Is This the Hidden Warhol Factory of Hair?
When Michael Gordon created Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray in 2001, he—no pun intended—made waves in the hair industry that are still being felt today. Ask any model, hairstylist, or girl-next-door for their go-to products and chances are high that Surf Spray is one of them. Ditto on Hair Powder, an item practically every stylist keeps in their kit that Gordon also introduced to the masses. Gordon sold the brand to Estée Lauder in 2006 and made a documentary about Vidal Sassoon in 2010, and the next chapter in his story might be his most revolutionary yet. Gordon’s new range, Purely Perfect, comprises three detergent-free, nontoxic products (Cleansing Creme, Foundation Creme, Smooth Finish) that take care of all your hair cleansing and styling needs. “Suddenly, to have a product that changes everything you thought you knew about hair—that’s exciting,” says Gordon.
From the first Bumble and Bumble salon opened in 1977 on East 56th Street that re-created the downtown vibe uptown (“What I wanted was an eclectic clientele: the people who had just left school, the artists, the mums, the teachers,” Gordon recalls), to harnessing the creativity he witnessed on magazine shoots and backstage at fashion shows (namely Orlando Pita, who worked for him at Bumble), Gordon has created not simply a salon or brand, but a cultural movement around hair. His approach to introducing Purely Perfect to the world continues that authentic vision. Hairstory Studio, which occupies half of Gordon’s sprawling lower Manhattan apartment, serves as an experimentation lab for Purely Perfect, with former Bumble and ex-Cutler stylist Wes Sharpton and colorist Roxie Darling at the helm. They cast girls and guys off the streets of New York and give them a modern-day makeover. Sharpton and Darling weave their magic, Gordon photographs the transformations, and the whole thing is documented via the Web and social media. “Essentially, it’s stories about hair and how powerfully it affects people,” Gordon says. The studio feels like a contemporary Warhol Factory of sorts, except the vibes are more Zen palace (a Tibetan cook makes the team lunch daily, while Gordon, a practicing Buddhist, serves tea in china cups) than amphetamine-fueled frenzy. Didier Malige stopped by on the morning of our visit to cut the hair of a fan from Australia who had contacted him via Instagram, because he needed a place to do it, and why not? “It’s not that working in a salon is by design boring, but people don’t challenge themselves,” Gordon says. “And if you suddenly get two very talented people together in a room, looking at you completely differently and giving you a chance to look amazing and you go for it, it probably does more good than five years of therapy!”
Hairstylist, photographer, product creator, and filmmaker are all hats that Gordon—who grew up around his mother’s London hair salon—has worn over the years, but fundamentally, he sees himself as a conduit for creativity. “It’s not really a business—the stylists here get paid through their own clients. I’m just hosting the thing,” he said. “I’m a producer…and a bit of a teacher. And because it’s very sincere, because I do love talent, it’s nice.” Gordon describes a scene from a documentary he watched recently on music mogul David Geffen, where a confluence of musicians had taken over Geffen’s house. “Clive Davis was laughing like, ‘David! What are all these people doing?’ You know, in his kitchen, in his pool,” Gordon quips. “And then I walk around my kitchen and everyone’s hanging out eating pizza and I think, Oh wait, that’s me!”
Hairstory Studio is now taking invitation-only appointments for private clients. E-mail email@example.com for more information.—Natalie Shukur
Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio