TEO REN FENG: If you were not a hairstylist, what would you be?
ROSSANO FERRETTI: When I was a little boy, my teachers used to tell my parents that I ought to be an architect or designer. But I came from a very little village where it was difficult to leave, and going to study in Florence or Venice at that time, was like going to the moon today. It was a very different world. My grandfather who had been a barber made me promise to try out hairdressing school. I did and I liked it. When I was 15, I asked my father to let me go to London because the pictures of hairstyles that I'd seen from there, had elements of architecture in it. It was the first bob—the first geometric haircut out of “Swinging London”, so I went there and learnt how to cut a bob in 3 days. It was unprecedented given that most people take a year to master it, and that was when I knew I had something in my blood; a special talent. Now I spend the rest of my life trying to destroy the geometrical method.
REN FENG: How is the Rossano Ferretti haircut, a cut above the rest?
ROSSANO: The Rossano Ferretti "Method" is what has really changed the concept of hair in the last decade, and the only way to understand what it is, is to have a haircut with us. Yes, it is beautiful to see a geometrical haircut, but our hair cannot be treated in that way because it is not naturally geometrical. Your hair cannot be worked with when it is wet, because of the weight and lines that are not there when it is dry. We move around a lot, and if you don't follow the movement of your hair, you will never have a beautiful haircut. The bespoke experience is completely different because our method works uniquely with every kind of hair.
If you don't follow the movement of your hair, you will never have a beautiful haircut.
REN FENG: When you were just starting out in your career, did you ever imagine creating a signature "Method" and a global empire of salons and products?
ROSSANO: You should speak to my mama about this, because what I'm going to tell you might sound crazy. I’ve had a vision from a very, very young age to change the industry and create a name for myself. I wanted to be a hairdresser but I was not happy with the culture and concepts like salon presentations. I basically didn't like many things about my industry from a very early point, which is why I started in the fashion business before beauty salons.
REN FENG: Tell me more about your vision.
ROSSANO: When I started talking about following the natural growth of the hair, people thought I was completely insane. “What is this guy talking about?” I was talking about being organic and natural 25 years ago, and in the last decade, that approach has changed the hair industry. I spent the years prior to that being the crazy guy, another decade teaching, and now, being seen as the guru of the industry. That is the world for you.
REN FENG: How did you feel being labelled as “the crazy guy”?
ROSSANO: I was a very lonely person throughout my life in many ways, as I was the only person who lived and breathed my vision. How many people can share your vision if they don't understand it; because it is 10, 20 years ahead of everything else… that was the most difficult part.
REN FENG: Did you ever question your purpose and goal at any point?
ROSSANO: Many times. I hit a crossroad when I decided to write my book on "il metodo". I was 33, had just opened my salon to great success in Parma and could have easily decided that I didn't want to go further, and stay in Parma to live a normal life with some good money. I could also be with my family everyday instead of travelling so much. But I really wanted to share with the next generation not just my journey in beauty and technique, but also my ethos, so we can grow that together. Writing that book changed my life.
REN FENG: Do you think you are someone who would have been happy simply living in Parma?
ROSSANO: My life would be a million times easier in every aspect if I had not chosen this route, but I'm where I am right now, and I wouldn’t have it otherwise.
REN FENG: What is a successful business to you?
ROSSANO: Success is something that makes you sick. I don't think that I am a successful man. People confuse success with money or leisure. For me, I am driven to create something, and to make an impact. I've been doing this all my life but for me, every morning is a new opportunity. I'm still working on my dream and the vision is still there. It may exist for another 10 to 15 years, or just another 3 days, I don't know. But I want to contribute to my industry, all around the world. People think that I've done and achieved so much and that counts as being successful, but to me, it doesn't mean anything.
I've proven in the last decades that I've always thought ahead of others.
REN FENG: What means something to you then?
ROSSANO: Passion, love, exchange. . . respect and creating a harmonious environment around me, as well as giving others opportunity. I'm happy that Diego [Fiorucci] and Christian [Serafini] are here with me today, after 20 years. We’re growing together and being able to provide opportunities and challenge people in their work is a big thing for me, because very few have the opportunity to do what they love. Some just work for survival, so if you have the chance to do something you love, you are very lucky.
REN FENG: Surely there has to be a line between being passionate about your craft and being a businessman.
ROSSANO: I will never be a businessman, and I'm not interested in being a businessman. I’ve been obliged sometimes to think like one, but my passion and my art are my business. Strategically, I am a genius. And I've proven in the last decades that I've always thought ahead of others. But that doesn't mean being a businessman, it means being a visionary. For me, money is not the only goal in life—it's just part of the game.
REN FENG: What does luxury mean to you?
ROSSANO: Time. [laughs] That's the real luxury I cannot afford today, because I have no time. But if you ask me in terms of experience, luxury is, in one word, emotion. You have no reason to spend $50,000 on a bag, $200,000 on a watch, or a million dollars on a car. You are buying an emotion.
REN FENG: Is there any difference between Rossano Ferretti, the man, and the brand?
ROSSANO: No. Both of them represent the same values, and I am very proud to remain true to myself and the brand. I never compromise, and I suppose that is what success means to me—to be consistent, with integrity.
My better moments are when I make people happy.
REN FENG: How do you feel about fame and recognition?
ROSSANO: My better moments are when I make people happy. I think that a smiling face in front of you after you have worked on your creation, is the best moment of recognition. And I hope that doing this interview with you will help my colleagues and those in the industry have a better understanding of beauty in a deeper way. There is such a lack of education in terms of beauty in the hair business. People pay more attention to skincare and makeup. . . yet hair is not really deeply explored.
REN FENG: You’ve lamented that there are many celebrity chefs today, which is not the case for hairdressers.
ROSSANO: That is something that I've been working on a lot, and hope to cultivate within the industry. However, realistically, very few people are visionaries and very few are talented enough to reach a certain level. There are many who can be good hairdressers, but very few are capable of changing the industry by inventing a haircut, colour or something. It is one thing to replicate and copy, and another to invent.
REN FENG: How have you changed the status quo?
ROSSANO: There's so much work to do, so much education, and it is a long process that won't come overnight. That is the reason why I open salons around the world—everywhere I go, I bring my team with me to educate people about the Rossano Ferretti method. Our mission is not just to make clients happy, but to educate others about a certain standard of beauty.
REN FENG: How important is having Beauty in your life?
ROSSANO: I'm here to create beauty. [chuckles] That being said, I’m someone who looks inwards, and it’s important to know more about a person other than their outer beauty. I invented the concept of 'consultations' over 30 years ago because I wanted to know and understand people first, before I create. It is impossible to create beauty if you don't know the person in front of you. Beauty for me is a bespoke way of thinking. You need to create harmony and proportion for a person and their body language. It's not just the face or eyes that speak to you. It goes beyond that and is much more complex—it’s what you see in their eyes.
REN FENG: Do hairdressers make good therapists?
ROSSANO: I think we are the best therapists in the world and it's not a joke. We should call ourselves therapists. I've worked with people from all walks: top models, royalty and regular folk, and trust me when I say that I make people happy with my work. We're not here to save lives: we don't do surgery or operate on hearts. We make people feel good. Who can do that in normal, everyday life? Nobody. It’s magnificent. Clients have been coming in these days to tell me: “Thank god you opened here.” And you know, who else can touch a girl’s head without getting splashed with a drink? [laughs] There is a form of intimacy… to touch a very private part... so yes, I think we are absolutely great therapists. If you need to speak to a friend, your hairdresser is probably one of the first people you can confide in.
What we do is art in real life—you can change a piece of furniture or painting 10 times if it is not perfect, but we have one shot to make it work.
REN FENG: Do you think the craft of hairdressing is underappreciated?
ROSSANO: What we do is art in real life—you can change a piece of furniture or painting 10 times if it is not perfect, but we have one shot to make it work. I feel that our profession should be considered in a much bigger way. People are happy to pay $1000 for an eye cream, but complain when a shampoo costs $50. Your hair is the same age as your skin, and the shampoo is just as beneficial for you, but people don’t realise.
REN FENG: What are your succession plans for the future?
ROSSANO: I don't have any plans because I am still very passionate about what I do. I'm 57, but I feel that what we've created is such a milestone that provides a lot of significance too. It's not just something for me alone, but the whole industry.
REN FENG: Do you think there is room to grow beyond what you have developed?
ROSSANO: Yes, there is always room to grow. Our method constantly evolves and my artistic team is always working on the next stages. I build the pillars, while my sister and the team develop on them. That's a very important part of the Rossano Ferretti world. Our mission is not just what we do, but what we think will happen in the upcoming years, as well as driving for a much better environment in the beauty industry.
REN FENG: Would you call yourself a purist?
ROSSANO: I'm super purist. If you speak to my sister, you will also be frightened by the purity in her thought and speech too. We are very pure and transparent in our work. There is nothing hidden or held back, and after this interview, you will know me. Transparency and the reality of things are the basis of my life. I cannot lie, you will see. [laughs]
REN FENG: So staying true to oneself…
ROSSANO: [interrupts] But that's the most successful part of a person! When you go to sleep—when you are alone and by yourself—that is when you know who you are. Your pillow tells you who you are.
REN FENG: Do you sleep really well every night then?
ROSSANO: I only manage a few hours of sleep each night, but I sleep very well. [laughs]
Edited by Wy-Lene Yap