Expert Advice

2 How-Tos: Customized Cuts

Elizabeth Jakaitis | January 25, 2016 | 3:06 PM
1 of 24

Carte Blanche

When is it okay to do a cliché and predictable haircut? The answer is never. Even if a client requests “the usual” and expects it, it is up to the professional to customize and personalize the look to keep the client satisfied and coming back.

When a fun opportunity comes our way, we jump on it. Industry PR executive Elizabeth Yong contacted MODERN to let us know both she and her mother, Susanne, had been growing their hair out for years and were ready for a makeover. Would we be interested? YES YES YES.

Fortunately for us, this request came right before our most recent Artist Session (MODERN’s photoshoot workshop) program. Rusty Phillips, owner of Belle Epoque, Kansas City, Missouri, was attending, and we thought he would be the perfect artist to transform the duo.

“The consultation was key here,” Phillips says. “Elizabeth explained that whenever they got a makeover in the past, they always got the go-to “Asian bob” with bangs. I didn’t want to give them something that they always got.”

Mother Susanne requested keeping some length, but daughter Elizabeth gave Phillips carte blanche, adding the magical, “Do whatever you want.” Although tempted to give each the same cut to make it an interesting photo and story, he instead treated each “client” separately and gave each an age-appropriate, personalized, unique shape.


“She said do whatever you want, and I did!” Phillips says. “When I examined her texture and bone structure, I realized a classic, soft, graduated undercut was best for her dense, coarse hair.”

Phillips cut the hair to look slightly asymmetrical and finished to leave lots of texture and movement. After eliminating some of the weight below the parietal ridge, he then back cut the hair in the crown for movement and texture. A top slide-cutting technique was used to eliminate weight and keep maximum length in the front perimeter. The front perimeter was cut with a free-hand technique to eliminate hard lines.


“Susanne is in her early ’70s,” Phillips says. “She’s always had a classic bob in the past and was looking for a fresh shape somewhere at the shoulders. She has beautiful hair and a lovely disposition. She was soft and quiet when I first got started, and I wanted to create something that reflected her personality.” Phillips was surprised by how much texture was in her hair. After adding some gently layered graduation, a slight face frame and wispy fringe, he finished by adding controlled slicing along the surface to loosen her hair.

Hair: Rusty Phillips, assisted by Adrienne Bernal Ermey
Photography: Roberto Ligresti
Makeup: David Maderich for Mehron Cosmetics
Fashion styling: Rod Novoa, assisted by Dennis Pinto
Nails: Gino Trunzo for Essie

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