Michael Gordon, founder and CEO of Bumble & bumble has had a spectacular career in the hair industry.
(Image of Michael Gordon - courtesy of Bumble & bumble - all rights reserved - 2005)
The son of a hairdresser, Michael opened Bumble and bumble in 1977 in a tiny space on 57th Street in New York hoping to compete with Manhattan's tony names in hairdressing. After only one year, the salon was listed in Vogue as one of the top 10 in New York City and has remained a leader on that list ever since.
Besides being a brilliant hairdresser, wildly successful salon owner, renowned photographer and product development genius, he embarked on a true mission of love writing the very successful book, Hair Heroes.
The book includes in-depth profiles of twelve of the world's most renowned stylists including Kenneth Battelle who invented Jackie O's famous bouffant and Sydney Guilaroff who was the head hairdresser on over 1,500 films during the golden age of Hollywood. History maker Vidal Sassoon is included and explains how he changed the world of hair by inventing blow-drying back in the day.
Recently I had the thrilling opportunity to ask Michael questions about his work on Hair Heroes. What follows are my questions notated as KMS and his answers as MG.
Ten Year Odessy Of Hair Heroes
KMS: What life event triggered your desire to begin a ten year odyssey to write and complete Hair Heroes?
MG: I decided to write Hair Heroes for the same reason I started creating our own products, which is because no one was doing it right. I felt that our industry needed more aspirational things. Hairdressing images are not usually portrayed as the best or the most interesting. There is a lack of young people coming into it and I wanted to show a deeper side to the craft. As a teen, I became fascinated with Ara Gallant (famous VOGUE hairdresser in the 60s). When he died, I realized that possibly the world’s first editorial superstylist would be gone without anybody knowing or understanding the impact his work, and others, had on the craft. KMS: How did you decide which “heroes” to interview?
MG: I had the top five in my head: Sassoon, Kenneth, Alexandre, Gene Shacove, and Sydney. We went to LA and interviewed a bunch of people, then picked the most interesting and impactful ones. I did not want to get into the contemporaries – like Orlando, Guido, etc. People are missing the permanence and the inspirational figures of before. Fame and celebrity are very different today than in the past. I wanted to give people a frame of reference with those that were chosen.
KMS: Were the “heroes” in the book your own personal heroes?
MG: In many ways. Every other profession has libraries, professions, a deep wealth of historical information. There are many books on hair, but not about the heroic things that were done in the industry. Its a tough job. The common thread in all these peoples lives is that they loved what they did and kept doing it. My hope is that Hair Heroes gives hairstylists a reason to go on. KMS: What lessons did you expect to learn from talking at length to each subject in Hair Heroes?
MG: I have realized that I have a responsibility as a hairdresser myself. There is a responsibility to be a role model. KMS: Do you stay in touch with the subjects that you interviewed - years after you began this journey?
MG: I have become very close friends with Vidal Sassoon, and am also friendly with Christiaan. Sadly, many of the heroes have passed away. KMS: What important lesson or lessons did you actually learn and how has that impacted your life since the book was finished and published?
MG: I learned a great deal from the legends I sat down with. I’m still 10 years younger than any of them, but am continuously awed by their greatness after admiring them from afar for years. I learned a great deal about passion, skill and the love of the craft. KMS: If you had it to do over again…would you write the book again? Would you include the same heroes? Would you include different ones? What would you do differently?
MG: I wouldn’t do it differently, no. But I would have written it faster! KMS: How did you overcome the difficult challenge to reach past the public image of the various hair heroes and show the true essence of each and why they truly are heroes?
MG: I didn’t approach each subject in a formulaic way. Their impact on the craft became very apparent in our conversations. KMS: What ultimate message did you wish to give to the world about the Hair Heroes and the world of hair? Was the book written to demonstrate the tremendous brilliance of the various heroes…to honor hairdressers and their art….or to solve the mystery of why these heroes became legends?
MG: My goal in writing this book was to honor the craft of hairdressing. Hairdressing is an uncelebrated profession, plus these stories get forgotten. I wanted to leave an indelible trail. KMS: Do you plan to write another book any time soon? On a similar or different topic?
MG: Yes, but I haven’t yet decided on the topic. KMS: Your book was very well written. Has you ever considered at any time in your life …being a writer?
MG: I consider myself to be a writer amongst many other things.KMS: In your own right, you are a hair hero…a true icon of the hair industry. You have accomplished spectacular success in the world of hair, fashion & art. Do you plan to write a book about your life and successes? It certainly would be a great read for both hairdressers and hair consumers.
MG: It is under consideration. KMS: You have accomplished so many things in your life. What personal goals do you still hope to achieve in this lifetime?
MG: I continuously strive to learn and grow in all areas of my life.
KMS: You seem to be constantly busy with your many professional commitments related to B&b and the school and salon. What do you do in your spare time and how does that inspire you…or not….to constantly be at the forefront of hair and fashion trends? What is the source of his timeless & always sage hair advice?
MG: I study yoga and Buddhism and spend time with family, amongst other things. I also enjoy photography and spend a lot of time shooting makeovers and shows internally for Bumble & bumble. KMS: If you could break some of the misconceptions that the world has about the hair industry….what would they be?
MG: The misconception that we (hairdressers) are uneducated, gossipy and trivial lightweights.
About Bumble & bumble
Founded in 1977, Bumble and bumble has made its way into beauty and fashion editors' offices all over the globe. As a Salon and Hair Product Company, Bumble and bumble has transformed the hair industry, emphasizing the individual, transcending trends, and launching looks. Our team of editorial stylists creates looks for major fashion designers in shows and magazines internationally, frequently inspiring ideas for new products and accessories. The Bumble and bumble product line, created for and by stylists, speaks to our philosophy, our creativity, and our inventiveness. Frustrated with the products already available, we sought to create a line that would achieve high performance, versatility, and mixability. Bumble and bumble is now a complete product line with a full range of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products loved by stylists, models, and celebrities alike.