True Visionary

Gianni Scumaci tells us a hairdressing fable he often recites when running his educational talks.

“Many years ago there was a hairdresser who was sitting around a table with a group of professionals – a doctor, a dentist, an architect and so forth. They were going around the table and introducing themselves; when the hairdresser told the group what he did for a job there was silence.”

As Joico’s vision director, Scumaci is working hard with the brand to dispel the stigma that’s far too often attached to hairdressing. “My dream is when the next 16-year-old gets to a position where they’re around the table with that group of people, there isn’t silence when they say they’re a hairdresser,” Scumaci says.

While the spirited Scumaci believes the change will happen over the next five to 10 years, he admits there’s still a lot that needs to happen to raise the social function of the hairdresser.

“There’s been a change in perception to a degree, but I work with different cultures and you find there are different ways that hairdressers are accepted in society from country to country.”

It’s all part of the reason Joico and Scumaci launched game-changing Salon I-Deas – an educational concept dedicated to empowering hairdressers and teaching them adaptable techniques they can make their own. “Salon I-Deas is the most crucial step we’re taking,” says Scumaci. He goes on to explain that, traditionally, hairdressing education has encouraged replication of looks rather than creativity. In contrast, what Scumaci, in partnership with Joico, has done is create techniques that allow hairdressers to celebrate their individuality. “It’s really bringing out everyone’s natural sensibility,” he says. 

As a third-generation hairdresser who recalls cutting hair when he was just eight or nine years old, Scumaci’s passion for seeing the industry get the respect it deserves runs in his blood.

“I’m using my position at Joico to make positive change through the power of education and it’s allowed me to spread that word on a global scale.” Although Scumaci and Joico are making significant strides, he believes we need to see a shift in the way creativity is embraced in the wider education system. 

“Hairdressers are very visual and creative but unfortunately that’s a skill that doesn’t always get celebrated in the early years of school.

“We need to put more pressure on governments to change the way schools value creativity. At the moment literacy is given so much attention and creativity isn’t. There needs to be a parallel. It starts at the roots. And it doesn’t matter if it’s hairdressing or other creative careers, when this happens they’ll get valued.”

Scumaci’s also a staunch proponent of hairdressers being the change they want to see. “We need to pull up our socks, stand up and be proud. A lot of hairdressers are, but, in general, it would be great for all hairdressers to realise what they have to offer.”

Scumaci draws inspiration from London in the “swinging sixties” and the lasting impact his good friend and mentor Vidal Sassoon has had on him:

“He had his staff wear suits and command a greater level of respect because at the end of the day I’m not just a hairdresser, I’m a hairdresser. And that’s the mantra that I would like hairdressers to adopt.”

Easy Breezy

Of all the muses fashion has tapped over the years, Bob Marley is not at the top of the list – at least not for a womenswear label. But the revered reggae star is responsible for at least the name of one fashion brand: Johnny Was, inspired by the eponymous track on Marley’s 1976 album Rastaman Vibration. In 1987, the Los Angeles-based label was founded by Eli Levite, who had played that infectious song, a favourite of his children, so many times he cemented the lyric “Johnny was a good man” into his consciousness. While not going as far as designing clothes in Rasta colours, Johnny Was does favour vintage and bohemian looks that reflect the artsy Californian beach lifestyle. It’s an antidote to fast fashion.

“The embroidery, the prints and the colour combinations are quite different from any other brands I have seen,” says Marilyn McLaughlan, owner of New Zealand fashion retailer Kimberleys. McLaughlan says she is proud to be the only one distributing the brand in New Zealand. “I was in Paris checking out the stands at Tranoï [the international fashion trade show],” she explains. “It was very crowded, with a huge number of designer stands, but to me this one stood out. I approached them to buy exclusively for New Zealand and I haven’t regretted that decision. And that was seven years ago! I still love it that much.” The Johnny Was woman is confident and free-spirited, McLaughlan adds, whether she’s dressing up, jet-setting around the globe or just walking out of the surf. “Each piece can be worn in many ways, from beach to dinner. It’s all in the styling.”

The Johnny Was brand falls into six collections: Johnny Was, JWLA, 3J Workshop, Biya, Pete & Greta and 4 Love & Liberty, all helmed by designer Biya Ramar with the exception of 4 Love & Liberty, a project of Christy Whitley. Each aesthetic is distinct but united by beautiful fabrics such as silk, voile and velvet as well as embellishments of lace, embroidery and beading, done in a vintage, beatnik style.

Although her fashion business, now with 13 stores in five cities around the country, deals in several international and homegrown clothing brands – including her own labels Episode, Marilyn Seyb, Marilyn Seyb Jeune and Marilyn Seyb Glamour – McLaughlan says Johnny Was will always occupy a special place in her heart. “I can’t help myself. I have so many pieces,” she laughs. “I think my new favourite will be the divine silk print I just saw in the Los Angeles showrooms. I can’t wait until delivery in 2016.”