Born and raised: New York, New York. I grew up on 116th street, first generation Italian, surrounded by my aunts and uncles. It was a real community.
Secret Ambition: I wanted to be an architect.
Hidden talent: I play drums and played them in a band.
Industry mentor: My mentor was Vidal Sassoon. He, coincidentally, also wanted to be an architect. I was privileged to be in his company. He was a gentle, wonderful man who really revolutionized the industry.
“Across the street from where I lived there was this little beauty salon and two pretty girls who owned it. I would go there on weekends and hang out with them. These girls said, you’re really good at this, why don’t you go to beauty school, and I did.” This is the simple opening to the story of Peter Coppola’s career which would see him taking part in changing hair history. Coppola, salon owner, television personality and creator of Keratin Complex, didn’t like beauty school (“too traditional for me”) but it set him on a path that would put him in the position of working with other change-makers.
“I was working as an assistant with Paul McGregor (the man who created Jane Fonda’s shag made famous in the film Klute) who was a trail blazer in the industry in late 1960’s and early 1970’s. In 1965, Vidal Sassoon was holding classes in New York City and everyone said, this is ridiculous, the cuts are so geometric, no one will wear their hair like this.” But Coppola knew different.
“The Beatles had just come to America and there was a whole revolution taking place in the 1960’s in hair, fashion and music. I saw the change coming.”
When Coppola went to open his first salon, he exemplified this change; he wore his hair longer, he dressed casual and cool and he welcomed a young client who embraced the new Sassoon styles. He wanted to offer the new Beatles-inspired cut to male clients, too, but at the time, it was illegal for a man to get his hair cut in a beauty salon. “The barber’s had a strong union and they fought against allowing men in salons. They said they would close us down. So we hired a lawyer and it went before the Supreme Court. We won. And the next day, we created the term ‘Unisex’.”
Coppola would go on to open a chain of new concept, cutting salons. His success attracted attention. “One year, Clarol’s Head of Marketing came to meet me in Long Island and said, ‘Listen, you’re kind of strange and we like that. We’d like you to come to NY, and visit us’.”