American Salon Visits the House That Michael Built

Hairstory opened its doors in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind salon space. Started by Bumble and bumble founder Michael Gordon, the private studio located inside his massive 6,000-square-foot lower Manhattan residence, is entrez by invitation-only (or through application for the monthly casting sessions). Upon entering the space, visitors are greeted by a sign requesting the removal of shoes, next to a basket of slippers.

In sitting down with the hair industry icon for an exclusive look at what goes on, Gordon says, “it’s not an-open-to-the-public salon. It’s mainly here so that we can produce content for our hungry social media. It’s a place to create film and stills and create product. We don’t actually operate as a salon. It’s more of a think-tank, an experimental place that hopefully other salons could benefit from or be inspired by.” At the helm of the three-chair space are stylist Wes Sharpton and colorist Roxie Darling, both of whom trained at Bumble and bumble, and it’s home to a collective of hairdressers, colorists, designers, artists and filmmakers with Gordon behind the lens photo-documenting the stories and transformations of those who walk through the doors. “Eventually we will probably end up broadcasting this in a larger way,” he says.

But what’s even more interesting is his next move within the world of products. Gordon had made his mark and put the industry on notice with his signature styling products for Bumble and bumble that are still popular today. He may again be on the verge of something groundbreaking with his new sulfate-free, detergent-free product line, Purely Perfect, which is the embodiment of a new unique approach to the culture of hair.

On developing his new Purely Perfect line, here is what Gordon had to say:

“I noticed that hair products and the hair industry had become duller. Everybody was just copying Bumble for the most part, and I had a fresh set of eyes so I wanted to do something that I thought was interesting and important. Part of the whole idea came from looking at what was happening and seeing that most hair brands had multiple shampoos and multiple conditioners and multiple masques and multiple everything. The actual attributes that are on the packaging [that the product is supposed to address] are caused by the shampoo: frizz, dryness, oiliness, everything.

All the bad stuff is actually caused by sodium lauryl sulfate. It’s a very dirty word. It’s actually considered by chemists, a very serious irritant so when we decided we didn’t want to use that, we were left with a blank canvas, but a blank canvas that didn’t have something to copy. It was inspired by skincare. Women started using cleansers and oils and balms and things that don’t foam; things that when you used them, the skin doesn’t feel parched. Your hair and your skin are the same so that was the benchmark. It wasn’t a hair benchmark: It was a skincare benchmark. So we made a brief of what we wanted and came back with a shampoo and a conditioner and a masque as the beginning, and we never got past the shampoo because it was so different that none of us liked the conditioner or felt that it was needed. It was rendered absolutely not necessary and a masque definitely not needed.

The interesting thing was that the core group of people testing it all had different hair, and everybody was going, ‘Oh my god, my dandruff is gone, my hair is not dry, I’m not washing it as much and it’s not greasy, it’s fuller.’ There were extraordinary results, and then we went further and started testing it on Asian, African American, Swedish, any version of hair you could think of.

Most of the time, if used properly, the result was the same: ‘Oh my god, this is literally life-changing.’ And then people started sending us photos of their trash with all the old stuff in it. You don’t need all of that. There’s just too much stuff so if you eliminate the stuff you don’t need and spend more money on something that’s better for you, you’re using less energy, less water, less time and less product, and hair, even fine hair, starts having more body and doesn’t need washing as much.”

On why and how he feels this product line fills a void:

“I thought it was time for a change. If you go back in history and read about shampoo when it was created and all the innovations … foam was put in there to make people think it was important and different. We realized this shampoo works on everyone so we don’t need eight flavors, and we don’t need conditioners, and we don’t need a masque. So what do we need? If hair is behaving differently, basically coming to life, then you rethink what styling products you need to enhance it rather than force it.

This is a different concept entirely. It’s the idea that everyone has its own beauty. Beauty should be individual. You have the people who want to look like actors, and you have the people who want to look like Victoria’s Secret models and then you have the people who want to look cool. We want the people who want to be cool and look like themselves and more modern, less done. So the products that we will eventually come out with support that individuality. Our products will enhance, and there will never be more than 10. There could be 12, but there will never be 12 of any one thing. Every item will have its purpose.”

Looks like it’s time for a bathroom cabinet purge. 

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