When Beauty Chooses You
Duke of Art
Nicholas French was born into the aristocracy of hairdressing as the son of the London comb-out king Freddie French, but he left his father's salons to take on an assistant's position-to Vidal Sassoon.
Over nearly four decades, he's made a career out of combining technical discipline and pure creativity. He has created looks for Vogue, Elle and Vanity Fair, among others; done runway hair for Emanuel Ungaro, Luca Luca and Betsey Johnson, just to name a few; worked with legendary photographers Cecil Beaton, David Bailey and Gilles Bensimon; and been the stylist on productions by Ridley Scott and Adrien Lyne. Now, as Global Artistic Designer for Matrix, for which he will be teaching the class, "Inspire Me" at Destination, June 1-3 in Las Vegas, he recalls what sparked his art and what stimulates his craft.
"The key is to always have a handle on the buzz of the moment and to live in the moment. No matter how innovative you are, you can always learn from other creative individuals. I especially love talking to people involved in the arts: painters, photographers, musicians, actors and writers.
"European, fashion-forward magazines that include big, glossy photo spreads of models, actresses, architecture and art forms can often trigger a thought for a new hair color, a cutting concept or a design effect. The more avant-garde the magazine, the better!
"Reinvented traditions are also inspiring. Whether it's interpreted on the red carpet, on the runways or in the streets, it's always fun to see something classic redesigned with a modern edge. I love the new celebrity model, Agyness Deyn. She echoes the iconic â60s looks of Mia Farrow and Jean Shrimpton.
"Now, Matrix C.R.A.F.T. education is a great motivator in my life, both personally and professionally. The C.R.A.F.T. system is unique because the focus is always on the learners and their needs."
Though French now lives in the Hamptons, he says he enjoys coming in to Manhattan to teach and study at the Matrix Global Academy.
"There's always something going on there; you can feel the dynamic energy and excitement in the air, especially from people who are attending classes for the first time. The location is incredible-right in the heart of New York City's avant-garde downtown scene. You can sit outside on a break and see Sarah Jessica Parker or Heidi Klum walking by."
What keeps him choosing beauty, French says, is asking himself and other hairdressers a simple question: "When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
"This always inspires thinking at higher levels," he says. "And it's a great way to open a class."
From Law to Nails
"My mom was a hairdresser. I swear she started coloring my hair at 13 months old," says Joey Brown, international spokesperson for OPI. "I was exposed to this industry all my life."
Brown did not choose beauty right out of high school. She began her working life as a legal secretary, "but I knew there was something missing," she admits. "In my early thirties, once my children were in school, I decided to go to beauty school."
After working in a salon for a short time doing both hair and nails, Brown opened her own full-service salon. "I wanted to be my own boss," she says.
"I began attending trade shows, which inspired me to begin working on stage and behind the scenes. I dabbled around and worked shows for various companies. At a show in Reno, Nevada, I saw George Schaeffer teach a class and went up to him and introduced myself. In 1986 I applied for an educator position at OPI.
"Nails were just becoming a big thing, and with OPI, I saw this brand-new company evolving and I wanted to be a part of it."
About a year after taking the education position, Brown was asked to interview for regional manager. Soon after, she found herself responsible for the 13 western states.
"When the regional manager for Canada went on maternity leave, George asked me to fill in for a bit. A bit turned into 16 years."
Five years ago, Schaeffer and VP Suzi Weiss-Fischman promoted Brown to director of education and international spokesperson. "I represent OPI internationally. I get to travel the world launching new education, new distributors and communicating everything OPI," says Brown.
"I love this industry and I am so proud of how it has evolved. The professional beauty industry gives us a real career path," she adds. "Through my experiences I have learned that there is a bigger world out there in our business. You can do anything you want."
-Alicia Marantz Liotta
The Unexpected Colorist
"From a very young age, I enjoyed playing with hair," says Gina Khan, Logics spokes-
person and owner of Gina Khan Salon/Yosh for Hair in San Francisco. "I started with my dolls and then graduated to my mother's and sister's hair. Fortunately, my parents encouraged me to learn a trade so that I would be financially independent-very forward-thinking parents in India 40 years ago!"
After attending basic school in the U.S., Khan made a career as an all-around hair-
dresser, until she was forced into color by circumstance in 1987. "We were down to one colorist in our salon, so when she decided to go on vacation, I had to take matters into my own hands. I pursued every color class I could find and practiced, practiced, practiced.
"I made the switch from generalist to color specialist in '91."
The experience of achieving success through her own education has made Khan a passionate advocate of advanced training. "Salon owners must invest and commit to an excellent training program for their salon," she says. "Education breeds success. âWhen you are green, you grow; when you ripen, you rot.'"
While she reports that she has had many mentors in her career, she cites three special color "teachers": "Leland Hirsch for his passion and vision for the future of color; Tom Dispenza, who is a great color chemistry teacher (I learned to achieve the best reds from him 20 years ago); and Beth Minardi, whose passion for teaching is very inspiring."
There have been many moments during her career that confirmed her decision to join the profession so many years ago, Khan says.
"The most moving experience I had took place at the Matrix Global Academy during a model selection. From the corner of my eye, I noticed an older lady who appeared somewhat disheveled, standing in the doorway watching me. I walked up to her and asked if she wanted to be a model and she replied, âSure, if you'll have me.' I asked her, âAre you willing to change?' She agreed.
"She arrived early the following day, and as I chatted with her, I discovered she lived in a homeless shelter, had lost everything after two bouts with cancer and was quite articulate and interesting. We cut her hair short, colored it with Logics Imprints for very low maintenance. What a transformation!
"One week later I received an e-mail from the Academy saying that this lady had returned to thank me in person for choosing her and how she felt beautiful again and how much she loved her hair. She went on to say how differently people were treating her now because she looked so good. She said she felt happy again!
"Can it feel any better to be a hairdresser?"