Redken’s Global Creative Director Guido Palau is one of the most influential hairstylists in the world, but chatting with him on a couch at at the Gramercy Hotel in New York City feels like catching up with an old friend. He’s fresh off an overnight flight from London—he was working on something for Vogue the day prior, and before that, he was in the trenches for Fashion Month—but today, you’d never know that he’s even a little bit tired. Maybe it’s because he’s created a career that he’s head-over-heels in love with, but even so, Guido admits that he’s not one to rest on his laurels. American Salon caught up with the icon about a successful Spring 2020 season, how he finds fresh inspiration after so many years in the industry and what’s next for him in his fast-paced life.
Looking back at this season’s shows, is it possible to pick a favorite look?
I kind of liked the simplicity of the side part at Prada, and how it was pulled back into a simple ponytail to look like a faux bob—it was a nod to the ‘20s. To me, when I look back at that show, that was really effective but also really simple. It ticked a lot of boxes.
I always love a hairstyle that looks more complex than it actually is. It’s something real women can do rather than a fantastical thing that’s only really something the hairdresser can do. I mean, it is fun to do that, but it’s also good when something’s stylized and still simple. It’s much more of an art form—something that women, real people, can kind of appropriate and do themselves.
There’s a new slew of products every time Fashion Month rolls around. Which ones do you call on season after season?
I always bring Redken Windblown Dry Texturizing Spray and Redken All Soft Shampoo because a lot of textures start off with clean hair, so we like to shampoo first. The no-fragrance Triple Pure Hairspray is a new product that I used backstage and found really helpful. In a confined environment, it’s nice to have a neutral fragrance.
After so many seasons, how do you find fresh inspiration?
I like working with new designers, always trying to keep a keen eye on what’s going on, always challenging myself and never resting on my laurels or my back catalog, and always realizing that you are only as good as your last job. If you are working in a salon, you are only as good as your last client, not what you have done your whole career. So, I always think about my last job. I’m always kind of slightly nervous and slightly anxious that I’m not going to be good enough, to myself and maybe my reputation—that’s what keeps me on fire, in a way.
Some people don’t know you were let go from your first hairstyling job; how did you turn that rejection into something positive?
I didn’t really know that I had such a drive, and I didn’t know at that point that I had such a work ethic. I thought I was quite lazy. As a person, I grew up thinking I was quite lazy, I don’t know, maybe I hadn’t found what I loved yet. And when I did, I wasn’t lazy at all. I really had a very strong work ethic, and still do. And maybe back then it wasn’t as clear that I had this work ethic. I think that’s important whether you work in a salon or you want to do what I’m doing, whatever version of hairdresser you want to be, you have to find out what’s right for you.
The industry has changed so drastically in the last decade. What’s been your favorite change? I feel like the inclusion of every kind of man and woman on the runway in the past couple of years has really been a kind of positive change in the industry. Our vision of beauty has changed in the past few years and it’s [been] a very positive change. To see lots of different types of beauty being represented, that can only be a positive thing. It feels more open now, and our eyes look at beauty in a different way.
You’ve had countless defining moments in your career. Is there one that’s shaped you more than others?
I’ve been lucky enough to somehow survive in this changing industry for a long time. It hasn’t just been, ‘Well, he had a great moment 10 years ago.’ I luckily still have moments that people feel, or I feel, was a good moment, but I don’t necessarily rest on that moment. I don’t go, ‘Oh that was my defining moment.’ I hope my next job is another defining moment. They can’t all be defining moments, but there’s more to come.