I was born and raised in a town called Valencia, north of LA. It's a bit of a tract home community, like a planned suburb. It doesn't have much culture, or really any sort of presence of emerging town. There's no "mom and pop's restaurant", there's no coffee shops. It's a big chain place.
I've always had an artistic perspective. My earliest memories are of me having moments to myself. To this day, I've always been a bit of an introvert living in a job where you have to be more extroverted. I just remember being a kid and being totally happy with drawing and doing my own thing, and then really seeing that people were taking notice of that, and cultivating the skills through taking classes. Those were the things that I looked forward to most. I couldn't stand any of the sports that I was in. I did them because that's kind of what you do, and my brother did them as well, but I couldn't wait to not be a part of that.
How big a family did you grow up in?
Just a younger brother. Just him and I.
And you liked to draw?
Yeah. Illustrations, you know. I think I probably thought I was going to be a Disney animator when I was a kid.
Oh really? That's interesting. What were you illustrating? Stories that you knew? Or stories that you were making up?
Stories that I would make up. I would have a comic book strip that I would create the characters for. I would write them and draw different things. I was definitely into comic books as a young kid.
What were they typically about?
I think they were superheroes for sure, but it was more about the art than the story. I rarely as a kid even remember reading any of the content, and just really allowing my imagination to draw the conclusions based on the art.
So you were creating the illustration and not so much the work of the story?
Exactly. Just probably more the innocence and emotion of the actual art.
My first job actually was a comic books store job. I was incredibly young, probably thirteen, and they paid me in credit to the store. I remember that it was such a fun time.
Obviously you were into comic books.
I guess I was. Not at the moment, but that was really important at some point.
Do you remember which ones were your favorites?
I couldn't tell you the exact name, but it was always very important to me to find the most independent, obscure, and undiscovered comic book.
Yeah. I never read Spiderman, I never read Batman. It was more about finding something obscure. That's what was exciting, because it was about the discovery.
I'll kind of jump around a little bit, but one of the biggest outlets for culture and inspiration that I've had in this small town has always been our news stand. I love it. It's a 24/7 news stand, and it's been a place where I can go and get Italian Vogue, or even now, there are so many more emerging print magazines. They've been like a passport for me into other cultures. And this is pre-internet, obviously.
Interesting. What age did you start getting interested in magazines that were available at the news stand?
I think probably close to sixteen, when I became more self aware of who I wanted to become, and who I was developing into. I got my braces off, I learned how to drive, I started dating. I think I'd have to say that I've always been attracted to the scent of printed paper. It probably goes back to comic book store times, and even just the news stand. Each one almost has it's own unique scent. It's interesting how sometimes you can smell one and it can conjure a memory or a moment.
What about when you were in school? Was there anything in school that felt along these lines to you? Did you take art classes, or were there any teachers that inspired you? Or was school just something to get through?
In junior high I had a significant art teacher that helped me to hone in on my passion, and was a fan and a cheerleader. Just a good teacher.
But it's so hard for me to remember any memories of school whatsoever. I wasn't bullied or anything like that, and I didn't have anything traumatizing happen to me. I just think the whole process felt unnatural to me.
You were just there because you had to be there.
Yeah. It's amazing how great you feel when you're done with that, you know?
(laughs) I think I remember that, yes. So not so much with school?
No, not so much at all.
Okay, so take me back to the newsstand for just a second before we go on, because I'm really curious about that. It feels like something really cool. Describe it to me. Did you know the people that worked there?
The newsstand was like a bat cave. It wasn't like it was a luxurious destination. The carpet had been flooded, the lighting was terrible fluorescent lighting, the walls were different paint colors, and of course you'd have your nude section. You'd have interesting groups of people who'd just come in and out from time to time.
So it wasn't a social place. It was a place where it was more quiet than the book stores of the time. The book stores kind of turned into this Barnes and Noble culture, with all the coffee and the studying. Newsstands are just a quiet get away. Very isolated kind of personal discovery experiences. You know what else was really nice about the newsstand as opposed to the bookstore, which I'm just recalling actually, was that the newsstand had everything faced out so you could see exactly what you were looking at. With the bookstore, it's all on the spine of the book, and you have to tilt your head sideways to read them. That is why I've always been drawn more to comic books or magazines than books in general.
Yeah. So at some point you became interested in fashion?
Tell me more about that.
I think at a young age I realized that what I liked about it so much is that it told a story. I suppose you could draw it back to comic book reference. A guy in a cape is a super hero. A guy in a suit is maybe a detective or who knows what. There was just a story, and I felt like, "Okay. What's my story going to be? What's my mood?" I realized how I could create so many different journeys through it.
So were you into buying clothes for yourself? Tell me about that.
I think really young I remember that there was an Urban Outfitters that opened up in Pasadena, and that was a cool moment. Prior to that, you had to go to thrift stores, so it was a lot of vintage clothes. But when that opened up it made that easier.
And how old were you then?
I was probably fourteen or fifteen. I remember it was right before I got my license.
So Urban Outfitters was a new experience.
Yeah. I don't even think they knew what it was when they started it. I think it turned into what it is now. It wasn't always as finished of an idea as it is now, which was kind of cool. You could have more discovery, like in the way that they tried to retail Anthropologie. They tried to make it so you can find something underneath or find something over here, that was just all from a lack of experience...It was a fun store.
Yeah. I remember that actually. When Urban Outfitters first opened it was like, "What is this place?"
Okay so, that was all when you were in high school. What happened when you graduated?
During high school, I was taking these classes at the art center in Pasadena, to help me get my portfolio ready so I could go to art college. I had a really great experience in high school, where I was able to leave my town once a week, and go to Pasadena to this beautiful school that was so well designed and had so much land to walk around on. Are you familiar with this at all?
I don't think Eames designed it, but someone in that crew, one of those mid century architects had something to do with it. It's really cool.
So I went there, and that was at the beginning of getting my license, right when I was sixteen. I did that all through high school after that, and then I really started to meet a cool group of people. I actually remember this one girl that was a real specific moment where I felt I was starting to turn. We were in our first day of illustration class, and we were all in our seats. This girl came in late and I gave her my seat. She looked at me, and we had a bit of a moment, decided to kind of be friends and work together.
We got really close. She was from Silver Lake, and not many people were, fifteen or eighteen years ago. That wasn't a cool place to live at all, but she was so cool. She almost felt like a chauffeur to a whole other world. She would know the back roads to get us through LA, and I had never even really been to LA. I had been there maybe to go to the Hollywood bowl, or to a museum, but not the way she knew it. With her, you were going to concerts, or new museums, or cool restaurants. She knew how to get all over town. She'd drive us, and we had so much fun together. I remember the first time I went in a photo booth was with her. It was incredible. And then I would come back to Valencia, and I would tell my friends about her. They had to meet her, so I'd take my friends one by one back with me to LA, and we'd all hang out. I never had romantic feelings for her, but there was something that was so powerful in that relationship.
Yeah, there was some connection?
And it went in and out for several years. I actually went to her senior prom. She went to a private school for girls, and her prom was awesome. I remember her interpretive dancing, and I didn't even know what that was. It was like this girl was just ahead of her time.
I remember probably six years later, at one point I bought a Vespa scooter, and I actually named it after her.
Yeah. You asked if I had a teacher that inspired me, and I did, but I think more importantly I had this friend named Anna.
She was really a big influence.
Is she still in your life?
You know, she's not. It fell apart for whatever reasons, but I've never really wanted to pick up where we left off. Things are okay right now, so that's just that.
No, I totally understand. I was just curious if she was still around.
Yeah. Sometimes I wish she was, but then sometimes I think maybe I'll see behind the curtain, and realized that it was just special when it was.
I don't want to ruin that memory.
Right, exactly. That's so interesting. So that was an awakening of some kind.
Huge. It was the beginning of painting outside the lines. That's what it really was.
So what happened after that? That was while you were in school?
That was during high school. There were these classes that I would take to help me get into college.
After high school, I was really bummed out, because I had no idea what I was going to do. I remember I did a semester at our local community college and took some art and film classes. It was kind of fun. And then I did a summer semester at Otis, which is another private art university. I thought that was going to be it. I remember my parents didn't want to pay for the year, because they didn't think I'd be able to commit to it. They were probably right. They were like "Alright, do a summer at Otis." And I loved it, I really did, but I still found that the educational experience was so institutional, and that was what I was trying to get away from. I'd already done that my whole life. If I didn't mention this earlier, I'd done private art classes since I was probably eight years old. I should have probably said that.
No, that's alright.
They were pretty classic art classes. Mixing colors, black and whites, pastels, the whole thing. So I was done with that. I was trying to develop a style.
So once you got out of high school, you decided that maybe you didn't want to pursue an art school college kind of thing?
Yeah...I just wasn't feeling it. It just really wasn't my thing. So I thought that maybe if my educational experience was in Italy, maybe that would be more special and feel more authentic. Almost like going to the genesis of it or something. So I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and that was the beginning of my next incredible phase of life.
It was my first time going away from home, which was huge, and being in another country learning the language. This was probably thirteen or fourteen years ago, so at the time, Florence definitely had its tourists but it was mostly more of a sophisticated British or American tourist. I don't think a lot people were going there. If they were going to Italy, they were going to Pisa or Rome, you know what I mean?
So you really had to learn the language. You really had to understand the culture, and that was the best part about it. I went with a best friend, and we had the best experience getting into all sort of things. I had an art teacher there who was huge for me. Her name was Holly, and she was from Brooklyn and had married an Italian, so that's how she'd ended up out there. That was how she started teaching, but she was actually in the Factory with Andy Warhol.
Oh my god, seriously?!
Yeah, isn't that incredible?
This woman could tell me to do anything and I would do it. She was just like that.
She totally understood where I was at in the journey, and it was so much about finding my own stroke and my own eye and perspective so I could interpret for myself, not based on my academic training. That was a huge experience. Along with that, her kids were my age, so I befriended them and it turned into an Italian experience of home cooked dinners and traveling together. It was great. Huge.
Wow! That sounds fantastic. How long were you there?
Six months. Like I said, I could ask where to eat and where to shop, and they'd just tell me. So then there came a time that I had to get a haircut. I went to a guy that they referred me to, and it was such a great experience. We went to the salon, I think it was called Salon International. It was their family hairdresser. If you remember the town that I grew up in, I had never been exposed to the salon culture, so this was pretty exciting. The place and architecture and art and amenities, and just a little bit of class.
It was a very cool moment, and then this guy appears. His name is Johnny Luca, or Johnny Franco. I don't quite remember, one of the two. He's wearing all leather, like full leather. He's got leather pants on, a leather vest with no shirt, or a short sleeved shirt. All I remember is that there was a lot of chest hair. And he has a raccoon tail on his belt.
And again, this is thirteen or fourteen years ago. That trend didn't even start until maybe five or six years ago. This guy was an early adapter. He was quite the host, and very charming. He had lots of confidence, and he knew he was good, and he loved what he was doing.
I saw him just dance through the salon. Everything was so smooth and effortless. You could tell he was just a master of his domain, and I was really attracted to it. I was like "Man, that looks amazing." Even after that, he ended up doing a photo shoot for something and I got to come along and stand in the back for a while. That was kind of cool, but moving forward, I've seen people have this experience when they come in. I've seen clients of mine turn into hair stylist, so looking back I know it's so incredible.
One of things that I liked that he would always do was that he had his own espresso cup, his own cup for cafes. Have you been there before, to Italy?
So you know it's a huge coffee culture. He would have his assistant take his cup and go get his espresso from the cafe next door, and then he'd sit down behind me and cross his legs and just stare at my head as he drank it, with all focus. (laughs) I'm assuming it was smoke and mirrors, or he was just on a whole new level in a really cool way.
Well that's amazing. So that was your first real salon experience.
Yeah...I remember getting out there later that day, and then calling my mom and being like, "Hey. What do you think about me coming home and doing hair?" And she thought it was the best idea. She loved it.
Yeah, she thought it was perfect. So I did some research, went to the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica. Have you heard of that place before? In terms or our industry, it would be the best. The most prestigious. It's in Santa Monica. It's great. I thrived there and did really well. I did a lot of photography for the school and traveled a bit with them. I got to assist some really cool people. My goal was to go back abroad right after I was done.
Wait, can I ask you one question? You just knew at that point that that was the way you wanted to go?
And how did you know? What was that feeling? I know it's just a feeling, right?
Yeah. You just know it. It was great moment.
Can you describe the feeling of that?
(pause) Well, I think it had to do with my interpretation of my experience. That was the feeling, everything I was just describing, but I guess the feeling was excited and almost how you feel the first day of school. You have all your notebooks, and you're going to try really hard to write nice in them. It was that kind of a feeling, or maybe if you're starting a new diet or workout.
Right, it's this certain kind of happy anticipation.
Wow. That's amazing that it was just like a flash of insight.
It was, yeah.
Boom. Lightning striking kind of thing. That's amazing.
It kind of was. I feel like you have these guides, almost like silent mentors I would call them. They don't know their impact at the time.
Yeah. They're just doing their thing. It's not like they're trying to convince you to do this or that or that or whatever.
But there's something that these two particular people share, and other people share too. They're very self aware. They're very confident. They're very in the moment, and those are all really strong characteristics that make up a silent mentor for someone. I don't know how to draw all the conclusions right now, but there's something there.
Right. There's a certain kind of guidance that you get from people like that.
Yeah. You don't get it from everyone.
No, definitely not. It just sort of hits you, and the only way to recognize it is that because you're in the experience of it, it's a particular feeling.
It's definitely a particular feeling, and I think it's about you being in a place in your life where you're not happy with the status quo, so your eyes are really open, and you're really ready to be a part of something, you know?
I've realized that most of my life, certainly the later half of my life, I've known that I've always wanted to be a part of a movement. It's been a huge focus for me, and I realize that there were movements in fashion at a young age. I realized that there are artistic movements or periods, and I just felt like, "Well, I want to be able to have my feet planted in that. I want to be a part of a movement." like The Andy Warhol Factory, all these different things.
Right. Why is that? What is it about a movement? What do you mean? Say more.
I don't know if I've ever really thought about it that far. I just know that it's something that I've wanted more than most things. I think it's to be among a group of peers that are all focused on the same thing, or maybe to just to be a part of a creative journey with a collective.
So it's about some kind of feeling of connection of collaboration with others?
Absolutely. Always. Even in life, if I find my soulmate, it's important for me to be with a creative partner. That's what I need. I can't be with someone who doesn't get me. The collective is everything.
I actually have a new product that's coming out at the beginning of next month that hasn't really been talked about at all. It's called Cake, and my first product was called Milk. No relation to food or anything like that, but I wanted to call it Cake. Have you seen these cupcake stores that are cropping up everywhere?
They're cool, but cupcakes are like the loneliest people in the room.
It's like, there you are just eating your cupcake by yourself. I remember seeing all these old, great images of everyone gathered around a birthday cake. There's something about a cake that's like a celebration. People were coming together to celebrate something, and I just feel like people have become so isolated. You don't really even see kids playing outside as much. Everyone is in their own world with their devices. "Give me my meal portions. This is my cake, or my cupcake." It's a long explanation, but it has to do with the inspiration of a collective. That's why I brought it up. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to explain that to anyone.
I totally get that! I'm so glad you did explain it. So what is the product?
It's an anti-aging growth serum. It's a serum that you put on your scalp, and it uses stem cells from apples.
Oh my god!
It's never been done before. It's a total breakthrough. People are using these apples right now on their faces. That's been popular for the past several years, so we got inspired by that, but we believe that people really need to treat their scalps. That's a huge focus for us. This is an endangered apple tree in Switzerland. They started to culture and nurture the tree, and then that's how the whole discovery came about.
Seriously? I didn't know anything about this.
Yeah, very rare.
We're trying to create another regimen that's inherent. You've got shampoo and conditioner, which is kind of a buffing ritual, and then you've got your styling products. We're trying to come up with a serum that you can put on your scalp. We feel like it's a missed area in care rituals.
Yeah. Well, that's pretty exciting and different. What are the results of using it?
Well, if you're bald, it won't help you because the follicle is damaged and dead. However, if it's in the early stages it can definitely help, and it certainly keeps your hair from falling out. You know when you wash your hair in water and some of it comes out? It helps with that for sure.
But most importantly, it's nourishing the scalp as well, so that the skin becomes less old and so the hair that grows is healthier, softer, and stronger. Hair is dead, which everyone knows but I think everyone forgets. Everything that you're putting into the hair is a cosmetic. It's just a hope in a bottle, really. But I think if people start addressing the skin, they don't know what to expect because they've never done it before...So that's why this could be interesting.
Wow. That's so cool! So, wait - let's go back. Just in terms of the chronology of your story, you went to the school in Santa Monica, right?
Right. Vidal Sassoon.
And then what?
After that, all I wanted to was to get back abroad. Get back on that bus, kind of a thing. But I ran out of money. I'd already done all these adventures and asked for so much from my parents, so they were done. I was really bummed out, and in a real somber place, because I felt like the only place I'd ever felt at home was when I was in Florence, in the most creative culture in the world.
It was really a bummer for me. I remember getting coffee, and I was at the mall where we live. This woman came up to me and she said, "Cool hair!" and I said, "Thank you. Let me guess, you're a hairdresser." And she said, "Yes I am! I manage a salon right down the street." She talked to me a bit, heard a bit of my story, and said, "If you ever want a job, you're hired." I said thanks but no thanks, I'm trying to do something else.
So I went back home and told my mom, and she was so pissed off. She was like, "You need to get your butt over there and beg for her to hire you." So sure enough, that happened, and I built the clientele very quickly. It really kind of grounded me to have a career in the same town that I grew up in, really what I didn't want.
But at the same time I kind of realized that in terms of my art, doing hair, what made me happy was the clients and the work I could do. It almost didn't matter where it was. It could have been Iowa. It really mattered that I was doing work true to myself. Here I am, day one, doing my thing in a salon, and I knew the pace that I wanted to do it and it had to be that way. I'd already seen how this one guy did it in Italy, and that was perfect, so I knew that I wasn't going to be a waiter, if that makes sense.
That was not how I was going to do it. However, I have a huge heart, which is probably the secret to my success in the career. I just knew I had to do it my way, you know what I mean?
So it was a very exciting career decision, and it still is exciting. Sometimes you have people, and you know it just won’t work out... I'll just politely tell them, "You need to go to someone else because it's not the kind of hair I do." People in this town weren't used to hearing that. They didn't take it wrong. I think if anything they wanted to get their hair done more by me, so that became a gimmick in the town I suppose, but I thrived. I entered different competitions. One was a national one that was to be an art director for a product company.
I won the California tryouts, and won the national in Florida, and got this job. What was really cool was they gave me a little bit of cash. The regional was $5,000, and the national was $35,000 plus a Vespa scooter.
Yeah, it was a pretty good gig.
That was the beginning of me traveling a lot for work, doing seminars at salons and schools, and really getting exposed to the hairdresser community, which was great. The future of everything is being more mobile, so this was really fun for me to see how excited I was about hairdressing. When you're working with the same nine hairdressers everyday, it's not a bad thing, but you're really missing out on a whole community of them because everyone does it differently. So if I wanted to have conversations with peers about creative things, it doesn't mean I can just get that with the people I work with.
Wait, I have a question. When you had that job, and you were saying that you wouldn't do everybody, can you describe that to me? I'm so curious about the particular thing you were looking for. What was it?
Sure. At the time, about twelve years ago now, what was quite popular was the really heavy style of highlights. Zebra, we call them. Those were huge, and I wanted nothing to do with them. It didn't speak to me, it wasn't my taste. I just couldn't handle it. So that was it, really. I just told people that that wasn't how I did color. I do very natural color, very soft color. For me, my style is all about the intimate particulars of my work, and me trying to figure out how to give something very intimate to that person and not working off of a mapping system or some sort of automatic "you put 10 foils on the top and you're done" kind of a thing. It has to be very intimate for me. Not intimate like vulnerable, but totally tailored for that person.
Yeah, very personal. So that was the work that I would try to do. I've always liked hair that looks like it's cut or colored to look styled. I think when I first got into hair, it was very much about the cut. People would come in and they would want Jessica Simpson's bob, or Jennifer Aniston's cut, or Halle Berry's cut. People were referring to them as cuts, and then several years later in the present, it's more about a style. People will bring in long hair photos and say, "This is kind of how I want my curls to look," or "This is how much volume I want in my hair." It was kind of interesting to see it not quite get to how it was when our grandparents would get their hair set once a week, but people wanted to feel a little bit more styled.
And I've always been really attracted to editorials, so back to the newsstand, right? Hair that looks like it's been lived in. Hair that looks like it has movement. So I try to cut and color hair to look like that. Does that make sense?
That's my perspective and interpretation, to try to cut and color hair to make it look lived in and worn, almost like how it looks in magazines.
It's back to the story - like when you first were describing the illustrations that you were doing that would tell a story through the visual, in a way. It sounds like that.
So you're talking about creating a style for someone that's actually maybe telling a story about who they are.
Right, yes. It's the same with fashion and how that tells a story. I needed that cut to be just as intimate as that. And just as individual to that person.
Wow, that's so fantastic! That's sort of the dream stylist person that you want to be doing your hair. That's what I would want.
Me too, and I feel like when you do whatever you want, even now asking the questions that you want to know the answers to, it's always more authentic and you'll get better results.
I was attracted to our industry because I believed that at the time it was super sensationalized, just like an artist. Just like an Andy Warhol or a David Bowie. That's how that Italian hair dresser looked to me.
What happened was that I entered a world of stylists that did it because they didn't know what else they were going to do in life. They did it because they were part time going to school to be a nurse, or did it just because their parents did it. Who knows what. And it's so unfair to globalize everyone into that, or to assume I know what their thoughts are and why they did it, but that was my experience. It could have been my experience just because of my journey, but I didn't understand that.
And then I realized how society and media really interpreted our community. You had reality shows that showed how reckless or destructive we are, or how unprofessional, and then you have new shows that come out about how the salons need to be redone and revived so that they don't fall under.
And then on the flip side, there's been a huge rise of the food community, and you have the food network booming. You have food competitions like Iron Chef, and then you go to the newsstand and there's a new food magazine every time. I became very self aware of this huge food trend, and how super-sensationalized these chefs were. I couldn't understand how a chef could have their name on the door and you could go and get a meal cooked by them that changed your life. Getting your hair cut by the stylist who owns a certain salon is really cool too, but somehow the world wasn't reporting it that way.
I mean, a cut can be life changing. I don't think a meal is. I think in general, would you rather have a bad meal or a bad hair cut? I mean, it's going to be the same no matter which way you do it, because what a cut can do for someone affects their mood, their confidence, and so much else. Food doesn't do that. You don't wake up the next day and reflect on that while you're getting ready. You're looking at your hair.
So it was very disappointing to me to see that, because I've wanted to part of that movement.
Yes, I see what you mean.
It's been conflicting in many ways.
So, I'll have to back up a bit, but I decided to open a salon six years ago in my home town, mostly because I didn't feel anyone was doing it at the pace it should be done. Now, I'm just speaking to the town that I live in, and not to the hairdresser community, because there are tons of great salons. But where I live, I didn't think anyone was doing it right. What happened was we had the writer’s strike, and then the recession happened. What it did was that a lot of clientele in our home town were writers or production assistants. They weren't the celebrities, but they were a huge part of the movie industry. That's kind of the people who live here, and I noticed that I was losing clients and it was very sad. It was a very confusing moment, because I'm used to getting a hug every hour.
I felt like if I didn't take control and do this myself, who knows, maybe I wouldn't have a career in several years. So I decided to open a salon in the worst economy of my lifetime, and it has thrived since day one.
For the most part, we've retained our entire list of clients since day one, and just added to it. We have perfect Yelp reviews to date, the best in town. I could go on and on about it, but just to help you understand how special it's been. Whatever I set out to do is working. We picked an incredible team, which is the secret to success, if anybody doesn't understand that. It's really just who you surround yourself with and who holds you accountable. We have the best of the best where we live. What was happening was that we were doing so well, but people still worked, so that was just as conflicting, because how do you celebrate when more and more people are still losing their jobs. So what happened was that my brother lost his job, and then my stepdad lost his job. He had been the provider for us. He paid for me to go to hair school and Italy and all that, so I was not feeling great. I remember having a conversation with my manager at the time, and just trying to brainstorm what we could do. We'd always done lots of events for charities. We do a huge charity event at the salon once a year, so we were just trying to figure this out. Then I thought, "What if I redistributed some of my profits from the salon and started a new hair care company that really exists to create jobs, as well as more culture and passion in our industry?”
It was just kind of a engine or a tool to create all these things, so that's why I created the product line.
So you did that because you wanted to help other people that were struggling in the bad economy. That's why you started it?
Yeah. Because I thought that if I could do something positive like redistribute the money and create something that could be really big that I could employ people, I could do something.
Oh my god, that's amazing.
Yeah. And then I could use that as a platform to provoke the passion that I've been looking for, and try to find my people through that.
Wow. Okay, so that was how long ago?
I think I formed it in 2009 or 2010, but it didn't really get going until a couple years ago.
And so what's happened with it?
Well, the first thing I did was try to find a chemist, which was incredibly hard for someone with my personality. It's quite easy to find chemists, but to find one that you can work well with is a whole other thing.
So after traveling back to Florence, Italy to a trade show there to search, I found one when I started looking in a different place. I'd been looking for a hair care chemist the whole time, but then I started looking for a skin care chemist, and that was how I started to get the results that I wanted.
I remember really talking with my chemist. She's brilliant and beautiful and has a lot of life experience, and she said, "I don't really do hair." And I asked, "Well, can you?" and she said, "Yes. It's much easier than skin care. Of course I can do it." And I'm like, "Well, let's see what we can do."
So I think the results we got from our products are so beautiful and with so much performance, just from that relationship.
So you had to go to Italy to find her?
No, I went as far as Italy to try and find a chemist, but I ended up finding this person in northern California, San Francisco.
So she's been working with and for you since then?
Yeah. Everybody that I work with is in San Francisco. The people who make and decorate the bottles and so on. So I really realized that San Francisco is like my Italy. It's my personal, small, European community in this amazing country. On the label that we have on our products, it says, "Handcrafted in California" because it's really important that people understand not only that this is made with so much pride for the country, but that in this state, it's so difficult to have any business in, especially small business. We're really proud that everything is made where it is, and we want everyone to know.
What is the name of your line?
The line is just called "Reverie" and that name is defined by a beautiful moment or thought or daydream, which I think is really symbolic of my lifestyle. The DBA name is “Garrett Markenson Reverie”, so my name is attached to it, because we can't secure a word like that.
And is it just available in salons? How does one buy the products?
At the moment, you can get it online at Anthropologie, Fred Segal, just a couple places. But yes, it is available in salons. Salons and high retailers. We're working to get it into Barney's right now.
Well, that's a whole thing, being a business person in that way. You're an artist, so what's the experience of creating and running that kind business been like for you?
I think to be ultimately successful at being an artist or a businessman, you have to have equal parts of both. That's something that I do have, so it isn't hard for me to run a business as an artist, because I still understand business and how it connects with art.
How do you understand business? Where did you get that?
I had an experience when I was in college with one of my art teachers. It was the first day of painting class, and we all did portraits of the person who was next to us, so we all painted in a circle. I was super excited because I felt like mine was done really well, and I was excited to go home and show my folks what they had paid for me to learn. We put them up on the board for critique, and we went through and it was lovely, and then at the end, the teacher mixed up a blue-ish brown mucky color and drew a line through everyone's paintings.
Yeah. Just drew a line through everyone’s. It was an incredible moment. I was so angry and confused and didn't really know how to process that at the moment. He asked if we were all done and we said yes, then he asked if we were all happy and we said yes, and then he said, "Well, then that's the end of it." He said, "As an artist, you have to let go to be able to sell your work. You cannot be someone who creates work just for you to collect and put into your closet. If this is what you want to do for a living, you need to be able to let go of it." So it was an interesting moment for me.
Huh. And how does that related to business?
I realized that you can be one-hundred percent passion, but it can be towards business as well. I feel like I've always been a leader and forward thinker, someone who starts things...Maybe it's from being so stubbornly independent my whole life, and being motivated to be my own boss by not having one.
Right. Well, it sounds like there's something about the letting go that relates to how you balance being an artist and a business person. Does it inform something about business for you? It just sounds like it helps you maintain it in some way.
I don't know how to explain it, because it's very hard. If I'm struggling as an artist, then I'm struggling as a business owner. That's kind of exhausting.
Do you have to let go of one in order to focus on the other? In other words, do you either have your artist hat on or your business hat on? Or is it not like that? Is it more integrated?
I think it's very much scary like that. That's actually something I'm realizing more right now...One of them will win out of those two, and I think you just have to be aware of that and prepare yourself for which one you want to win.
So you're saying that you feel like one of those is going to overcome the other at some point, and then you're either going to be all artist or all business person?
Well, not in definite terms, but in life, yeah I think so. I find that the longer I've been doing this, you know, I think I'm young. I'm thirty-two, and I find myself being less able to identify with people close to my age. I'm only able to identify with people older than me, who have more life experience. Just because of all the experience I've gone through being a business owner, you know?
But there's a part of me that can still identify with an artist. It doesn't matter the age, but when you see a young artist, you see someone who is young and acting out or in a self discovery stage. I can't really identify with that person either, because I've already gone through all those motions. I am in an unbalanced place in life in that respect.
What do you want? What's your dream now?
Sometimes you get what you want, and it isn't what you want. Now knowing that, and experiencing that, it's hard to say what I want, because it might not be what I want once I get it. I'm trying to be a bit more present and not adding anything to what I already have. Not starting any new projects. That's kind of where I'm at right now.
Well, what really inspires and excites you right now?
Traveling. For me, it would be about not living in my town anymore. It would be about me moving to Northern California or somewhere else. It's trying to figure out how you do that when you have a clientele that is anchoring you. That's why I'm trying to focus a bit more on Reverie, because that will be a means to be more mobile. That's a job that can be done from anywhere. So that's how I see myself moving forward in life. Chasing that a bit more, if that makes sense.
It totally makes sense.
This is what I want, and it's what was good for me, but I feel like a part of what I don't enjoy about owning a salon is that I feel like it created a very paternal role. It made me feel like the parent, and I don't like how that developed me in my twenties, being that person. There's a difference between being a mentor and being a parent. To my assistants, I was a mentor. To my team, I felt very much like a parent. That's a place that I need to work really hard to get out of and be more self aware of.
It sounds like you're wanting or working towards a certain new kind of freedom, and expanding outward into something that feels more free. Within the freedom, more things are possible. Does that feel true?
Yeah, you're hitting it for sure. I had this life changing experience in Italy that I shared with you, and I've gone back several times to try and relive it, once even recently. I realized that I can't relive it, because it was all about the discovery of that first time not living at home anymore, being on my own, backpacking. It was discovery, it was traveling. And I realized that anywhere new that I go in my life to travel is just as exciting as that was. I think a lot of who I am and want to become is someone who is mobile, and a bit more of a traveler...Right now, in my product company, we're working on distribution in the Middle East and Russia.
Yeah. Like, how cool would it be to go visit those countries?
(laughs) It's so cool. I actually think that this product opportunity is going to be a dream come true in that sense.
Yeah, wow. Right, okay. That's amazing. I'm so curious to find out what happens next. Is there anything else that you see coming up, or that you want to move towards?
Yeah, there's one thing I'm doing. I have a passion for Vidal Sassoon, the person, and everything that he's done. His life story and the brand that he created and his success is extraordinary, but there's not a lot of documentation in our industry. There's maybe three or four books ever, to my knowledge, and I feel like the history is what preserves the craft. In the same way you see all those cookbooks, those are like archives. They are archiving these people's life's work, and in our industry it hasn't really been done much. If it is done, it's been done almost poorly, almost like an illustrated Wikipedia.
I wanted a little bit more from it, and in my network, because I'm connected, I would love to know more about Vidal Sassoon the person. More than just the day that he was born and the day that he moved to California. So the beginning of this journey is to create a really beautiful tribute book.
I actually did my first interview like we're doing now. I have no experience, I just recorded it on my phone. I interviewed his daughter, Edith. I wanted to know stuff like, where did they go on family vacations, what was he like to travel with. Just real personal and intimate things... One thing that I learned that was kind of interesting that unless your were close to him I don't think you would ever know, was that he took several baths in one day.
Yeah. If he was traveling on a long flight, he'd break up the flight so he could check into a hotel and take a bath, and then fly out the next morning. He had to be in water. Isn't that crazy?
No way! Wow. That is crazy.
She told me that one time they, the whole family, were on a boat. They were just enjoying it, and at one point he just dived into the water and took off and they lost him for a couple hours.
Oh my god.
I love that because... you don't know because you don't ask.
What I also wanted was access to photographs and personal items. I don't care about his scissors, I wanted more personal stuff. So I was able to see his wristwatch that he wore everyday, his journal that he kept during his last several weeks of life. Just really cool objects. A sculpture that he made, stuff like that.
Oh my god.
So that's the first thing that I've done. I want to make the book have a real whimsical tailored feel to it, if that makes sense.
Yeah. Wow. That is so cool.
That's the coolest thing. I'm so curious about that, because the way you were talking about it feels like the same feeling that you had when you first went to Italy. The discovery, the new land kind of feeling. And that this is going to be such a particular journey or story about Vidal Sassoon, because it's you telling the story. You're seeing it in such a particular way. It's fascinating.
It's so cool to hear that you get it. Some people might not get it, some people might be like "Who cares?" you know? But for me, I care.
And that's the deal. That's why it's going to be so good, because you care. That's what going to make it the coolest book ever.
Well, remember when you told me your story at the beginning about how you discovered so much about your mom, and how that started all this? I once had a girlfriend who interviewed my grandma for her school project, and it was this big thing. I said "Wow! I didn't even know she went to fashion school!" It's crazy these things that you learn once you start asking.
Right. Exactly. Once you start asking about the things that you're curious about, you get a whole different story.
A lot of people might be thinking it, they've just never said it out loud. So people really can connect once they hear these things.
I’m thinking about what you were saying about wanting to be part of a movement. It feels to me like you are at the front of a kind of movement in your industry to open it up. I don't know what I mean by that, but there's a way in which it's been limited somehow, the way it's been perceived... I feel like you are creating something new in the culture and industry around hair that is more dimensional. People will think about it in a different way, in a more expanded way. I'm not really sure, I just have a sense of something shifting, and you being at the front of that.
I hope so.
By taking this really iconic figure, Vidal Sassoon, and wanting to show these parts of him not only that people don't know but that wouldn't even occur to them to think about, you're showing him as a whole, three dimensional human being. Who would even have thought that? It feels like there's something similar to that going on within the field. I don't know. It's just a sense I get. I'm so curious to see what happens next. Thank you so much for telling me this story.
My pleasure! I'm so excited.
I’ve always wanted to be a part of a movement.
It’s been a huge focus for me.
It’s something to do with being among a group of peers who are focused on the same thing, or perhaps it’s just being be a part of a creative journey with a collective.
Even in life, if I find my soulmate, it’s important for me to be with a creative partner.
That’s what I need. I can’t be with someone who doesn’t get me.
The collective is everything.
— Garrett Markenson,
Owner, Reverie by Garrett Markenson