Hairdressing heritage

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hairdressing-icons-leonard-lewis-twiggy-haircut1We have such a rich heritage in hairdressing! we must not forget it. To move forward, we must also be aware of our past. Understand how important techniques, innovation and know-how has come through passion and hard work. It’s very exciting to keep ‘pushing boundaries’ and trying to discover all things new. But, to know the history of hairdressing is vital if you want to help shape the future.  We’re prompted to say this because in November last year, two of the most influential people in modern hairdressing died; Leonard Lewis and Rosa Evansky. Each were pioneers in hairdressing and we must not let their names, nor their legacy, be forgotten. They came to the fore in the 1960s, which was a pivotal decade for hairdressing’s development. It’s fascinating to see how talent bred talent. With so many of todays’ famous names revealed as students of just a handful of visionary artists.

Rosa Evansky

came to London in 1939 at the age of 17. A Jewish refugee from Germany, speaking only German and Yiddish. She began an apprenticeship in a barbershop in Whitechapel, living off tips and picking up the English language. “I worked and practised until late at night on anyone who’d let me do their hair,” she said. Eventually progressed to a hairdressing salon in central London. Married in 1943, opening a salon with her husband in Hendon in 1947, then moving to Mayfair in the mid 50s. Early 1962, watching a barber using a hand dryer and brush to dry-style men’s hair. She had the idea to try it on the wet hair of her clients.  A fashion editor at Vogue and a writer on the Evening Standard wrote features on Rosa’s technique, and the ‘blow wave’ caught on! Her reputation and career flourished, with Vidal Sassoon offering her a salon in New York, but she declined. In “Vidal: The Autobiography,” Vidal Sassoon called her “without question the top female stylist in the country and the equal of any man.” Rosa styled the hair of celebrities and public figures including Barbara Castle and Margaret Drabble, and trained her team to do the same. Including Leonard Lewis. A troubled soul, she pretty much quit hairdressing during her second marriage ( to an alcoholic playwright) although kept some private clients. Rosa died on November 21 2016, aged 94. We salute her.

Leonard Lewis

was arguably the world’s first celebrity hairdresser. Known as Leonard of Mayfair, he ran a 5-storey salon in Swinging London, and cut the hair of style icons including Liza Minelli, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Barbara Streisand and Warren Beatty, Bianca Jagger, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, too. Leonard’s line can be traced back first to Rosa Evansky, then to Vidal Sassoon (a firm friend for life). In 1966, Leonard cut model Lesley Hornby’s hair into a tight ‘Eton Crop’ launched both her career as model ‘Twiggy’, and his place as a favourite in magazines and among news editors. Along with the high profile clientele, Leonard kept time and passion to train up-and-coming hairdressers, including Nicky Clarke, John Frieda, Michael John, Daniel Galvin and Michael Gordon (founder of Bumble&bumble). Sadly, he suffered a brain tumour in 1988 and spent his later years in poor health living in a Putney nursing home. He gain comfort by the support of his erstwhile proteges however, who ensured funds to take care of him. He died on 30 November, aged 78. Just one week after his mentor, Rosa Evansky.

Respect for the past, gives you a path to the future.

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