It’s like hair is a drug… like finding your fix. When you’re in the salon, there’s a certain high you get. When I’m on stage it’s another type of high. What I love most about being on stage is that it’s the most free that I can feel.
JUSTIN ISAAC, REDKEN ARTIST
In town for Get Inspired 2018, we caught up with globally renowned Redken artist and educator Justin Isaac; a profusely talented colourist, innovator and cool kid on a mission. Here he is… in his own words.
TJ: Who/what first inspired your love for hair?
JI: The first person who really inspired me was a guy called Frank the barber – he was a barber all the men visited back in my neighbourhood in LA. To me it was so cool that every Friday and Saturday all the men would get their hair cut by Frank and as a kid, he gave me lots of different haircuts.
I started noticing how people looked at me. Whether my hair was shorter or longer, the world treated me differently; and I liked that. I was raised by a blind grandmother so it was always important for me to be seen. To be heard. That was by first experience of really being seen.
TJ: Tell us about your role with Redken. What is it about the brand that resonates with you most?
JI: This is my 20th year with Redken; I’m a Colour Director for Redken Creates and I’m also in charge of the brand’s influencer [division]. What’s kept me with Redken is it’s heart; the people. At Redken, we’re all about connection and changing people’s lives. One of our core beliefs is that learning with emotion is life changing, learning without emotion is forgettable.
We also believe that people buy people before buying things; it’s always been the people who have made the difference to me. It’s a brand that places education above all else and is all about connecting people. Redken gives us all the tools to be awesome; when I signed up for hairdressing, I signed up for awesome; to hear music, to affect people, to make people smile – Redken has all of that; we even have groupies!
TJ: You’ve travelled the world with Redken; can you share an experience that’s shaped you both personally and professionally?
JI: Travelling with Redken has always been very humbling. One of my favourite memories is going on a three week tour with Sam Villa (Redken Global Artistic Ambassador) when I was first starting out. At that time I was a few years into my career and Sam was (and is!) a legend that I looked up to – to me he was perfect.
I recall a moment where somebody took his kit and [at first] he lost his cool and wanted to walk out but was able to still make magic happen. It reminded me that we’re all humans and even legends [have to work at] keeping things in check.We can all be a wreck at times; we’re all a beautiful mess underneath.
It’s like my girlfriend says: everybody has a kitchen. When they bring the food out it, everything looks perfect… but in the kitchen that’s where it’s going down, people shouting and running… that’s where it happens. I think this applies to everything in life.
TJ: What do you love most about presenting on stage as a Redken artist and educating through Redken Exchange?
JI: It’s like hair is a drug… like finding your fix, if you will. When you’re in the salon doing hair, there’s a certain high or satisfaction you get. When I’m on stage it’s another type of high. Same goes for Redken Exchange. What I love most about being on stage is that it’s the most free that I can feel.
When I’m up there it’s as though I’ve stepped out of my own way and am able to share my thing… hair is what allows me to get in front of people and share my experiences. I teach hair, but I also want people to better humans; I want them to be courageous. I want them to be kind. I share and teach the things that I as a human need to learn.
The stage heals me; I feel safe and vulnerable at the same time and I’ve never felt as connected to other humans as I do when I’m on stage – whether I’m in front of 2000 people or 100. Sometimes in our busy lives we’re bombarded with messages and it’s hard to hear what we need to hear. I’ve lived a crazy life and I feel like I speak the language of people [who search for an alternate message]. It’s a crazy thing!
TJ: Talk us through your involvement in 2018’s Redken Get Inspired show.
JI: This year’s Get Inspired is all about Redken being the brand of the future, and [predicting] where the future is going. There’s a lot of places we’re taking this in relation to hair and technology, but for tonight’s show I’m involved in two universes.
The first is the colour gels universe; it’s one of our Redken colour lines that’s been reformulated and I’m so happy to be bringing it back to Australia. We’re focusing on high shine, luscious colour and modern colour blocking. The second is the blonde universe; we’re seeing everything from metallics to pastels and different dip dyes – there’s also a whole trend where hair is dark on top and lighter underneath.
TJ: Will you be at Redken Symposium 2019?
JI: Yes I will! I’m in a class called ‘Redken around the World’ with Hugo Urias and two of our influencers Rebecca Taylor and Cassandra Platinum. It’s going to be an amazing show focusing on how street trends and street kids inspire hair and fashion around the world. It’s also the first time we’re doing hands on classes at Symposium – it’s going to be rad!
TJ: Any colour trends/techniques you’re loving at present?
JI: It’s never been a better time to be a hairdresser; specifically a hair colourist. Hair colour is the new fashion piece – like a new bag or belt. I think there’s three hot trends that will always be in; red, blonde and brown of all varieties. What’s happening now is that we’re melting and smudging everything together.
All of our colours have been very horizontal (like Ombre) and we’ve been in a world of Balayage and hair painting. But I think now we’re going to see a lot more linear, vertical colour, where it’s all a bit wider. It’s exciting to me because we’ve been blending colours for quite a while now but now we’re going to be seeing some strong contrasts.
TJ: What other shifts do you foresee in the colour sphere?
JI: What’s awesome is that the rainbow has been opened; vivid, metallic and pastel colours are all on trend right now. I think they’ll come in and out of fashion; they’ll never go away. For the new generation of colourists and clients, these colours are normal; once you don’t know the rules, it’s ok to veer outside of them. When you’re [confined by rules] you tend to feel vulnerable, or reluctant.
At Redken we say that hair colour is something that can whisper, shout or talk to the world. There’s times you’ll want to be noticed, and other times where you’re message is loud but you need [your image] to be plain. I think taste is something that evolves. I’m all down for [colour experimentation]; anything that embraces the artist within us. If you’re a freak – wave your freak flag!
TJ: What advice do you have for young artists looking to follow your career path?
JI: My advice is to really commit. [The hairdressing world] is a beautiful one, but it’s not for everybody. Learn. Stay humble. Don’t be driven by ego. When I first got out of beauty school I remember thinking that was it for training and soon realising I knew nothing; we’re forever learning. Don’t be focused on making money; not all money is good money. Some of the best hairdressers I know assisted for years [before staking their territory]; don’t rush it.
If you want to be a great hairdresser; to be respected and live a life outside of the ordinary, you have to humble yourself and put yourself in awkward situations. Live, don’t be afraid and remember why you are doing what you’re doing. I think in this day and age it’s important to have heroes: hair heroes, literature heroes, music heroes; people we look up to and measure ourselves against. One of the best things you can do is connect with people; find your hero and [follow their lead].
TJ: Do you have any hair heroes?
JI: I have many hair heroes! One of them is here… Richard Kavanagh. I call him ‘KAVI’ because he’s like caviar – very rare! He takes so many big risks in his work; it’s amazing to watch.