It is no secret that we adore Gerard Scarpaci, co-founder of Harbrained.me and all around Hair Genius. If you aren’t on Hairbrained, stop what you are doing and sign up. All the cool nerds are doing it….
You have collaborated with some of the best hairdressers in the world during your time at different companies… Favorite experiences?
This going to be a long answer!
First off starting my career at Vidal Sassoon NYC. The group of apprentices I trained with were amazing. Most have gone on to be the leaders of the industry, Traci Sakosits at Sassoon, Julian Perlingiero at Paul Mitchell, Christine Zilinski at Davines, Nison Solomon and Nicholas Roach at Bumble and bumble, Lina Arrojo and Nuala Guildea at ARROJO, and that’s just off the top of my head!
This incredible group has gone on to shape our craft and make a difference for hairdressers. You can only imagine the energy we all had 20+ years ago as apprentices, it was a challenging and rewarding time.
Next, in the early 90’s I worked at the Sassoon Academies Worldwide, based in Santa Monica and working with other great young stylists from around the globe like DJ Muldoon, Lucie Doughty, and Wayne Woodruff. We challenged ourselves to become great communicators and I believe that at this time the concept of sHairing was developed for me. I discovered that the more you teach and share your knowledge the better you become!
After nearly ten years with Sassoon I decided to re locate back to my hometown of NYC and do the unthinkable, open my own salon. I opened SPIN in Brooklyn in August of 2001, within weeks NYC suffered the 9/11 attacks. Door to door it was 6 miles from Spin to the towers. This tragedy taught me as a new business owner how to endure and survive on very little and how to be creative with marketing and no budget. Probably two of the most valuable lessons an entrepreneur, can experience.
Shortly after opening I began to travel and teach for Paul Mitchell The School, regularly visiting the first Cost Mesa School. This was an eye opening experience, it was my first time working with non-Sassoon trained stylists; many of whom I learned to respect, but many others I felt cheapened the craft.
I did get a chance to work for JPMS, alongside of Robert Cromeans, Stephanie Kocielski, Scott Cole and Linda Yodice. Here I had the chance to learn about show production and showmanship in general, more valuable lessons.
I was asked to create a curriculum for PMTS (a separate company from JPMS) that would someday serve in over 100 schools; I believed this to be a life changing opportunity to sHair my vision and approach to cutting hair. After completing all the theory and designing the system of Core Cutting techniques, I realized that the final product would never match my standards. Too many non-craftsmen involved and a general lack of integrity on Winn Claybaugh’s part.
Disheartened I abandoned this project, even though they kept all my life’s work and offered no credit or compensation. This was another valuable lesson, as a hairdresser, no company or manufacturer is going make your dreams a reality. That’s not their responsibility it’s your own!
I decided to focus on my salon and train my own team. I quickly realized that to make a unique mark I needed to evolve. As a cutting specialist, I dedicated myself to learning other philosophies of cutting. I distinctly remember the first time I saw Nick Arrojo cut hair with a razor. I had just left Sassoon, and I was on the bill with Nick for an education seminar at Van Michael Salons in Atlanta.
Nick did his demo with the razor and I was blown away, being Sassoon trained he had amazing control, and understanding of shape yet the tool itself created a defused edge and line that made the shapes seamless, sexy, and languid.
I dedicated myself to mastering the razor and it was the best decision I have ever made in my career. I made razor work the focus of my salon and it was a great point of difference. Nick also became a close friend and mentor.
Around 2005 AVEDA opened an Advanced Academy in SOHO and they offered me a position as Artistic Director. The facility was amazing and I was intrigued by both the “Mission” and the people running the company. I learned so much about productivity and getting projects done. At AVEDA I worked with some seriously talented, and diverse people, Lupe Voss, Peter Gray, Jon Reyman, David Adams, and Antoinette Benders just to name a few.
AVEDA is also where I met Randy Taylor. Randy was an educator and salon owner who I became fast friends with. He also was a photographer and a bit of a technithusiast. One day after class, over pizza and beer, he dropped the life-changing concept of Hairbrained, a social network for hairdressers on me! Obviously this has had a huge impact on my career.
After nearly 5 years in this role at AVEDA, an offer from Nick Arrojo to head up his education department, created a new path for me. I have learned so much from Nick, about creating a brand, being true to your vision and navigating your way to success
For a brand spanking new hairdresser, What classes do you suggest in the first two years?
It takes at least 7 years in this craft to master the fundamentals, so stick with the classics; it will only make your creative work that much stronger.
Again for the newer stylist to wants to hop on stage, roadmap to success?
Start with a great apprenticeship, with a team that is on stage regularly. Work hard, focus and keep your eyes wide open. At ARROJO and SASSOON I have seen kids who are 19, get chances to be on stage and participate in shows and events
What 3 items would you die without?
2.Vess 9 Row Ceramic Brush
3.YS Park Clips
What has been the most amazing opportunity you have had in this industry so far?
I have been so fortunate, but I must say meeting my wife, while teaching a Paul Mitchell Advanced Academy class is the best thing the industry has given me.
Why is it so important for hairdressers to stick together and build tribes?
Hairdressing is a craft, we need to cherish our history, share knowledge, and represent our own best interest. There is no shortage of parasites buzzing around our industry who will take advantage of the uninformed, both financially and creatively. If we are communally connected perhaps we can help each other avoid these pitfalls and celebrate our own successes.
Craziest shit that ever happened at a show…
Demonstrating at a show for SASSOON in front of hundreds, my model had waist length hair and said she was open to a big change. I started cutting it to about shoulder length. I immediately noticed her begin to wretch.
She jumped up ran behind the curtain and began to violently vomit. I tried to console her (with my mic on, for all to hear, mind you) and she told me it wasn’t her haircut, she was just hungover! She cleaned up and I finished the cut to a rousing applause.
Words to live by…
Resist Much, Obey Little
You have kept the industry “all in the family”. Kelly is a stylist and social media genius. What is the best part of working together? Challenges?
I am 40 and have been a hairdresser for 22 years, I have only one friend who is not a hairdresser, I really don’t know anything else, or any other way to live. Our work is our life it is interchangeable.
What do people find most surprising about you?
Most just find it surprising that I am a hairdresser, I guess I don’t fit the stereotype.
One of my favorite things you tell people is the importance of having money in the bank. Explain.
Having a years worth of expenses (liquid)in a savings account , will allow you to make the best choices for your future and for the long term. This has allowed me to walk away from things that weren’t working and take chances on things that I believed in.
Start now by paying yourself first, and 10% of every paycheck should go directly to your savings.
Between Hairbrained and Arrojo plus a family life…. how do you make it all work?
One day at a time…
Education. Why is it so important?
Your either growing or your shrinking, education keeps you growing.
Describe your time at Sassoon using only 3 words.
We text Kelly all the time to find out if you are going to be at various California events…East Coast or West Coast? #WestCoastForTheWin
Working on the bi-coastal thing, stay tuned
What trends do you foresee in our industry’s future? Will the independent stylist movement continue to make headway?
I believe the concept of independence is the cornerstone of a craft, what I can create with my hands no one can own, but me.
I have never felt anything but independent for my whole career. Others perhaps have had other experiences, but no company that I have worked for, ever dictated how I did things. It was usually me doing the dictating.
When it comes to big money for big projects you will always find big companies and they are entitled to make profits from their investments.
I knew I was a Hair Nerd when….
At 18 during one of my first hands on workshops as an apprentice at SASSOON, I decided to wear my glasses so I could see the guideline. I was prescribed to wear glasses at 8! And I never wore them once till then!