What do you get when Adir Abergel, one of LA’s most-coveted celeb hairstylists and Laurent Philippon, Global Artistic Director of Bumble and Bumble have a over-coffee-casual convo? A match made in mane heaven, that’s what. When Laurent gave Adir a ring from Paris, the two had at it over their shared obsession with what they consider the poetic language of hair. But before becoming the master hairstylists they are today, one pursued a career in classical ballet in New York; while the other, living in a French Alps village, shunned hairstyling (despite having a father who was a barber). Although their beginnings suggest otherwise, both were destined to make their mark in the world through manes. In their chat about locks, Laurent and Adir tell each other how they emerged within the industry, the legacy they hope to leave behind, and everything in between.
LAURENT: Adir, can I tell you first of all, I love your earrings. Every photo I see of you, you have those amazing earrings and I’m really jealous, do you make them yourself?
ADIR: I do. These were a collaboration with a friend of mine who’s an artist who helped me mold it. I just had the vision behind and she helped me mold it then cast it.
LAURENT: They look fabulous.
ADIR: Do you have big holes?
LAURENT: I have one ear pierced where there’s two earrings in the same hole.
ADIR: Oh okay, I see it. It might be big enough! I’m gonna have to make you one. Laurent, I have to say that I’m so excited that we get to meet through the phone. I’ve been a huge, huge, huge, huge fan of yours for many years. I love all the education that you give back to everyone and the mark you’ve made on our industry as a whole. The thing that impresses me most about you is how much you love education and how much you are educated by some of the greatest people in our industry as well and I feel like that’s very much changed in my industry here. Will you talk a little about what you feel like education means in hair today?
LAURENT: You know, Adir? Thank you, first of all, for saying all these things. I don’t realize those things because I do everything out of passion. I hear people saying how can you be passionate about hair? Yes, it’s true, hair can be a true passion. To me and to many others, hair is a language and you carry so many different aesthetically codes and social codes in your hair that it’s really a language—it’s a poetic language. It’s full of poetry and yes, it’s true, I have been very, very lucky to have amazing masters as teachers, you now, starting with Alexandre de Paris and Julien d’Ys who’s an amazing poet of hair, absolutely. Who did you learn with, did you assist anyone?
ADIR: I assisted for almost six and a half years and his name was Arthur John who was a really big hairdresser here in Los Angles. He did all the big women like Tina Turner, Shakhan, Karen Carpenter, Olivia Newton John, and he created a lot of the hair for Starwars. He was really pro-life in his time, he was immersed in the celebrity world here, but was able to educate me about the basics of hair and very much turned me on to Alexander and then through him, I learned a lot about Yannik and Julianne, all these great masters.
ADIR: And I would spend a lot of time in the book stores and the magazine shops and i would look at every single credit. Assisting, for me, was a really important part of my career and obviously for me, like you, hair is such a beautiful craft and interpretation. I don’t do as much fashion as you do, i really get to do these on celebrities which at the end of the day are real women.
LAURENT: Absolutely, the people whose hair you do influence all over the world.
ADIR: Yes, also and I think for me, I tend to try to remember that these are real women that have to go out there and feel incredibly confident about whatever they’re doing so I always love to bring out the most beautiful part about themselves and not homogenize them by making every woman looks the same, because every woman has a very different personality so how do you bring out? Like you said, hair is poetry in that because you’re giving a voice. Hair is an accessory that tells a lot about a woman immediately without you even knowing anything about the woman.
LAURENT: It’s a universal language that I think even an extra-terrestrial alien would understand. I think this is something we have in common, Adir, you and I— I think we don’t make our models or clients look— we always make them beautiful and this is something I’ve always been doing myself. I want the person who wears my hair to feel beautiful even if it’s creative or different. I want them to feel beautiful. It’s also a challenge, because it’s kind of easy to go crazy, you know?
ADIR: It’s the balance, that’s what I think I’ve learned throughout the years. I agree with you— the hair never wears the woman, the woman always wears your hair. It’s definitely part of the story. It never overwhelms any of it. There’s a beautiful synergy that is spoken between your craft, your hair and the woman that feels like a complete story. That’s where the maturity comes in in what we do down the line. I remember when I first started, I did play, sometimes the hair would wear the woman. It looks years to realize the right balances.
LAURENT: This is something we all need to go through and experiment, find out our limits and as a hairdresser throughout our life as a hairdresser, we keep on becoming who we really are. We always find out more. It’s a craft of experience.
ADIR: I agree, I agree. It is a craft of experience. Years in the industry really do make a difference in the craft, this specific craft.
LAURENT: Absolutely. Because there are so many different textures, so many difference face shapes, and so many different possible hair cuts, that it takes awhile.
ADIR: Well, let’s talk bout a little about hair texture and you being apart of the Bumble and bumble team. You guys have been the kings and queens of texture, revolutionizing it in a lot of ways. How long have you been the creative director, 20 years now almost?
LAURENT: ’90, ’94.
ADIR: Oh my god! That’s crazy! That’s insane. How did this come about? Where were you at? What happened? I wanna know all of it.
LAURENT: I met the people of Bumble and Bumble when I was assisting Orlando Pita backstage at Jean Paul Gaultier. Orlando worked for Bumble at the time. He was consulting for them, trying products and styling editorial mostly. And that’s what I started doing. Getting samples from the lab to test and then styling editorial, but as the relationship went on, we started to develop products together, which is kind of a dream come true for a hairdresser, because you think of a hair product. We work with a lot of textures and see how the texture reacts. We’re definitely working more around hair texture than we do around hair color, for example. We’re a pretty good voice for a hair brand, because we work with texture all the time. Developing those products was fantastic for me.
ADIR: It’s also an extension of creating new textures and changing texture. When you’re working on sets, you can push it a lot more than a person who works in the salon or someone who can’t play with products in the same way.
LAURENT: Yes, true, because in the salon you need to treat it like the client is going to leave and do her hair the same the next day so you can’t go too extreme. But still, a lot of edgy products made it into the salon and into peoples’ home, because they’re very versatile which is one of our strengths—you can layer Bumble and Bumble products and make it custom to your kind of hair. Do you have a favorite brand?
ADIR: I use a lot of different products. I don’t have a contract by choice, because I really enjoy playing with different textures and different products. There are a lot of things that are great from a lot of different product lines. For me, thickening spray is still one of my favorite. I use REF all the time. I know you helped created [Bumble and Bumble] Sumo Tech, which is a product I use a lot to create a certain kind of texture. One of my favorite other thickening sprays is Kevin Murphy Motion Lotion because it kind of gives you that 60’s feel to the hair. The way that I think about hair is very much like architecture. I learned that even if you’re throwing your hair up into a simple deconstructed undone knot, if you don’t have the right foundation and you don’t create the right texture beforehand with all these beautiful products, the hair can collapse and not give you what you actually want it to do.
LAURENT: Very, very true. I think the right foundation brings it life and it brings the right movement. Do you ever use roller sets?
ADIR: A lot, a lot, a lot, a lot.
LAURENT: You mean the hot rollers or set on wet hair?
ADIR: No, I don’t ever have the time to do a wet set.
LAURENT: I love wet set.
ADIR: A wet set would actually be my dream. I always 45 minutes to an hour to get something done.
LAURENT: They’re so good. At Alexandre, we use them a lot. What you get out of it is unique.
ADIR: Oh, there’s nothing like that! Hair was very different when Alexandr was doing hair. He would have to create a style that lasted an entire week for these women.
ADIR: It’s like hairdressing in such a beautiful different form, when it was about creating these structures that wouldn’t collapse over an entire week.
LAURENT: Yeah it was called high hairdressing.
ADIR: It was really, really high.
ADIR: I really respect that aspect of hairdressing. Everything I know to date is because of these men and women who paved the way for us. We are very blessed to be in this industry.
LAURENT: Absolutely. And Adir, tell me—how did you start? Before you assisted, were you already a hairdresser?
ADIR: My whole life was going to lead me toward being a classical ballet dancer.
ADIR: So from the age of 13, I kinda ran away from home and moved to New York.
LAURENT: Where was home?
ADIR: Los Angeles. My family is originally Moroccan—we’re French Moroccan Jews from Morocco but I grew up in Israel. When I was 8, I moved here to the states and when I was 13, I moved to New York to pursue my dance career. I went to dance with the American Ballet Theater and the Trockadero, but then I got injured when I was 15 and broke my leg. At that point, I had been living on my own and I really needed to come up with something quickly to pay rent and survive. I remembered doing all of the neighborhood moms’ hair, when I was 8. They would come, I would put on their color and I’d always redo the hair of the young girls I’d hang out with.
LAURENT: And you did that with no previous apprenticeship?
ADIR: Yeah, it was something part of me. I loved the craft of sculpture. It felt to me like I was sculpting. My mom was an artist so I was always around a lot of different materials like paint or clay. I think it was part of me. Then, I went to Santa Monica College and that’s where I heard that Arthur Johns was looking for an assistant. So I went to him and started assisting him, and I was with him for seven years.
LAURENT: Wow, that’s a beautiful story.
ADIR: Yeah, that’s where I got my start. What about you? I know your dad was a barber, wasn’t he?
LAURENT: Yeah, my dad was a barber. I didn’t want to be a hairdresser until I was 13-years-old and then at 13, I don’t know what happened. I hated barbering and still, I’m not into it. I like doing women’s hair much more. When I started doing my girlfriends’ hair, that’s when I really started to love it.
ADIR: What do you think the moment was that made you love it? Is it the connection with the woman?
LAURENT: I think so, exactly—the connection with the woman. Because I lived in a village in the Alps in France and it was not easy to be who I am. My choices were being a fireman or playing football and being a hairdresser was a way of being in a feminine world that suited me perfectly.
ADIR: I’m really lucky that that’s where it led to. Our struggles can actually shape life when you have no fear in exploring those parts of yourself.
LAURENT: You go with the innocence of a child. It’s actually something you need to do for yourself. It’s completely instinctive.
ADIR: It is instinctive. You know, I was just with Pati Dubroff and Christy Turlington and we were talking about you. I told them that I would be interviewing you for this. They were like, “Omg, We remember being with Laurent on shoots and we would turn around and he would be on top of a tree.”
LAURENT: Hahaha, yeah, that sounds like me.
ADIR: Haha, I thought, that’s a beautiful visual for me of who he is as a person because I can see the essence in you. Even though I don’t know you, I can see that part of you that’s really magic.
LAURENT: Hahaha, I don’t climb trees anymore.
ADIR: Haha omg, I love it! I have a question—what is the legacy that you would want to leave behind?
LAURENT: The pride of my life so far is my book and my vision of hairstyling is in that.
ADIR: All your blood and tears went into that.
LAURENT: Yes, that is a vision I would definitely like to leave behind.
ADIR: And you did that!
LAURENT: I guess you are exactly the same kind of person—we don’t look at the past, we only look at the future. Trying to live in the present, but always thinking of the future. I’m very happy I did the book and I’m super proud of it, but there’s a lot more to do.
ADIR: I’m so proud of it. It’s really hard as an artist, because we are creators, so to sit down and create a physical thing like that takes so much work. Your book was such a beautiful homage to hair.
LAURENT: Yes, I couldn’t see another way of doing it. That kind of book was not on the market yet. That was the book I dreamed of doing and it all came together in a magical way. When I think of the years when I got the idea to do it, it was a struggle to get it all the way to the editor. It took years—a long, long time.
ADIR: Who’s the person that helped you with those things in your life? Is there an agent, is there a person, is there that rock in your life that helps you achieve your dreams? Because I know for me, as an artist, it’s hard to get the business aspect of things in order so I have an army of people that I love that help me achieve that. Because the business part doesn’t come naturally to me.
LAURENT: Right. The book wasn’t really a business thing. I didn’t make money with the book. It was something I wanted to achieve on a personal level. But I found a really fantastic girl who became my best friend since. She was just out of school and she needed a job. She helped me with all the legal aspects. There was a lot of research to do on images. I couldn’t have done it all by myself, definitely.
LAURENT: Definitely. Are you imagining working for a brand or creating your own brand?
ADIR: You know, I would say that my dream is to create a line of products and texturizers, things that I’ve been imagining my head for years that are missing from our industry.
LAURENT: Have you already started?
ADIR: I’ve always started the process. It’s just about finding the right team to do it with. I’m a beautiful, sensitive soul inside and I love everybody. So I need to make sure that the people around me share the same love for the world and women. I want the intention to be the right intention when I’m working with people. That’s a hard process, because when you’re dealing with business people, they don’t necessarily share the same vision. I’m just starting to figure that out, but I think there’s a lot more for me to do in the industry. I’m excited to do what’s next.
LAURENT: I’m excited to see what’s next for both of us.
ADIR: Me too.
LAURENT: Maybe we could physically meet when you’re in Paris.
ADIR: I would love that. When you’re in Los Angeles, you can come and I’ll cook a mean tagine. We can put on the fire. I have a lot of trees, we can climb them together. We can do a fake telephone and be kids up there.
LAURENT: Hahaha, okay sounds amazing. That’d be fantastic. Now that we’re Insta-friends!
ADIR: Thank you so much for taking the time. This has been like a dream for me. They asked me who I’d really want to interview and you were at the top of my list.
LAURENT: Oh? I didn’t know you picked me. Oh wow, thank you!
ADIR: It was a big honor for me, honestly.
LAURENT: Thank you so much, Adir.
ADIR: Of course, baby. I’m a huge fan. You do beautiful work that inspires so many people. It’s beautiful to see good human beings success in this lifetime.
LAURENT: Thank you so much! You do amazing work as well, thank you!
ADIR: Honestly, if you are in LA, you have to come. I will cook you a mean tagine.
LAURENT: That sounds beautiful.
ADIR: I’m going to be in Cannes with Marion Cotillard.
ADIR: Are you going to be there?
LAURENT: I don’t think so. I actually have plans to be in America.
ADIR: Okay well, we’ll connect at some point. Thank you so much for taking the time.
LAURENT: Thank you so much, Adir! Take care.