Vasken's inspiration: from art to hair
Hairdresser and master colorist Vasken's second interview. Read the first interview here.
What you bring to the profession of color is your love for ‘patination’, chemical reactions, …and your unique background in Art. How did you connect all the dots?
It was very simple. If you work with antiquities, you develop a sense of understanding how bronzes develop their patination, the aging process due to chemical reaction to soil, oxygen and other elements. How the sun and the light and darkness changes its color. So does anything that is organic and living. That was really the first thing that propelled me to think of hair color in those dimensions rather than the two dimensions that most hairdressers thought. Hairdressers think hair color as a very basic extension to their craft. I don’t. I live and I breathe color, and I anticipate the changing of tones.
When you see a woman coming into your salon, what’s going through your mind? How do you decide what to do?
The most important thing is putting the idea of color in this woman’s head, before you actually put it on her hair. I devised a way of communicating my knowledge to my clientele. My clients are very discerning. I tell them about the idea of the color, then I ingrain the very idea into their heads, and finally I execute. Therefore the main effect is the actual work that I do, and teach them what I saw in their hair and how they should see their hair as their number one accessory rather than just hair color. So naturally I make them think hair is their number one accessory. And I teach them how they should take care of it, how they should style it, how they should wear it, what they should do to it, how to maintain it… In essence, I become their aesthetic judge. I guide them. For example, I believe my main specialty is choosing the right color for them. It’s the key; it’s never about applying a certain technique or doing something fashionable. It’s choosing what color suits that individual.
How do you see the transformation? Do you have a vision of this person? What’s the process?
Absolutely, it’s a very unique approach. You have not only to devise a communication method, but also you have to have a plan in 2 or 3 steps, and never sit back on your laurels. Never say ok, I do one formula and I will stay with that formula. That’s not how evolution works. If you come to me the first time, I’ll tell you I am doing this right now but only this time, because of these reasons. I am taking your color, and I am transforming it in this shape. But the next time you come, you’ll come back to me in a different way, and I will do something to it, to make it go to the next level. After that it is not just maintenance but evolution. Every time, the color is like brand new. You are not doing the same old hair color over and over again. That’s why I take thousands of photos of my clients, to prove the very same point, and share it with them.
Most people go to a hairdresser because they know what they want to get and they know they’ll get it. What is successful about your approach is that you go past that limitation, and evolve the person’s pre-conception of what she wants and ultimately deliver what you know is best for her. You know how to do that.
Veronique, I tell you what happens. Some women think, “If I pay a lot of money, I should get what I want”. But the trick is not that. The trick is to let me do what I can do best for you. Then you get the very best of me. Allow me to do my creation for you. If you don’t like it, then I’ll change it, but allow me to do what I can do best for you. This is how you get the very best side of an artist.
Ok, you see someone with something obviously totally wrong, and you have a different vision, how do you bring this person to that stage?
Communication. You have to tell her. The good thing about me is that I am very definitive. I am not wishy-washy. They are coming to me for me to tell them what I am going to do to them based on why they are coming to me. That puts you in a very different position. Now, you are judging, not guiding. You can never belittle them . The information I am getting from the client sitting on my chair comes through some pertinent questions, some defining questions. How often do they wash their hair? Pictures are always great to show me what their expectations of their hair are. Maybe I can understand their nuance; I can understand their mind. It’s very important they know I can understand their head, their expectations, and then it’s my job to make them understand me and why I do color the way I am doing. It is totally unique; I have not seen anybody doing color like that.
You often say: “Hair is your canvas. Color is my medium”. Can you explain?
That conveys my artistry. I really look at each head differently. Each head to me is a brand new canvas and I paint it. I think hair cutting is sculpting and hair coloring is painting, that’s how I look at it. I really look at each hair differently. I like dimensions; I put a lot of dimensions into hair. My key has always been capturing the right dimension. Hair color is about light, how light reflects on the hair and why some surfaces have to be a little deeper than others to reflect different light, even on blond hair.