Robert Lobetta’s journey is incredibly inspiring—from young London apprentice to superstar creative director for Sebastian and now consultant and book author. Over the years, Lobetta has worn many hats: session hairstylist, salon owner, photographer and contemporary artist. Salon Magazine caught up with him from L.A.
See some of his best work in a slideshow at the end of the story!
Salon Magazine: What are you up to these days?
Robert Lobetta: It’s funny because everyone keeps asking me that! Well, I’m a certain age now and I wanted to take a little time off to work on my contemporary art, and I am actually writing a book covering my 40-year career in the hair industry. When I was a young hairstylist I was fortunate to have had great mentors, so I have a few young people who I am helping to get where they want to go and working on a mentoring program. It feels good to be able to give back.
SM: How different is it being a “free agent” versus partnering with a powerhouse brand as its creative director?
RL: When I was at P&G [Sebastian’s parent company], I found corporate culture very challenging. When I left, the first two years were great—I loved the feeling of being free to create my own schedule. By the time the third year came along, I realized that I was missing the collaboration and the discipline that come with working with a team. My years at P&G gave me structure, which helped me with both my professional and personal life. Simply put, the trade-off in gaining my freedom was challenged by retaining some structure.
SM: You talk a lot about having a vision. What exactly is a vision? How do you develop one?
RL: I think it’s staying the distance. I remember when I was young my first vision was that I wanted to be the best hairdresser in the world. At the time my skills didn’t match my vision, so I forced myself to stay in the salon every night and practise. You have to be really serious about what you want; have a plan with your goals clearly defined in front of you. It keeps you focused, and you have to stay focused. In our industry, we are easily distracted and we go off at a tangent. It doesn’t make us fail but it distracts us from our goals.
SM: You will be part of a panel of experts in the next Joico Destination Education seminar in January 2014. What do you plan on covering?
RL: I want to empower people to find their passion. When you have a passion for something, everything is easy. John Sebastian [the founder of the Sebastian brand] would emphasize this all the time.
So during the Joico seminar, I will be talking about the motivation to keep learning and to be remarkable; to believe in yourself and to collaborate; to take criticism, to find inspiration in everything you do and trust your intuition.
SM: Is working outside the salon essential to grow as an artist?
RL: It really helps shape your vision. I loved working as a session hairstylist for fashion magazines, TV commercials, films and music videos, where I met an incredible array of people that opened up different avenues where I learned many new skills. I learned to see though the photographer’s eye and the director’s overview of a movie project. And that’s what got me interested in photography and film. I worked with these incredible icons in the industry like David Bailey, Helmut Newton, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott. When I joined Sebastian in 1985, I was able to bring all that experience in fashion, music and art to help elevate Sebastian and our industry. Getting as much information as you can about other industries definitely makes you grow and develop your own craft as a hairstylist. It opens your mind in ways you never thought possible.
SM: You have been called by many people an “enigmatic character.” Why do you think? Do you perceive yourself as being enigmatic?
RL: I think it’s a wonderful thing to be called enigmatic [laughs]. I think it’s because I am prepared to take many risks, and I challenge the status quo. I do try and retain an air of mystery. And I guess some people find me challenging because at times I am unfathomable; I can change my mind because my intuition tells me to. I always trust my intuition and sometimes it’s hard to explain why I feel the need to change the course of things. I think a little bit of insanity helps sometimes!
SM: Unlike you, the majority of people view mistakes as failure. Why do you believe mistakes are stepping stones?
RL: Mistakes are like discoveries, and discovery consists of seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. Some of my mistakes took me into a new direction, areas that I would never have explored. It’s OK to make a mistake if you learn to look for the positive in it, whether it might be a lesson or direction.