With the idea to breathe life into his own ideas, Leo Izquierdo, one of four founders of IGK Haircare, opened a salon at the age of 18 in France. When Miami came calling six years later, he moved, taking nothing with him on the ride except a vision. While running an IGK Salon with his brother Franck Izquierdo in Miami’s SLS Hotel, Leo’s vision manifested into something bigger and more badass—a haircare line that the group named IGK after the first letters of their last names (Izquierdo, Grenia, Kusero). Here Leo recounts his industry breakthrough, the journey to building a brand alongside three boys he now considers family, and his best advice for budding entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to become a hairstylist? To create your own line?
My whole family was, and still is, in the hair industry. Since I was a kid I’ve been surrounded by artists and hair stylists on both my mom’s and my dad’s sides – even into my extended family. I grew up in France, spending most of my time in the hair salon with my parents. I’ve always been close to hair and the hair business.
Creating my own line and having my own salon, were dreams of mine since the beginning. As a stylist, I work with so many different types of products and we, myself and the other co-founders of IGK, wanted to create something easy for the customer to understand and to work with. That’s why we created IGK, we wanted to make something fun, new and easy for clients to use.
How did you get your start in the industry?
After spending time in my parents’ salon I went to hair school, but I’ve always been more of an entrepreneur. I wanted to open my own salon and follow my own ideas. I opened a space first in France when I was 18, but I always wanted to go to the US. I felt it would be the best way to get a fresh start and to do something totally new and different. I was especially drawn to Miami. I felt like the city was something fresh and that is constantly growing. I moved when I was 24, with nothing, and have been here since.
When I first got to the US, I worked with a lot of different salons and did designer shows, trying to make connections and save up money to start my own salon. After I’d saved up enough, my brother (and one of the IGK co-founders) Franck, and I opened up a salon in Miami. We met the other co-founders of IGK, Chase Kusero and Aaron Grenia through work and decided to do a brand together. We had similar ideas with unique perspectives coming from NY (Aaron), LA (Chase) and Miami (me and Franck).
What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?
My first big challenge was moving to the US. I came with nothing and had left everything behind in France. I had no money and didn’t know anyone. I was really starting from scratch, but it was exciting. I worked hard and listened to people’s advice. I was consistent and passionate and kept my goals in mind.
My other biggest challenge came right after we started IGK. We were doing our first brand shoot and it was extremely stressful. When you create a brand, you have a vision and you want to make sure you communicate it to people. You only get one shot to make that impression so it was so important that we get it right. We spent hours preparing and were thorough in making sure everything was perfect. It was a lot of work but it was worth it to see the brand come to life.
What’s your beauty philosophy?
I always want to make sure I’m challenging myself and constantly trying something new. I try to be very aware of what’s going on – in the world, in trends, fashion, art, music, movies – looking forward and to the past (like the 90’s). I think it’s important to try new things even if you don’t think you will like them, or it’s out of your comfort zone, and to try to appreciate them. Even if it’s just watching a movie you wouldn’t normally consider, listening to new music, working differently with your tools, new techniques, etc. Challenging yourself like this is the best way to add new skills, new design perspectives, and to broaden yourself.
Do you have a signature look or style you’re known for?
I tend to like textured and natural style, but I like to try new techniques, new trends, and ways to work with product and my tools so it’s always evolving.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
I follow people and brands I admire and who inspire me. I follow my other co-founders (@franckhair ,@aarongrenia, @chasehair) and I like to follow other hairstylists such as @eugenesouleiman, @sammcknight1, @anthonymascolo57 and @jenatkinhair. I also follow fashion brands (@ysl, @off___white) and artists in all different mediums such as music, paint, design, etc.
What would you tell your 21-year-old self?
When you’re young I think there’s a lot of pressure to make decisions and move quickly. I would encourage myself at that age (or any young person) to take your time and listen to people’s advice. Ask your friends, parents, mentors for advice, listen, and don’t rush into things.
What advice would you give to new stylists or those who aspire to create their own haircare line?
It can be scary and difficult but don’t quit. Remember why you started. Stay passionate, work hard and believe yourself. Don’t be scared to do your own thing, even if no one has done anything like it before.
What’s one thing you’ve learned along the way to becoming a hairstylist/co-founder?
It is important to share your ideas, stay honest, and communicate. Especially when working with other co-founders or people in different cities, communication is key.
Where do you find inspiration?
Growing up in a family of hairstylists and artists, my family has always inspired me. I’m also inspired by my co-founders and the other stylists in our IGK salons (our IGK army)– they are always coming up with new ideas and looks, it’s exciting and energizing. I also find inspiration from art forms – music, fashion, and movies from all decades.