As hair color director for The Salon and Spa at Saks Fifth Avenue, Brad Johns defines hair color style for women around the world. His illustrious career in the beauty industry began at Cinandre, and he has since worked as color director for Jean Louis David in Henri Bendel, Clive Summers, Bruno Dessange, Oribe at Elizabeth Arden, and as Artistic Director for both Avon Salon & Spa and The Brad Johns Studio at Elizabeth Arden. Constantly setting trends, Brad has been dubbed the Golden Boy, the Color Czar, and the founding father of the “chunking” technique. However, Brad’s look is constantly evolving and his individual approach to hair color has made him a favorite among the film, modeling, and music industries. His work can be seen gracing the pages of every major fashion and beauty magazine, from Vogue to Allure—by whom he was voted the best colorist in New York.
Tell us about your background and what influenced you to become a colorist.
I’ve been into the art of transforming hair color since 1973. I grew up transforming troll dolls’ hair with food coloring in a very poor neighborhood where beauticians would come to color the ladies’ hair, and they always looked happier after. Seeing that transformation stuck with me.
I came to New York to study acting at NYU and ended up coloring all the students’ hair in my dorm. While at NYU, my onscreen dreams were halted after being told my blue hair just wouldn’t do. What could have been a major life blow instead became a new beginning. My best friend Vivian encouraged me to take my talent for hair and attend beauty school. The first day I walked in for my interview and smelled the perm solution, I knew I had arrived.
I thought if I could transform sad, poor women and make them look and feel better, that would be my career, my art. My art evolved from coloring troll dolls to dorm mates to family to women from all over the planet.
What is your personal beauty philosophy when it comes to hair color?
Hair color should complement the eyes first, the skin second, and the season third. The shade range in which someone should stay is determined by their childhood hair color. If I think a brunette’s eyes and skin color might look better as a redhead or blonde, I investigate her family’s hair color history. If I find those colors in their family, I go with my instinct and a fiery redhead, a honey-wheat blonde, or a chestnut brunette is born.
What hairstyle and color trends are you a fan of right now? Do you like the ombre look, for example?
I’m not a fan of fad hair color. I invented “chunking” in the 90s and use it as an everyday highlighting technique, not as a “trend.” I feel that once a trend like ombre becomes a fad, people get tired of it, lose interest, and then nobody wants it. Trends are just that, they come and go. My philosophy is more about identifying your best personal hair color based on your individual features and lifestyle, not trying to match the look of a celebrity.
Do you have any tips for women to maintain their color and keep it looking fresh longer?
Hair color is an accessory that you never take off. Just like any other expensive accessory, you have to take proper care of it. I recommend specific shampoo, conditioner, and styling aides for my clients so they don’t ruin the art of their great color. Women don’t need homework; I advise my clients on what specific products to buy so they aren’t bothered with reading labels and deciphering ingredients on the back of a bottle.
What do you love most about the work you do?
As long I am helping people bring out their individual beauty by adorning their hair with colors and shapes, I’m doing what I love most. I love the idea that when I start working, I feel like a little kid with a paint brush. My art is transforming people into feeling and looking better.
What comes next for you?
I have over three decades of hair color experience and have been a Color Director at many major salons, including Oribe, Avon, and Red Door, as well as running my own salon. I’ve also served as a spokesperson for Clairol for many years. What’s next is a book I’m working on about how hair color has transformed my life.
For Alan Gold, what began as a hobby at a young age quickly became both a livelihood and passion—for more than two decades, he has been a sought after stylist to socialites and runway models alike. Creative Director of Haig & Co Salon in Philadelphia, he is an expert colorist and cutter. Mr. Gold considers his work an art form: a medium, like sculpting and painting, through which to express his passion. He prides himself on bringing a fresh perspective to his work, keeping every client’s specific needs in mind while incorporating popular trends. As one of the few stylists who specialize in both cut and color, Mr. Gold feels that both are essential to the complete look and should work in harmony together.
Can you tell us more about your background, how and why did you choose being an hair stylist?
My career actually started out with plans to specialize in international law, but I took a detour during law school that helped me to define a new career based on a passion for art, beauty and design. What was a hobby, became my primary means of survival and ultimately a successful pecuniary return. I started working in a local hair salon and soon I discovered that all the summer art school classes I took when I was a teenager paid off. Cutting and coloring hair is very similar to painting a portrait of someone, and it’s the perfect way to merge art with beauty.
Why is hair styling a passion for you?
I have powerful hands that create and mold a client’s look which often define her or him. It’s an ability to make “fantasy” become reality. But a gift isn’t very good when you don’t share. Being able to do “transformations” is also my pleasure not just passion.
Ironically, hair styling is a lot like therapy and relationship building. You get results, after time. Everybody comes in with a problem or looking for a solution to look and feel better about themselves. As a good stylist, you have to listen to the needs of the client. If you fulfill that need, the client comes back and you become credible. And then you have repeat business. In other words, I have to translate the current look in beauty, adapt it to each client’s lifestyle, and coax it along to get the total look.
Hair styling is a passion because it gives immediate results. Being successful is being able to communicate with each client what can be attained in that first, or repeat, visit. People wish for many things, but as a good stylist, you have to know how to explain what is best for the individual. Is it really going to fulfill their needs?
Why is it important for you to be both a colorist and hair stylist and what products do you endorse?
You have to be able to look at each client and create a vision. In order to stick to that vision, it helps to know the ins and outs of each client. What they do, what they eat, what they wear, what they like to do, and so on. This helps you create the “total” look. You’re only as good as your last haircut and color! At the salon, we offer products that are as varied as their hair—products that work, are effective and don’t over process the hair.
I’m not about product pushing. Growing up as a kid, every laundry detergent was always “new and improved.” They just changed it to “newer, whiter, bigger, sudsier.” At the end, it wasn’t any different. So now I look to lead in finding products that establish credibility. I look to lead in finding products that establish credibility, and are made without an excess of chemicals that burn and brutalize the hair.
How do you deal with a first time client who comes in and asks for a “celebrity” hairstyle?
My thing is, “Can you translate that particular look to the individual in your chair? Is it color? Is it cut? Is it care that’s going to give them the most to look and feel their best?” If somebody comes in with a picture of a celebrity and says, “I want this,” I–not often–have said to clients, “I’m not the one for you. This is not what I do. I can’t stand behind it. I don’t believe it.”
You have to be nice to people. And I think just giving somebody always what they want isn’t the answer. You have to educate them. It’s about integrity for your client and for you.
Do you consider yourself as an artist or as a businessman?
I had to evolve to be both—an artist and a businessman. For many years, I owned and managed my own salon, and was very successful, but there were times when the passion got buried under all the day-to-day operations so I decided to break away and become a Creative Director, able to focus again on what my passion was when I started out in this business.
Artistic Director for Matrix, Patrick McIvor is one of the top hair colorists in the industry. Over the last 27 years, he has held such positions as Color Director, International Haircolor Educator, Salon Owner, and National Technical Training Manager for companies like Clairol, Wella, and Redken 5th Avenue NYC. McIvor focuses on revolutionary haircolor techniques that inspire hairdressers to achieve great color, but also strives to provide innovative salon-based ideas and techniques to help salon professionals transform their passion for beauty into professional success.
Tell us a little bit about your background as a colorist—how did you choose this as a profession?
I kind of fell into this industry by accident. As an economics minor, I was always aware of supply and demand. The college I went to had 77 guys and 900 women because it had just gone coed the year before in 1985. Because it was a small college and in a very small town—Dallas, PA—there were very few opportunities to find a way to make some extra money to go see my girlfriend in Pittsburg, where she was going to school. So I thought, what do 900 women need? Haircuts! I went into town, bought a pair of scissors, and hung up a sign that said haircuts $5. By mid-semester break, I was cutting so many people I could see my girlfriend about every 2 weeks, and when my mom asked me what I wanted to do when I got out of college I said, “I want to do hair.”
What did you do after graduating beauty school?
I had the most amazing beauty school teacher and she really challenged me to compete, excited me about education, and exposed me to some amazing artists while I was still in school, so when I got out, I had already won one competition and placed very high in another. I was 19 when I graduated beauty school and by 22 I was teaching in England, by age 23, I was in Germany, at 24 I created the liquid haircolor thickener for LOGICS, at 26 I was Wella’s National Technical Training Manager USA/Canada, at 28 I opened my first salon, at 29 I was named “One of the Best Colorists” by ALLURE, at 31 I was the founding Color Director for Nick Arrojo and Rodney Cutler at ARROJO CUTLER on 57th St. After that, things really took off, literally, traveling to Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, including teaching on a few Caribbean Islands too. Since 1998 I have been working with L’Oréal USA, first as a global artist for Redken and the last 3 1/2 years as Artist Director with Matrix.
What is your favorite thing about the work you do?
My favorite thing is that every day is different and every day I meet cool new people. The best thing about coloring hair is that I know every time I do someone’s haircolor, there is something I can do better, no matter how many times or how long I have been coloring their hair, and I love that. Not only do I get to make people look good and feel great, today I also get to share those ideas with other salon professionals so they can do the same, too. That is the best way I can honor the people who shared their ideas, techniques, and knowledge with me.
What coloring trends are you seeing right now?
Right now the trends are more solid beautiful bases with random pops of color. I love this because it is a very unnatural progression of the Ombré look, but instead of an Ombré with its natural edge, the new POC (as in pops of color) adds unnatural tones like blue, pink, bright orange, purples, and more at random, creating fun accents that can be seen on anyone from models to pop stars to junior high students. It’s fun and far cooler than a feather in the hair.
How do you work with clients who want to transition from dark brown hair to blonde?
The cool thing today is that blonde no longer needs to be all over yellow. Today, Beyoncé is considered a blonde, too. We used to consider only very little hair blonde and forgot that it ranges from dark blonde to light blonde. Right now with J Lo, Beyoncé, Shakira, and more, you don’t have to look like my Sicilian mom did in the 1970s with frosted highlights in dark brown hair. Instead you can be sexy and celebrate the fact that there is a whole world of blondes out there.
What comes next for you?
So many cool things are happening right now; I am traveling a ton, sharing ideas on how to create beautiful, sexy, believable haircolor with an edge, and helping salons to take back the social network. It’s funny how salons/barber shops were the original social networks of any community. If you wanted to know who was having an affair, you asked your stylist. If you wanted to know who your child should have as a teacher next year, you asked your stylist. What restaurant, movie, club to go to… you asked your stylist. But unfortunately, when MySpace and Facebook came along, because it needed a computer, required typing, and had messages left for you, hairdressers thought typing + computer + messages = work, exactly why most us became hairdressers. So we backed away from what we always wanted: a tool/platform to stay connected and let our community be connected to us. Now, with my maxed out Facebook fan book friend profile and a YouTube Channel that gets more than 16,000 hits every 30 days, I am sharing with other salon professionals how they can take back their communities’ social network with Matrix.