THE STORY OF VIDAL SASSOON
by Jeremy Danté
of the many influential figures existing in today’s thriving beauty industry, none can touch vidal sassoon. keeping these beautician hoes on their toes since the 50’s, sassoon changed the game with incredible strives for perfection & complete innovation. with a few series features currently in the works, i had hoped to feature vidal amidst a collective of innovators who have impacted fashion. the impact vidal has had on fashion, ultimately style, is soo far spanning that it’s influence is in some forms unrecognizable. i gasped at the headline, when i heard the news of the legends passing earlier this week. sassoon had made his diagnosis with lukemia public june of 2011. at the time this was made public, the legendary hairdresser was already being treated for his condition in both beverly hills, california & the united kingdom. though sassoon may have lost his battle with lukemia, he leaves 84 years of life & a remarkable career that has shaped the way we perceive beauty. it’s his legacy which has laid the ground work for the ways in which we strive for innovation.
in 1928, vidal was born in west england’s hammersmith borough. with the odds stacked against them in the ghettos of london, vidal’s single-mother placed him & his younger brother in an orphanage. being kept in the orphanage for 11 years, vidal was allowed visitation with his mother, which allowed him to maintain a close relationship with her. at the age of 14, vidal began an apprenticeship after his mother had a premonition that he would be a hairdresser. vidal & his mother were still struggling financially around the time when he began this apprenticeship. not being able to afford the proposed apprenticeship, raymond bessone took a chance on vidal allowing him to work under him for two years free of charge. vidal himself has credited bessone for teaching him what he knew of hairdressing & how to cut hair. soon after completing his apprenticeship, vidal ventured off to london’s historic bond street & began his journey as a hairdresser in 1954. “as in haute couture, the cut is the most important element in deciding line. haircutting simply means design & this feeling of design must come from within”, spoke vidal on the art of hairdressing. after mastering hairdressing technique of the 50’s, vidal decided he wanted to change how things were being done. this decision changed the industry of beauty, completely.
in the 50’s, everything was flawless. aesthetically speaking, hair in that time was immaculate. it was all up-dos that didn’t move for a week. vidal seen a need for change, a thirst for modernization. something that was self-manageable, easy & chic. back in the day, vidal started his salon with a modest staff of 8. these 8 set & teased their way into a new era, which was led by vidal. in 1954, searching for direction, sassoon began to observe the changing world around him. heavily impacted by architecture, vidal began to recreate these linear shapes into hair. developed greatly over a 9 year period from 1954-1963, vidal changed the game one hairstyle at a time, refining his vision with each snip of his scissors. described as his peak in creative development, vidal’s creation of the five-point cut was among the most visibly innovative in his career. that style still resonates today, seen on the runways of paris, milan & tokyo. lending a great deal to iconic images of the 1960’s, vidal takes credit for creating the legendary haircuts of the beatles, for cutting mia farrows’ hair in the psychological thriller, rosemary’s baby. his work was also seen on the covers of past & present publications queen & vogue. working with film stars like, nancy kwan & grace coodington in her modeling days has afforded vidal an undeniable influence. working alongside legendary designer, mary quant, vidal was a front runner in the world of new fashion during his life. quant is credited for creating the mini-skirt, a design staple that needs no introduction whatsoever. vidal collaborated with quant to create an accent to the iconic mini-skirt & really gave way to the mod era in fashion out of london. quant has often spoke that it was vidal that added to her design and “gave it a top.”
though his client list is impressive, vidal is also to credit for more far spanning developments in the beauty industry that are much more greatly visible, even outside of the celebrity world. before sassoon, beauty shops did not expose their shops with large pained windows or glittering staircases; it was vidal sassoon that created that aesthetic in the business. on bond street, vidal changed his approach with his salon & created large floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed pedestrians to view the innovative work taking place in his salon. this revolutionized the industry & gave it a new face. all black decor became brows laquer & set the stage for vidal’s second greatest business venture within hair, which was products. vidal set the beauty market on fire when he began creating shampoos & conditioners for his clients and far beyond. he set the blueprint & career path for beauticians today, whom look to expanding their brand by creating lines of products. it was vidal who explored this marketing approach first, creating a completely new format for hairdressers around the world.
today, the impact vidal has made with his beauty enterprise is still very relevant. that once 8 person staff has grown significantly to an estimated 20,000 employees. vidal sassoon as a business entity garners approximately $400 million in sales worldwide, every year. additionally, vidal sassoon products are distributed in over 50 countries around the world, not to mention the 30 salons stationed around the globe & 8 vidal sassoon beauty schools. as not just a business man, but a hairstylist & beyond that, as an artist- vidal sassoon will forever remain untouched as well as remembered for what he did for beauty. beyond the industry, vidal has liberated the ways in which we perceive hair forever. he completely broke the boundaries of beauty.