fashion show standout for me has been Hedi Slimane for Celine. When he debuted his first collection in September, I immediately noticed the hair and wanted to know who did it. Unfortunately, it unreasonably difficult to find, and only after several minutes of searching was it revealed that this hair was the work of Didier Malige and Esther Langham. After some more digging, I came across a piece on Vogue.com about the “radical” styles featured in the show, in which there was literally no mention of a hairstylist. I find that in many of the large fashion publications, the credits will sooner list where the models got their morning coffee, or what town they’re from in Russia, than who did their hair. This is near the top of my list of pet peeves, something I find so disrespectful and upsetting. In my imaginary life as a superhero, I picture myself as a Hair Defender, a protector of the unrecognized hair geniuses of the world. And so in my real life, uncredited hair genius is what motivates me to “fly around” and try to bring some justice to this community. So, I’m using this as my platform to bitch and moan, in an attempt to inspire even one other person to bitch and moan along with me.

Somewhere in my brain, it makes sense that print magazines are meeting their demise because they’ve refused to embrace the creativity of people like hairdressers, and have instead gone full speed in the opposite direction. Fashion magazines used to be canvasses for designers, stylists, makeup artists, and hairdressers’ art. They used to be about inspiration, and now I’m not so sure what they’re about. It even used to be common practice to save your magazines, because you wanted to always remember Helena Christensen on the white horse, or Arthur Elgort’s magical photos. In those days, all of the really groundbreaking photographers worked in teams. Elgort’s hair counterpart was Christiaan, who understood how he took pictures and calibrated the hair to fit. Richard Avedon and Ara Gallant made magic. Craig McDean’s team was Pat McGrath and Eugene Souleiman. Guido, who now stands alone as a hair hero, didn’t always work solo. He was part of the trio comprised of David Sims and Diane Kendal, who were so good together that they were essentially a package deal. There was a unique creative product that flowed from these artistic partnerships; an alchemy. Hairdressers were treated as an integral part of the creative process of fashion. It saddens me to think how different things are today.

Photo by Richard Avedon, Hair by  Ara Gallant

Photo by Richard Avedon, Hair by Ara Gallant

Photo by David Sims, Hair by  Guido Palau

Photo by David Sims, Hair by Guido Palau

I’m sure there are many reasons why the print magazine is dying, most of which I presume have to do with social media and the digital publication. But I truly feel that its decline was in no small part caused by making magazines that were less special, less about storytelling, and less appreciative of the creative genius of the people behind the scenes. Magazines, and often their online counterparts, have lessened the importance of the team effort it takes to create a look, and the hairdresser has quickly become an afterthought. Let’s not forget that when hairdressers create editorial work, they aren’t paid very much at all. They rely on promised credit as payment. It’s unfortunate that payment from print magazines often arrives in the form of a minuscule credit, in illegible font, stuffed in the crease between pages, all but invisible to the reader, and sometimes completely invisible altogether. If I had the power to change how things are done, I’d suggest lots of ideas for full-blown hair stories to all the major fashion magazines. Makeup artists and hairdressers wouldn’t be afterthoughts. They’d be the stars. I’d help magazines provide a better platform for the brilliant women and black hairdressers that are so often unappreciated, like Sandy Hullett, Holli Smith, Lacy Redway, Esther Langham, Victoria Hunter, Jawara, and Cyndia Harvey. I would help publications generate more original content that celebrates interesting, groundbreaking hair, which could very easily be turned into beautiful digital content. And for God’s sake, if I were to write an article all about the hair created for a show, I would make sure I credited the hairdressers responsible in big, bold letters. We’ve certainly a come a long way in regarding hairdressing as an art, but I still feel as though many publications have taken steps backward. Great hairdressing really can be radical. Let’s credit it radically.

*As I was writing this post, I found a great article from Forbes that discusses the issue of gender inequality in hairdressing. You can read it here.

Steve Hiett – A Special Kind of Genius


One of my closest friends and a person that I believe to be a practical genius in the world of image, photography, and graphic design, is named Steve Hiett. He is renowned for his wholly unique photography, which has been largely copied and still is to this day. As much as I love his photography, I’m infinitely more impressed by his eye for design, and I’m very lucky to have had his help on quite a few of my own projects. Typically, in one of our working sessions, I’ll ask Steve if he can do the layout for something. Very soon after he starts working, he turns it into something that makes me believe he has access to a creative realm that most other people do not. Over the years, Steve became a crucial contributor to several passion projects of mine such as Hair Heroes, Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, Vidal Sassoon: How One Man Changed the World with a Pair of Scissors, and current ventures not yet launched. More than anything, Steve has educated me on how integral good design is to the identity and success of a brand. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be inspired by him.

Most people who have any Apple product or are a fan of Steve Jobs are familiar with how inspired he was by the typography and calligraphy classes he audited at Reed College. What he took away from these classes hugely informed Apple’s groundbreaking visual language, and contributed to the brand’s success. Steve Hiett did for me what Steve Jobs did for Apple. His designs inspired me to do better hair, create better books, give better interviews. He elevated my work, so much so that everything I made became more important when Steve was a part of it. Recently, I was delighted to find out that (what I believe to be) the world’s best fashion retail institution, 10 Corso Como, is exhibiting Steve’s work in their gallery space in New York. Two weeks ago, I attended the launch of the exhibit, which also featured his last book, Beyond Blonde. I urge you all to buy a copy if you’re able. It’s so inspiring and so interesting and so Steve, and he reveals more of himself in this book’s introduction than he has in any of his other projects.


If you are anywhere near the New York area in the next few weeks, I assure you that 10 Corso Como and their exhibit of Steve’s work is well worth a visit.  As someone who is familiar with so much of his art, I still found myself in awe of what was on display. A standout for me was a collection of Steve’s Polaroids; I want them all. There’s also a silent projection of a music video Steve directed, and it is truly so visually brilliant. Hopefully, Steve and I will continue to work together, and I’ve got lots of ideas for things I’d like to create with him. Just thinking about what he’ll come up with excites me. Steve is a special kind of genius, and I highly suggest you experience it for yourself, if you can.

Steve Hiett: Beyond Blonde will be on display at 10 Corso Como, 1 Fulton St, New York, NY 10038, until April 21 2019, Monday to Saturday 11:00 - 7:00, and Sunday 12:00 - 6:00.

Corinna – Pony Studios

To celebrate the launch of Pony Studios, a revolutionary new hair education space in Oakland, California, Michael had a chat with Pony founder, owner, and Bumble and bumble alum Corinna Hernandez to talk about her story, her career thus far, and her vision for her new space.

MG: So, how are you? Are you excited? Did the launch weekend go well? C: The class was good. It went very well, we got really great feedback, and we only had a few minor audio/visual hiccups.

Are you ready for a question? Yes!

When did you get into hairdressing? It was 1999.

How did it happen? I met a hairdresser, Collette LaRoche, who really inspired me. I saw this girl walking around with a cute haircut, whose hair was similar to my texture, and I asked her who cut it. I booked an appointment with her hairdresser. It took me two months to get in. And I loved her. I loved her personality, her stories. She said she made really good money and went to Paris three months out of the year, and came back to work to her clients and she felt like it was play and not work. I mentioned that I thought about doing hair at one point and she told me to go for it. So I left there and immediately signed up for beauty school.

Where did you go to beauty school? It was in Sacramento, California, at a place called Federico Advanced. I went to the night school, so it took two years.

Were you working during that time? I was actually an office manager at a physical therapy office.

No kidding. And how long were you in Sacramento? Well, when I finished beauty school, I met Rowena [Hiraga], who had just left the Sassoon Academy to start her own salon. At this point, I had started working at a pilates studio, and she was taking classes. I heard that she was a hairdresser, so I introduced myself and told her that I was in beauty school and just about to graduate. She said, “You should come work for me. I’m just starting my salon and I just left Sassoon, and you’d be my first hire.” And so I did it, I went to work for her. That was in El Dorado Hills. That wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be, but I did want to learn from her, so off I went.

What happened next? After a while, I wanted to be in Sacramento. I felt an urge to be in a different environment, and I felt ready to move on. I went to Sacramento to work for Shannon Marlin, who was also opening her own salon. When I got there, she asked me if I could teach what I learned with Rowena, because she had heard that the Sassoon education was a difficult program to complete. So I said, “Okay, I'll teach. I've never taught before but I'll teach.”

Did you enjoy it? I did, I really liked it. I felt like it was my thing. At first it was a little weird, but I kind of fell into it. I started going to New York to Bumble and bumble to train for the Network Educator position at her salon. I started being trained by Amanda Rich and Kevin Perryman, and I learned how to teach, how to speak publicly, all that.

So that was very different from the Sassoon method that you had learned. Yes, very different. But even when I worked with Rowena, we carried Bumble and bumble and I was very drawn to its aesthetic. That was always the kind of hair I wanted to be doing; the Sassoon technique wasn't really enough for me. When I started learning to cut with a razor, I was surprised at the amount of technique that was built into it. At the beginning, it was hard for me to not over-fix my cuts and to stop trying to make them look like scissor cuts. I had a hard time trying to break away from the discipline of scissor-cutting and not really looking at the person. My biggest takeaway from Bumble and bumble at the beginning was how to really look at the person, how to look at the hair, and how to make them work together.

How did you go from Network Educator to working at Bumble? I used to go [to Bumble and bumble] once or twice a year for network education. One of those times, I was with Coby [Alcantor, hairdresser and creative director] at the uptown salon, and I mentioned that I wanted to make the transition to Bumble and bumble. She said, “I'll help you, you just have to write a short letter to Howard [McLaren, legendary hairdresser and educator], get your boss’ approval, and then just send it.” So I went home to got the letter from my boss, and she was really excited for me. She said, “Do it. I would do it. You write the letter and I'll sign it.” I sent it in and I got hired at Bumble and bumble three months later. [The process of getting a letter of employer approval prior to being hired at Bumble and bumble was a part of Michael’s “No Poach Policy”, implemented to ensure that salon owners never felt as though Bumble and bumble had “poached” or stolen their employees.]

When did you start assisting at Bumble and bumble? It was 2004. I very quickly went from renting my station to making minimum wage, but feeling excited about it. I was at a point in my career where I was ready to be a student again. I loved learning, so I was happy being in that position. Coco [Santiago, hairdresser and educator] was my first teacher.

Were you downtown or uptown? I started uptown. Betty [Skier, salon manager] hired me over the phone. The first day, no one knew who I was and Betty was on vacation. Looking back, it was kind of funny because no one had any idea that I was going to be there, but they told me to just go to the floor and observe. I felt very out of place.

Is that when we first met? Well, I actually met you before I started with Bumble and bumble, before I moved to New York. I met you while you were out on the road, and I was in line to get my Hair Heroes book signed by you. You asked me if I was a great hairdresser. That really made me pause, but my friend was with me, and she answered, “Yes” for me. So you wrote, “To a great hairdresser” in my book and signed it.

It was really the best, most exciting time. I was learning so much from people who knew more than me. I just want to share that and keep it going.

Oh, that's a nice story! I suppose what you’re doing now is very influenced by what you learned at Bumble and bumble, right? Absolutely. It was really the best, most exciting time. I was learning so much from people who knew more than me. I just want to share that and keep it going.

Did you have to learn Scottish? I did have to assist Raymond [McLaren, brother of Howard, another legendary hairdresser and educator] once and I was so scared.

I can imagine. He looked like a character in Harry Potter. Right! When he looks at you, it feels like he’s looking deep into your soul. [Both laugh].

What do you think was the most important lesson you learned there? I distinctly remember listening to you speak during meetings. You always told us to document our work, and to take 50 photos in order to find one that's really great. Using and developing my eye were really huge lessons for me, as well. A lot of the things that still help me today were the public speaking that we worked on with the educators, as well as working with the acting coach they hired. Another big one was working with Amanda on how to open, organize, and close a class. I never knew I would end up doing what I’m doing now, but all those things continue to help me every single day.

So what happened after Bumble and bumble? Did you go back to the west coast? They were starting the Bumble and bumble Live program. I kept hearing that they were looking for people to go out into the field and teach. No one I had spoken to about it was into the idea, but one day I ran into Amanda and said, “Can you tell me more about it?”, and she explained the job a little further. I asked if they would move me back to the west coast, because I really wanted to go back home, and she said, “Yeah we’ll send you back, and we’ll give you a car and a laptop and a phone.” So I did it. I was the first person to leave Bumble and bumble in New York to pursue that, which resulted in me teaching 4 days a week in a different salon every day for four years.

Tell us about Pony. What is Pony? I originally just wanted to open a simple salon, and I had the idea to call it “Pony” after the ponytail, which was a style we seemed to always be doing backstage, and which is harder to execute than most people think. Then, the prices in San Francisco started going up, and I just didn’t feel like I could afford to open a salon. It wasn’t really until this year that I felt like I could do it. I live in Castro Valley, where there are about 60,000 people, and I knew I didn't want to do it there. So I landed on Oakland, which is between my home and San Francisco. When I saw this space, I knew it was meant to be an education space, and it became a little theater. I always thought Pony was just going to be a salon, but it has become so much more.

And now you’ve just had your first teaching session at Pony. How did that feel? It was so exhilarating to have my own space. Before, every time we had a class we would have to borrow space, bring in all of our own stuff, and break it all down ourselves when the class was over. This time, it was just all here, which was so relaxing. I was still nervous, and I still felt like everything was going to go wrong because that's how I always think. But it went really well. Everyone was great, and I know it’s only going to get better.

What's your biggest hope for the new place? That it becomes a space where hairdressers can learn and grow and feel like a part of their community. That’s always been my goal.

That's a great goal. What is the most important thing you want people to take away from Pony? To learn to take responsibility for their careers. That it's up to them and that its in their hands. I want them to work hard for it, and I want them to walk away feeling empowered, excited, and inspired. I want them to feel more knowledgeable than when they came in.

It’s so interesting that you have all these great hairdressers that came from Bumble and bumble. It must feel like a bit of a reunion to have them all on the education calendar. People from Bumble and bumble are really excited. I find that a lot of alumni are coming to me and offering their help. Everyone's very graciously volunteering their time, and they're all getting paid, but it's definitely not what they’re worth, so I am very grateful. I hope that someday soon I can pay everyone what they really deserve.

Well, they want to support you, and they want a place to come teach. I think the huge shift to renting chairs that we’ve seen recently has left a bit of a vacuum. And I guess you and all of the others that had a positive experience at Bumble and bumble miss that feeling of community and mentorship and education. [Bumble and bumble] was the best, it really was. What you did there brought people from all over together. The other day, on one of my posts, Raisa [Cabrera] commented that “Pony feels like home.” That made me feel really great, because that was always my intention.

All of the Bumble and bumble alumni you mentioned have very different styles. What was the process of selecting and assembling this team like for you? Everyone that's currently on the roster had reached out and asked if they could be a part of it, except for Dennis [Lanni]. He was someone that, with butterflies in my stomach, I reached out to for help. He’s always been a standout for me. He always made everyone feel so comfortable, and safe to make mistakes. He doesn’t let the stress get to him. He's mindful and thoughtful and cool as a cucumber. He's one of those hairdressers that has an instantly recognizable signature style, and I wanted him here because I love his energy, his art, and the way he does things. He called Pony “unplugged”, which I really liked.

I think what you’re doing with Pony is filling a void. The kind of training that you and your peers had doesn't really exist anymore, so I think you’re going to do extremely well, and I wish you the very best. Thank you so much. That means everything to me. I’m just blown away by what's happening, because in some ways I used to feel invisible to so many of the people I’m working with now. They are people who I always looked up to and who have taught me so much. I hope to return the favor to the new generation of people that come to learn at Pony.

Join Corinna, Michael Gordon, Dennis Lanni, Ramona Eschbach, and more for demos and an industry mixer at the Pony Studios Launch Party on March 10th, in Oakland, CA. Tickets can be purchased at ponyeducation.com.

What's Next

Now that 2019 has arrived, I’d like to take the time to clarify a few things about myself and my work. I often meet people who ask me about Bumble and bumble and Hairstory, assuming I still work for the companies I founded. It recently occurred to me that because I’ve been quite private about what I’m currently working on, people had no reason to believe I had even left Bb., or more recently Hairstory. I would like to set the record straight. Both of these brands are in my past. Hairstory was a fabulous concept and a lot of fun, but the knowledge that I had something bigger to achieve kept me from staying. I had an idea, an idea that I’ve had for many years, but wasn’t ready to pursue.


At Hairstory, this idea grew, becoming more powerful as time went on. I viewed it as what I had always wanted to do, what I needed to do before I died. My last hurrah. Unfortunately, Hairstory couldn’t facilitate this idea. It came close, but in the end this idea I had won, and we parted as friends. I wish them all the best, and hope they’re successful, which I know they are. But I wanted to clarify, once and for all, that I am no longer a member of the Hairstory team.  

4TeamOnSet (1) BW.jpg

Much of my work with both Purely Perfect and Hairstory was built around finding a way to cleanse the hair without stripping it of what it needs to look amazing. I still believe that non-detergent hair cleansing is the most important concept to hit the hair industry in decades, maybe ever. It has become a crucial part of my work and is now the foundation of my current venture. To summarize this concept, 95% of shampoos are made with the kind of detergent you’d wash your car with. Years and years of putting what is essentially napalm on your hair on a daily basis takes a massive toll, and by the time you’re in your 60’s, your hair is lifeless and dull. I am certain that the cause of shitty hair is shampoo, and I am determined to create a viable, lasting alternative that really works. The key is to figure out how to make detergent-free shampoo options that work for everyone, and that is exactly what we want to achieve.


That being said, I’m not quite ready to talk about what I’ve been working on in detail. All I can say, in the most objective way possible, is that it’s something that is absolutely necessary, and that its time has come. I will be sharing more details as we get closer to launching this new idea. Until then, I hope this blog will compensate for the more private time I’ve taken over the past few years to regroup and really start working towards my last hurrah. We are going to give the beauty industry a wakeup call, and I can’t wait for you all to experience it. Until then, I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from me a bit more in the form of this blog.