Brilliant, vibrant and charming, Vivienne Mackinder has traveled down many highways in her life, both literally and figuratively, as an international leader and innovator in hairdressing.
In her work as Artistic Director for industry “grandmasters” Vidal Sassoon and Trevor Sorbie, London born Vivienne honed her legendary expertise for precision hair cutting along with an eye for original design from the classic and commercial to the avant-garde.
(Photo of Vivienne Mackinder courtesy of Vivienne Mackinder, all rights reserved.).
A four-time winner of the prestigious North American Hairdressing Award (NAHA), Vivienne captured the impressive Editors Choice award three times.
Vivienne is the author of several internationally published books (including ‘Montage’).
Widely admired for her brilliant vision (some are displayed in this article) for creating stunning hair designs in the major fashion arenas of the world, Vivienne is multi-dimensional in her talents.
A Great Gift - Roots & Wings
When I asked Vivienne what was foremost on her mind she reported that her heart and soul are currently dedicated to her Roots & Wings education program.
Hair: Vivienne Mackinder Hair Color: Cindy French Make-Up: Axel Dersin Clothing Stylist: Montgomery Frazier Photography: Aldo Belkouar, Hair Extensions & Hair Pieces: from Celebrity Signatures International, Inc.,
Roots and Wings explores the magic of “hairstyling mastery”, from a mind, body, spirit prospective. It is a profound life changing experience. Hair becomes the medium for greater self-awareness and expression. Vivienne has been constantly evolving the Roots & Wings program since she first developed it ten years ago on retreat.
This fabulous five-day program empowers hairdressers on all levels. Although the program was originally created in the quiet and serenity of an off-site retreat, Vivienne has moved the course “into the chaos which is now New York City”. The program is held in a photo studio that offers maximum learning and professional growth.
This program is timely because Vivienne believes that we are all being “tested in different ways” to define what is most important in our lives. “Hairdressers are discovering that they are not just hairdressers”.
“The greatest gift we can give ourselves as hairdressers are Roots and Wings… Roots being a solid foundation and Wings representing our spirit of creativity and artistry...”
Feeling fortunate to be able to surround herself “with amazing talent that” inspires her own creative evolution and growth, Vivienne believes that you learn the most when “you surround yourself with people better than yourself”.
On The Go…
When not helping hairdressers discover their core creativity, Vivienne is busy with many other projects that keep her “on the go” including a spectacular four part video documentary series that will feature the top twenty two hairdressing industry icons of all time.
This revolutionary series, produced, written and directed by Vivienne, will eventually air on television and will feature such hairdressing greats as Vidal Sasson, Trevor Sorbie, Frederic Fekkei and Horst Rechelbacher.
Envisioning this project to guarantee that these great hairdressers receive respect and recognition for their major accomplishments and inspiration, Vivienne finds this project “gratifying”. She appreciates the opportunity to pass the important message to the world that “we are NOT just hairdressers”. Vivienne is especially proud of her work on the video because she has known many of the hair industry icons personally for many years.
She remarked that she personally owes much to Vidal and Trevor. In her own hairdressing evolution “Vidal Sasson taught me to be a strong hair cutter” and Trevor Sorbie “taught me to do great style”.
Hairdressers are true “image makers and artists who can help people find their own inner beauty and strength”. Vivienne believes that “it is an amazing blessing” to be able to look into the deeper level of a person and make someone look truly beautiful as a reflection of their own unique personality and style.
Indeed, many of the hair industry icons that she is profiling from an editorial standpoint, have had an important hand in the very fabric of social change. These grand masters of hair have impacted our lives in so many distinguishable ways. Vidal Sassoon gave the world wash and wear hair, Trevor created the world famous wedge while many of the other icons have impacted our lives in so many different ways.
Vivienne hopes that her documentary "will function as a change agent for the hairdressing world". She believes that it is time for the hairdressing industry to experience a new boost and embrace a common goal.
Unfortunately some hairdressers allow themselves to be pigeonholed by the idea that they are “just groomers” that fill in the gaps and just do basic tidying up of the hair. Consumers demand more than what they could as easily get from a dog groomer.
Vivienne wants to change the whole grooming mindset and raise the level of what hairdressers do for their clients to image experts. She also believes that there is a “perceived value” issue. Hairdressers need to understand that their clients value their expertise in providing advice for creating a total look.
Since the events of September 11th, Vivienne believes that America is searching for a better sense of connection and unification. “Everyone is searching for a deeper meaning and substance”.The power of positive messaging is foremost on her mind. Vivienne believes that “whatever we project out into the world is what we receive back”. Although she recognizes the terrible events that took place in her adopted home, she also believes that we have to send out positive vibes to help change the mindset of society as a whole.
Videos & Books
Although she was the Artistic Director for Matrix for 5 years where she was key in launching some fabulous new trends, Vivienne has been independent for the past two years.
While she found her work with a huge company "interesting and enjoyable", it was time to spread her creative wings and do her “own thing”.
In addition to all of her many other projects, Vivienne is "hard at work on the creation of three incredible new videos for the bridal world" that is guaranteed to be a best seller. Although the video project’s focus is “creating beautiful bridal styles”, she is developing styles that can “work for any special occasion from a party to a Prom”.
She believes that “brides are looking for more eclectic options to escape from the same old frumpy styles that have dominated the bridal world for a long time”. Vivienne’s fabulous wedding videos can be ordered online from her site. The three videos will be centered on three main topics, which include hairdressing, hair extensions and fashion sense.
Although busy with lots of fascinating and innovative projects, Vivienne has managed to find time to work on a book project that is very close to her heart. She confessed that she is really enjoying her collaboration on the revision of the Milady cosmetology textbook. As she explained, “this is a work in progress that is a collective project”. It truly is a long, tedious labor of love.”
When queried about some of the biggest challenges her stellar career, Vivienne confided that “faking it” has been her biggest lesson and accomplishment. “Faking it” often drives her famous fashion statements when she works on the major runways with the models because she has to go with the flow and create with what she has.
Although ideal hairstyling conditions call for allowing Vivienne to do whatever she sees fit to create a hair masterpiece, the simple reality, as she explained, “is nowhere near the fantasy”.
Famous in many circles for her incredible expertise with “world class hair extensions” she confessed, “she has zero patience with applying massive hair extensions to a full head of hair”. Luckily she has “an assistant with the patience of a saint who will help with major hair extension projects”.
Hair extensions are just a very small part of what she does when she works with hair. To be even more precise, hair is just one microcosm of her total focus for creating great fashion statements.
Her favorite part of hairdressing is “cutting hair and creating styles”. When Vivienne is working with hair she definitely prefers to be cutting it. Although she does a lot of celebrated fashion shows and works with stunning runways models, it is commonplace to be forbidden to cut their hair. Really? Yes, the models absolutely will not let Vivienne cut their hair. So she has to “make do” with the hair that she has to work with and fake it by creating what she can with the hair she is given.
She shared some of the challenges she recently experienced designing hair for the ever-popular VH1 Fashion Awards. She was working on “some of Vogue’s top models and she had to “improvise with the hair they showed up with”.
Vivienne explained “a major challenge of the show was to take four incredibly exquisite girls that looked like fashion models and turn them into the four Beatles”. You know, John, Paul, Ringo and George. Those Beatles.
It seems that the VH1 Awards were doing a tribute to the famous mop tops. The producers wanted Vivienne to instantly transform four gorgeous Vogue models into the four rock icons. As always, she responded admirably to the task at hand and turned out the four gorgeous models fashioned after Beetles. George and Paul never looked so glamorous.
From Fashions Runways To QVC
A celebrated darling for creating incredible catwalk hair, fashion shows like the VH1 Awards are just a tiny piece of the larger picture of what she does.
Vivienne finds that her expertise takes her into all realms of existence. On the day of the VH1 awards Vivienne found herself at 4:00 in the morning suiting up for the QVC Shopping Network explaining the “Quick Change” hair accessory to hair consumers in the television world.
As she explained, it was quite an experience popping into the consumer shopping circus in the wee hours and then landing on the white-hot fashion runways hours later. From consumer hair at the crack of dawn to Vogue model hair after the sun set. All in one day.
When I asked her where she gets her amazing inspiration for her hair wizardry, she laughed and told me that she has come a long way from the old days when she used to get her ideas from just one or two avenues. Many years ago, she confessed, she might have opened a few fashion or hair magazines for her design inspirations.
Those days of singular focus are long gone. Now Vivienne finds inspiration in all walks of life. Whether she is talking to hair consumers on QVC or turning models into rock stars, Vivienne finds inspiration through constantly being open. She draws creative inspiration from fashion and all levels of media from film, to theater to TV. Vivienne pointed out that “fashion inspires us and helps us to adapt to our individual personality and style”.
Vivienne believes that if we can always be as open as possible we are constantly gathering new ideas from a significant background including film, TV, salons, products, education, classes.
She also believes that “it is an amazing blessing” to be able to look into the deeper level of a person and make someone look truly beautiful as a reflection of their own unique personality and style.
Vivienne feels that it takes a “tender eye to know how to interpret a person” and to “discover who that person really is” once you have done that you can design the complete package that includes hair, fashion and overall image.
She values the importance of looking at the entire person when designing their hair. This includes evaluating their body type, personality, attitudes and lifestyle. She likes to dig down and find out what makes a person tick. “A hairstyle”, she said, “should reflect the total of who you are. Are you quiet and shy or an extrovert who is the life of the party? Hairstyles are like costumes that should fit perfectly with the overall you”.
Sadly, many hairdressers never embrace the total person. Vivienne feels this is a misjudgment because “hairdressers need to be image consultants that design around the entire vision of the person”. The hair needs to be integrated into the total look. It should be part of the fusion. Hair should never dominate a look.
Unlike hairdressers in the US who have limited classroom requirements, Vivienne trained for many years both in classrooms and in salons as an apprentice before she was allowed to work on clients on her own. This is a big difference between Europe and the United Statues that Vivienne believes offers her US counterparts more challenges to learning their trade properly.
Besides many years learning the art of hairdressing, Vivienne trained intensely in fashion. Part of her educational process in the world of fashion involved working with clothing stylists. She loves her work in fashion and is “constantly tuned into the latest collections.”
With fashion Vivienne learned quickly that where this is “no pain, no gain”. Working with fashion divas and stylists can be an extremely difficult process. She quickly learned that when you are creative you can try all sorts of things but it is important to learn what works and how it works. “There is a fine line between creativity and just bad taste.”
She reported that sometimes she would spend hours creating “just the right look” like making hair into a palm tree when in reality the stylist envisioned a tiny pony tail. She would work hard on hair looks only to be told by the stylists that it didn’t work for them. It was definitely a painful learning process. One of the key benefits of her training in fashion and with the stylists helped her learn the importance of fusion.
Escaping From Ruts
Vivienne noted, “many hairdressers get burnt out but don’t realize that they can move into other mediums of creativity. Hairdressers have become “cavalier about doing hair. They take hairdressing for granted.” A hairstyling rut can be a difficult place to be. It is a love/hate place.”
She wants to help hairdressers understand that there is life after a rut. As she pointed out “just because a hairdresser is in a rut and burnt out, it doesn’t mean they can’t move into other spheres”. Other avenues can include film, fashion, print and other mediums. Working with hair in new arenas offers tremendous challenge and will banish burnout for most hairdressers.
Remaining “sensitive” to situations that she can learn from helps Vivienne banish any potential for creative ruts. Inspiration does not have to be limited to hair magazines and hair shows. Constantly being “open primes her creative pump”. She “keeps her creative antenna going 24/7 and she has successfully learned how to translate ideas onto other forms.”
Pointing out that “there is a constant evolution and evaluation that people undergo as they seek their own true beauty” she immerses herself in the latest fashion reports. She does not view herself as “just a hair person” she is an image maker who believes that “hair is an accessory for fashion.”
Vivienne analyzes runway collections, street trends, and new reports, whatever it takes to help her identify and evaluate the next trends. “Hair designs are just one part of the total equation of creating beauty.” She is constantly pushing herself to remain fresh and evolutionary in her creativity.
Trends - Learning From History
As she pointed out, “some of the greatest fashion in history has evolved from social changes, natural disasters and wars”.
A great example of “social trends driving fashion was in the 60s when women burnt their bras because of the issues surrounding birth control.” The woman’s movement gave birth to Twiggy’s super short crop and flat chest. It also inspired designers like Mary Quant. In a sense the 20s were revisited again. Liberation became a key beauty tenant.
Vivienne holds special fondness for the glamorous forties. She greatly respects the fact that women like her mother didn’t let the war stop them from looking smashing. Women during that era were not deterred from achieving the best from what they had available at the time. Her mother, as an example, took a blanket and fashioned it into a coat and hat that was just stunning. Which boils down to having pride in ourselves and how we look.
In today’s Information Age “we are constantly bombarded with sights, sounds, images and information. Because of the constant volume of new information, no new trend seems to stick around for very long, unlike in the past when trends lasted longer.“
Trends also evolve over a period of about 1 year. Ironically the big trends evolving from last year were the military looks that invoked images of fatigues, and camouflage clothing. Vivienne mused that it was so interesting that the fashion world had picked up on the combat vision right in the months before the September 11th tragedy.
Vivienne commented, “it is weird how fashion, which seems to be created about one year before the trends are picked up by the masses, picked up on the terrorism issues.” Which is just another example of how powerful fashion, hair and beauty trends are directed by social trends.
The bad news is that those very clothes that appeared to be the next hot trend are “politically so not correct” and are fading into the background as people search for glamour and beauty to relieve the sadness of the world at this time.
Even more interesting is how the New War of 2002 will impact fashion for the future. Although it may not be immediately obvious Vivienne believes there will definitely be a shift.
Although British born, Vivienne adopted New York as her new home over ten years ago. Like many New Yorkers, she experienced first hand the events of September 11th. Through a series of personal coincidences, Vivienne received a last minute cancellation with a client she was supposed to meet in the city on September 11th. As luck would have it, the cancelled appointment would have occurred at a photo studio very close to the World Trade Center.
While Vivienne was safely tucked at home she received word that a very dear British friend of hers was stranded at the airport due to a last minute British Airways flight cancellation. Ironically her friend had not been able to connect with Vivienne during her visit. Through a series of tragic circumstances they did find each other on September 11th.
Vivienne immediately rushed to her dear friend’s aid and went to fetch her from the airport. Her friend, in the process of dealing with being stranded, managed to befriend a group of similarly displaced Brits. The frightened band of newfound friends bonded as they dealt with the tragedy unfolding around them.
Vivienne swooped up the entire group of complete strangers and took them to the security of her home in the Hamptons where they remained for one week. Vivienne found the experience to be very rewarding and extremely gratifying. She also found it to be a fascinating study in human relationships. There she was, with a group of complete strangers who were “quite lovely British people” living in her house for several days. Even more extraordinary was that they were all sharing a very tense and distressing time. Not only were they prevented from leaving the country to go home, they were near the heart of a heart wrenching series of tragedies.
As always, Vivienne took the events of her spontaneous visitors in and used the experience to grow and evolve as a person and as an artist.
While she shares with other New Yorkers in mourning the events that happened in her beloved city, she believes that good overcomes evil. She said that the events of September 11th have brought the city together in a way that has never been true before. Although the city feels different and will never be the same as it was before, it is important to pick up the pieces and go on and not be defeated by our enemies.
She told me that back home in England her family is wild about New York Mayor Guiliani, one of Vivienne’s personal heroes. When Vivienne had the good fortune to meet his Honor, the Mayor, she told him that her sister and family thought he was “fabulous” and “should be the President of the United States.” Vivienne said that Guiliani was so sweet and kind during their conversation. She felt it was such a great honor to get to meet this man with such a big heart and thank him for all that he did during the crisis.
What The Future Holds
When I asked Vivienne about the future she replied that ‘none of us really know what is coming in the future”. She did stress that “women need to celebrate and honor the incredible power of the feminine spirit.”
Vivienne said that because of the new war, “everyone is searching for deeper substance”. People are getting aligned to what is most important in their lives.
Vivienne feels that it so important right now for “people being OK with pampering themselves.” She pointed out “people should definitely avoid feeling bad or guilty. After all, there is a composite effect. “Feeling good and looking good puts good feelings out into the Universe. If you are doing your best to be your best, you are putting out good energy.”
It is so easy to let ourselves go and not take pride in how we look. We must constantly honor the pride of who we are as people.
This is an interesting influence and time for all peoples. Vivienne believes that “right now women need to feel good about being glamorous and fabulous. Women want and need to feel luxurious, despite all the fears and pressure that they are experiencing.
Like a whirling dervish, Vivienne is constantly spinning new ideas and projects. Wanting to encourage women to be playful and gorgeous, she is creating a series of new hair accessories from add-on hairpieces that will transform women into gorgeous divas.
Her future will most likely be devoted to ongoing editorial projects and she will continue to work to change the image of hairdressers for the 21st century.
Even more importantly she has given thought to her own values and has decided to slow down on her normally rigorous overseas travels so that she can stay closer to loved ones in the United States. Although she will still be jetting around the US to do education and projects, she wants to stay closer to home as a rule.
There have been times during my four-year tenure with HairBoutique where I have been very privileged to meet some of the truly great people from the hair and fashion world. During our conversation it became very clear to me that Vivienne Mackinder is one of the greatest hair masters of all time. I have admired her incredible work for years. It was such an incredible honor to meet her in person.
Without even knowing it, Vivienne triggered special memories of a dear friend that I lost to cancer in June of this year. My friend Janie was a wise teacher, fierce friend and compassionate mentor. Janie, like Vivienne, encouraged women to honor their “feminine sides” and to acknowledge the power of positive thinking.
There were moments during our talk where I could almost see Janie shaking her head in agreement with Vivienne’s philosophies of how to change our world into a more loving and positive place.
Trying to capture the brilliance and vibrancy of Vivienne Mackinder for this article was quite a personal challenge. I am only grateful for the opportunity that the Universe gave me to meet her on her journey through this lifetime.