Mary Beth Janssen chats with Vivienne Mackinder about her film series, “I’m Not Just a Hairdresser,” and other matters of the heart.
One of the most admired hair artists in the industry, Vivienne Mackinder began her career in London, working with Vidal Sassoon and Trevor Sorbie. She’s been honored five times by the North American Hairstyling Awards, most recently as a “Master.” Now based in New York, she teaches her highly creative approach to hair design in her “Roots and Wings” program, in between doing runway work and styling for the MTV and VH1 fashion awards. Her latest endeavor is the four-part I’m Not Just a Hairdresser documentary film series created with fashion photographer and production partner Aldo Belkouar.
“I’m Not Just a Hairdresser has a mission to uplift the spirit and image of our industry one stylist at a time. Being in this giving profession, it can be hard to continually feed your heart and your pocket. I think every hairdresser has a time where they’re financially doing well, but creatively burned out, or creatively doing extraordinary work, and the money may not be coming in—they don’t always work hand in hand.
“When I decided to do this series I thought, ‘Who are the people who have a history of inspiring on a global level?’
“So in the first film, The Legends, we have the ‘Magnificent Three,’ with the obvious being Vidal, for what he created and the courage it took to step out from the crowd, along with the longevity of the Vidal Sassoon name and mystique. Then there’s Trevor Sorbie, the hairdressers’ hairdresser, who has touched so many on an international level. And Robert Lobetta, a behind-the-scenes kind of person; his genius is quite extraordinary.
“When I started to study their work and their philosophies, it struck me that you can look at what the hands are doing, but you still need to understand what’s going on in the head, the journey inside their minds. I realized that if I could get inspired, many others would also.
“I also wanted to have a piece that could change the perception the consumer has of what hairdressing is all about. We’ve got the broad spectrum of hairdressers charging $10 to $20 dollars for a hair cut, then you have the major players in New York and LA charging $200 and up!
“The gap in between fascinates me. How can we raise the bar? How can we raise self-worth and self-confidence? What better way than to hear from those who are so passionate about their vision and their ideas?
“Going into the second film, Empires, we heard from extraordinary people like Anthony Mascolo, Horst Rechelbacher and Fredric Fekkai, who have built these fantastic beauty empires.
“[Then] I received feedback from women, saying, ‘Why are you focusing only on men in this industry?’ So I decided to make the next film [The Stars Behind the Chair: Leading Ladies of Hairdresssing, available this spring] about women’s leadership and what it takes.
“And one of the most exciting parts about all this is our involvement with the foundation, Movement of the Heart (movementoftheheart.org) which supports women who are no longer the architects of their lives, whose lives are fractured in some way. Salons and spas can sponsor a woman to participate in programs and attend their facilities. This is a good mission to be part of.
“I need to be inspired; I’m like a curious child. I’m willing to take risks.
“As I’ve gotten older, I rely more and more on mentors. As you go longer in a business, you get tired or jaded, or you have to work harder to stay at the level you’re at. When you’re climbing up, youth and naivete are on your side; you don’t really know what that journey is until you get on it. The longer you’re in the business, you really have to search and push yourself.
“And to just be a student is marvelous. Anytime I can put myself in a place where I have a coach working with me, it’s really healthy. I can also take lessons from other spheres when I’m coaching hairdressers. It’s brilliant, really.”