Discover hair colour legend Leland Hirsch’s perspective on the state of the modern salon, hair colouring and the inspiration behind Celeb Luxury.
With the right tools, a colourist can achieve just about anything, just like the legendary godfather of hair colour Leland Hirsch, who revolutionized the beauty industry in the ’80s and is back with his latest innovation.
“As much as Leland loves the beauty industry, he also has a love and passion for art,” says Andrew Bartfield, a hairstylist himself and Leland’s business partner. It was his love of art that sent him on an artistic sabbatical, one that offered a new lens on the beauty industry and made him not want to return unless he believed he could do something better and, as Bartfield explains, “fill a void in the industry.”
Leland has an established history that has made him an industry legend. In particular, Leland has been watching the evolution of hair colour, which led him down the path of product development. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, when hair colour wasn’t even on the beauty industry’s radar, he was consulting with Redken.
Before he began his first product innovation, Leland and his then-business partner Michael Mazzei opened The Color Salon at NuBest & Co. With more than 30 colourists, NuBest & Co. was one of the largest salons worldwide. Then in 1989, Leland and Mazzei launched Artec Systems, a company that developed innovative products, such as the first colour-depositing shampoo with the Artec Colorist Collection.
In the same way that Artec revolutionized the way hairstylists thought about colour, with Celeb Luxury, Leland’s current product innovation, the chemist-turned-artist is at it again. And because Leland always has something on the go, we snagged Bartfield, who shared his insights on his friend and business partner.
Technology is important to Leland, who is from a family of chemists and was learning in the lab in his early teens.
On Where to Find Artistic Inspiration
For Leland, Damien Hirst is a huge inspiration through his spin paintings. “Art relates to colour in so many ways, layering and putting tones next to one another and making things very special for that individual. Art has been a big inspiration for both of us,” says Bartfield. “When we lived in New York City we went to Soho and looked at the younger generation. Even on Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach and downtown Miami, you see different kids. It’s fun to see this evolution that youth drives, even in our own backyard it’s something that exists all around us today.”
When you look at architecture, it’s dramatically changing the landscape and cityscapes and it’s easy to see the influence that happens on the fashion and beauty industry. According to Bartfield, from the reflection of light to the shapes that influence colour and hair, it all plays a critical influence on hairstylists’ creativity. “Leland is watching young emerging artists and the old masters and impressionists,” says Bartfield. “He is very driven by how people look at traditions and make them their own. It has to be translatable to a consumer. You have to think about your creativity and how it translates to the client.”
On the State of the Salon Industry
According to Bartfield, the salon business is facing a triple threat: No one is cutting their hair, flat irons and other heat tools are affecting the integrity of the hair and, now more often than ever, clients are colouring their hair. The shades are not only natural hues—ranging from platinum to wild blueberry to all shades under the rainbow, so a colourist’s work is never done. All of these factors led Leland to develop the Celeb Luxury product line, a line that gives clients and colourists a new way of looking at hair colour. The line includes products that offer colourists more freedom in their artistic process. So whether a client wants more face-framing highlights, or a colourist wants to use a different technique, they can do this with this line.
“Working with the next generation of colourists and hairstylists, you see things a lot differently,” says Bartfield. “You see the use of different techniques that you wouldn’t think of. For Leland, it has always been the next generation of youth that has pushed him to look at colour differently, in a less traditional way.”
Fashion is a springboard of inspiration for Leland, who says he is drawn to fashion designer Christian Louboutin’s mixed media shoes designed with combinations of crystals and fabric.
On How Social Media Is Impacting Creative Colour Trends
With social media, you have two things. First, you have people who are always very creative and want to be very involved. Then you have people who aren’t creative but are technical. You are able to spark creativity through social media, whether that’s going to be mermaid, unicorn or melting, you are forced to be more creative.
“From an excitement level, watching what is going on in social media is fantastic,” says Bartfield. “For the first time you don’t have to watch what’s happening in New York City or Los Angeles, you can actually bring it right to your community. For years, when fun colours came out, they would only be used among certain types of individuals. Now we see the colours going across the world all at once. I think social media has really allowed for an explosion in creativity. Everywhere you look, you are learning something new.”