Hair Stylist : Fritz Laboucane

A cut above and beyond
A cocktail crowd mingles gregariously in a blithe atmosphere, casually glancing at their watches. Next show starts in a half hour - plenty of time to put back a couple of Martinis. Backstage, a world-class styling team is far too experienced to be relaxing at a time like this. They feverishly put the finishing touches on stunningly sculpted hair, minutes away from the payoff. The show is a smashing success, and the biggest smile is on none other than Fritz Laboucane, Creative Director for Vidal Sassoon Canada.

All in a day’s work for Fritz, who spearheaded the majority of shows at Spring/Summer 2002 Toronto Fashion Week. We caught up with him at his Toronto office, where he discusses the closing show, Yolanda Ng.

“The challenge was to create a 1920’s sort of look with a waved area in the front and a sheer one in the back, modernizing it with aggressiveness.” A 17-year career at Vidal Sassoon has impacted a comprehensive view of fashion on this creative leader. “The designs also featured that hard-soft dichotomy, laser-cutting into soft leather. Additionally, we had to draw attention to the front of the girls. The photographer’s needs have to be taken into account.”

Touring southeast Asia, working on London Fashion Week and opening lines of communication between Vidal Sassoon’s worldwide bevy of salons and schools keeps Fritz both current on global trends and on the cutting edge. Vidal Sassoon customers appear to demand this level of expertise.

“Our customers are well-informed because they have access to global fashion. You can’t convince them to get a hairstyle they know isn’t trendy.” But is it really all about hair? “My clients come to me for guidance, and that goes from fashion to shoes to lipstick shades.”

Vidal Sassoon even releases a seasonal collection of hairstyles on cd-rom, leaving six months to think about what to wear with the new do’s. Talk about trend leadership.

Fritz began his career at Vidal Sassoon Canada in 1984 as an apprentice, and rose quickly in the organization.

“I was doing platform work at the trade shows, and getting media training at the same time.” This would definitely place Fritz as a major asset in the wake of Vidal Sassoon’s strategic shift a decade ago. “Over the past ten years, editorial has become a very important part of our campaign.” Fostering relationships with publicists has secured the company bragging rights to grooming Hollywood’s finest. Three years ago, the Hospitality Suite in the Hermitage Hotel in Los Angeles opened its doors to become the Oscar’s fashion house deluxe - it’s across the street. ”

Celebrities bring in the dresses they plan to wear and we put together a look. MAC is on location to take care of make-up. We like to think of it as a one-stop salon.

” As if that weren’t enough, Vidal Sassoon Canada gets swamped with bookings every September for the Toronto Film Festival.

While some are under the impression that Vidal Sassoon is a franchise organization, Fritz clarifies that all 26 salons and 13 academies worldwide are owned by Annie Humphries and Philip Rogers. “When Mr. Sassoon wanted to pursue other creative endeavours in the mid-1970’s, he personally passed the torch to Annie and Philip.”

They have obviously perpetuated and enhanced the vision that puts Vidal Sassoon in the upper echelons of hair styling.

“Our mission is to keep it pure and simple. To take something old and freshen it with something new.”

At 39, a realistic attitude keeps Fritz in touch with his customers.

“Not everyone wants a piece of art on their head. We go for the full statement - clothing, make-up, hair - that our models could take from the runway straight to the bar or otherwise into their lives.”

Fritz is enthusiastic after participating so extensively in Toronto Fashion Week.

“I feel quite strongly about the Canadian fashion industry. It’s the little engine that could. It’s an opportunity to build relationships with new designers. We want to work on creating styles that can carry from one Canadian designer to the next.”

One wonders what could possibly be on the horizon for this fashion dynamo. The answer is simple.

“Whenever I need a new challenge, Sassoon provides me with one.”

Daniel Cox, Fashion Editor
Marek Wlazlo, Photographer