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When in Rome: Finish is Everything!

Sam Villa

Author Sam Villa | Founding Partner of Sam Villa

Redken Exchange Academy Rome with Sam Villa

Working with the Redken Academy Tour, I have the opportunity to spread our education all over the world, and in late spring I spent a week each in Rome and Milan, Italy. My objective was to share with the Italians any New York trends that would interest their top clients at Italian salons. Because of New York’s fashion influence, Europeans tend to be hungry for what’s happening in New York. Milan also is a fashion center, so Italy has almost a rivalry with New York, and the two approach hair and fashion very differently. Italian fashion is classy, put-together, beautiful, handsome. New York is more about what’s going on in the streets.

On this tour I was collaborating with George Garcia, an up-and-coming Redken artist in the color category.We had about 125 models from the Mancini Agency come in the first day for casting. We were looking for females to cut and color, so those models had to be willing to change, and I also was looking for some long hair for dressing and finishing. George and I selected 12 models who were open to doing what we wanted to achieve. We prepped them that first day and also finished some of them so that the next day we could kick things off with a brief presentation of finished looks. Talco, an Italian design group with a trendy boutique, supplied the clothing. They had some wonderful stuff.

The story I brought from New York was that, in hair, short is the new long. I base that on what’s happening on the streets of Manhattan and what I see celebrities doing. So we talked a lot about “beyond the bob.” What’s next?

The look coming up is very Mia Farrow, dated but looking fresh again. Keira Knightley is wearing that, and for the older woman Sharon Stone is the new Jane Fonda. Fringe is getting longer; crowns are getting shorter but long enough that they can either be spiky or lie flat, smooth and sleek. You also can tuck the hair behind the ears and make it look even shorter. Right now versatility is very much key, and short hair is the most versatile look you can have.

Not everyone wants to have hair that short, so mid-lengths are big, too, and volume is coming back. Think of Marilyn Monroe when her hair was chin-length, curled, wedgy, stacked out. Rene Russo wore it that way in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Also, there are secrets to giving clients with longer hair some options, like pulling the hair into a ponytail so it looks like a bob.

Tricks like that were part of what I wanted to share, and I have a lot of them! I showed the Italians how to crimp the hair and then go over it with a curling iron. Crimping isn’t new, but now we’re using a mini-crimping iron followed by the curling iron. From a distance it doesn’t even look crimped, so all you see is this unique consistency, a different pliability.

Redken Exchange Academy Rome - Curls

The day following our presentation and discussion, the stylists all came back and we had a hands-on workshop. They each had a mannequin, and I walked half of them through a haircut while George took the other half for a color hands-on, and then after lunch we switched.

Italian stylists are some of the best finishers in the world. I love to read Italian Vogue, where you can see how skilled the finish is. But we introduced something different: blow-dry as you go. As soon as you cut a section, blow it dry. That gives you more control over the finish, and at the same time you can tweak the haircut. At Redken we always say, “Go for maximum results with minimum effort.” Today the finish sells your work, because there’s a lot of Hollywood glamour, and this new blow-drying method really motivated the Italian hairdressers.

So I talked about how this is the year of finishing and I introduced Italy to my line of Sam Villa tools, which I’m developing through my new company, Allvus. Every time I dropped a comb, I let the person who picked it up keep it. I also gave away a pair of scissors to everyone who answered a question right. It was fun! I showed them how we use our hot tools in unconventional ways to make curls look different. Watching the Italians’ skill level made me think that here at home we need to work on our finishing skills more. The Italians have great eyes and hands. I came back totally excited and motivated to make myself an even better finisher. But they like a lot of structure and rules, so I had to show them why Americans are all about breaking rules!

For the following two days I conducted a “Train the Trainer” program. I took all of the Redken artists and trained them in the Redken way, which is making the audience the hero. How? As the facilitator you help the audience discover the information rather than just giving them the information. Today’s audience is more intelligent than ever, so you must be interactive to keep their attention. I had to break into the Italian culture—Milan was a tougher audience than Rome—and replace it with the Redken culture, which is full of energy. You know when you’ve walked into a Redken classroom, because everyone’s up and clapping.

The Redken way is just contagious. An older gentleman, maybe close to 70 years old, was in the room to help with the sound and technical part of the “Train the Trainer” presentation. By the end of the day, he was jumping up and clapping! He wasn’t even a hairdresser, but he told me, “I’m walking out of here a different person.” Amazing!

I really enjoyed my two weeks there. I’m Mexican, so I can understand Spanish and could pick up a lot of the Italian I was hearing. I do love the Italian language. I also really love the food! I spent one day just walking around Rome, ordering cacio e pepe, which is a spaghetti type of pasta with cacio cheese, olive oil and cream. I was looking at the architecture and seeing how people were dressed, what their hair was like. I listened to their music, watched their music videos. Doing something like that for a day is how I “fill my fish bowl” back up. There’s nothing like traveling to replenish your creative fish bowl.

Redken Exchange Academy Rome - Sam Villa & George Garcia