BORN AND RAISED: Born in Vietnam, Saigon and raised in San Francisco, CA
INDUSTRY ICON: Oribe has always been at the top of my list. I have always looked to him for inspiration and direction. He is a huge influence in my career.
NOW READING: I’m reading Antonio Lopez’s Fashion Art, Sex and Disco. Oribe gave it to me. Lopez was a fashion illustrator, and I am studying his work, his mood boards, and the whole era.
CAREER OTHER THAN HAIRDRESSER: A fashion stylist or graphic artist
DAY-OFF PURSUITS: i would be traveling, going to Greece and relaxing in the Mediterranean and also absorbing the culture and looking to see what the new next trend. I like to move, I like to do, I like to create.
PERSONAL HEROES: My mom and my aunts. They are the ones who have inspired me to be strong, they came to the country on their own, they are independent, self starters, self providers and selfless. They are the people I look up to.
ADVICE FOR YOUNG STYLISTS: Get into a mentoring program that you have researched carefully. See if you relate to what they are doing. Find someone who reflects the same esthetic values. Everything will come easier.
His story is one of many adoptive citizens. A child born in Vietnam arrives in San Francisco and must learn a new language, new customs and find his way in a new world.
“I came here (to the United States) with my single mother and my brother and I had to motivate myself to fit in, to get myself to school and to try and be accepted. I was always doing research to see what you needed to know and also so I could help my family,” says Kien Hoang, Artistic Educator for Oribe Haircare.
But instead of just conforming, he created. Instead of disappearing, he dared. And instead of erasing his uniqueness he embraced it. Today, a spirit of inclusiveness informs his work, his salon and his life.
“When I was young, I was surrounded by women—my mother and my aunts—and I fell in love with the early 1970’s fashion and music. I would see my aunts all done up with big disco hair,” says Hoang. “I created a look for myself knowing that I wasn’t going to be accepted completely because I didn’t know the language. I used to go to school in bow ties.”
Through fashion he found hair and started cosmetology training while still in high school. “At 16, I was already focused on my career. I went to school, to cosmetology class and worked at the same time. I fell in love with creating textures, deciding what style was appropriate with what look, and also the architecture of hair. I worked with a lot of ethnic hair which was incredible.”
His passion for research and ability to empathize helped when, several years later, he began educating for bumble and bumble. “I was learning how to work with different types of people—those people who are resistant, forward, forthcoming. I was able to come into their salons and share my knowledge.” It also came into play when opening his salon in San Jose, CA.
“My salon is called Umbrella Salon because everybody is under one umbrella, everyone works as a team, and everyone is accepted. Without teamwork, nothing moves,” says Hoang. “I also brought everything I knew—the courage, the patience, the structure, the past, present and future—to helping new stylists understand where things come from. Our mission is to inspire clients, share with our community and understand cultures.”
After years educating globally, he joined Oribe three-and-a-half years ago and has made a name for himself at New York Fashion Week. Leading an Oribe team, Hoang was key hairstylist at four recent shows including Skaist Taylor, David Hart, Daniella Kallmeyer and Perry Ellis.
“I landed four of my own shows and each year, it is progressing but I never sit and wait. I work 10-12 hours a day whether in the salon, teaching or out shooting and creating my own looks for my portfolio. On Sundays, I travel for Oribe haircare. The more you put into it and really focus, it will come back to you.”