Hairbrained Q and A with Emily Costello

With just eight years under her belt, Emily Costello is relatively new to the craft hairdressing community – but in that time, she’s made all of the right moves, and she’s garnering attention as a top-notch educator in-the-making.

As an educator for Prive Hair, and Director of Education at MOKO Organic Beauty Studio, located in Philadelphia (where Emily proudly resides), this stylist has dedicated herself to pushing the craft hairdressing industry forward, in a positive direction – and she counts herself as lucky to have found real-life role models that have led her to be a part of what she considers “a weird and wonderful story that’s always unfolding.”   

Read on to find out who has been most influential to this top Hairbrained Member, plus ‘Teach In’ participant – and discover where she hopes to see herself in the next five years.       


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Q. When it comes to mentors, whom would you consider most influential to you?

A. I’m very particular about who I let into my life. I know that I owe a lot of thanks and respect to many, many people – but I tend to think of this in two separate categories: those who have mentored me, and those who influence my work.

In terms of mentors: I can always count on my friends Jen Cortez, owner of The Hive Salon in Minneapolis, and Katie Perkins, owner of Salon Tate in Fort Meyers. I’ve subjected them to an untold number of late-night phone calls and texts – and they’re always up for giving me their advice. Patty Gibbons has been a guiding light for me; I never take that (or them) for granted.    

As far as who I’m influenced by? It’s always changing. But I have people whose skillset and work ethic I have always admired: Traci Sakosits, Edna Lugo, Mona Baltazar, Guido Palau, Peter Gray, Eugene Souleiman, to name a few. I just met Paul Stafford of wearestaffordhair, and I was blown away by his humility, how down to earth he was. I think ultimately I try to channel these kinds of people. People who roll with the punches and change with their environment, but manage to stay grounded in their own personal ethics. 

Q. When it comes to cutting hair, would you describe your style as classic or modern?

A. If I had to define my style, I would call it classic with a modern twist. I was trained classically (lines, layers, graduation), but I was also taught that being visual is essential, and it’s often undervalued. I’m at a crossroads: I’m trying to merge structure and foundation, with an aesthetic that’s both fresh and balanced, visually.   

Q. You work as an educator. Tell us about your journey, and about your new educational brand ‘COSTELLOXCULT.’

A. I think that I’ve always wanted to teach – but I never imagined that I would fill the role so quickly. When it comes right down to it, I’m an introvert. I thrive on one-on-one connections and small-group settings. I think that my methodologies are simple: I want to pass along the knowledge that was given to me, and help hairdressers to translate that information into tools that can use every day to further their craft.

As for COSTELLOXCULT: I’m not under any misconceptions. I don’t think what I’m doing is new, by any means. I’m just using what I have at my disposal to pass along information in a way that (I hope) is easy to digest. I think that our generation is a generation of ‘creative’ cutters. Unfortunately, in most cases, they don’t have the fundamental knowledge that they need in order to create cuts that have integrity. My goal is to take the methods I learned (as a classically trained cutter) and give them to the everyday stylist – in a way that doesn’t feel threatening or condescending.

I want to teach people to cut creative hair that’s suitable for everyday wear. 

Q. What classes are on your educational ‘wish list?’

A. Currently, I have three companies whose seminars I would love to take: Allilon Education, ZGAT and Sassoon Academy.

I’m interested in Allilon’s Primary Course, which covers shapes. I just love what the company is doing, and (if given the opportunity) I could spend hours just picking their brains for information. With ZGAT, I’d love to take their cutting course. I think if I could even just be a fly on the wall in one of their classes, I would be fulfilled. As far as Sassoon goes, I just took my first class with them over the winter – and I got my butt kicked. I’d love to take another (more advanced) class.      

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. Ah, the question of the hour. I would love to continue working as an educator, but on a more intimate level. I also have a passion for coordinating and overseeing events that aim to bring craft hairdressers together: this year, I spent time putting together two COL-LAB events with the Collective + The Kingly Hair Group – we had a blast just cutting hair and sharing our knowledge.

I would love to own and operate my own studio space – but not a typical salon space. I’d love to cultivate a space where the energy flows freely, and isn’t stagnate – a place where education and collaboration thrive, simultaneously. I want to help to propel people forward, but take on a background role.

A vacation or two wouldn’t hurt, either.      

Q. Dogs or Cats?

A. Well, I could easily pull the vegan card here, and say that I love all animals – and it wouldn’t be far from the truth. I was raised in a home that (at some point or another) had cats, bunnies, fish, and all of the other cute little critters.

I’ve always admired the loyalty of a dog. But that beings said, I currently give a home to a gigantic black cat named Grendel – and I couldn’t picture my life without him.     

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