When Michael Gordon created Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray in 2001, he made waves in the hair industry – literally – that are still being felt today, and not just because his saltwater texurising spray spawned a thousand imitations.
Gordon’s approach at the time – both creatively and in a business sense – was genuinely innovative. Rather than working with wholesale distributors, he sold Bumble’s coveted products exclusively through salons (he himself owned two, both in New York; others had to complete a rigorous application process in order to be considered). He also took a very different approach to styling: instead of trading on a strand-perfect, pristine look, Bumble and Bumble sold products off the back of an image that was much more relaxed and undone. Curl Crème did away with crunchy ringlets; Surf Spray offered a laid-back, day-at-the-beach look.
Gordon sold the brand to Estée Lauder in 2006 and made a documentary, Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, in 2010 while he let his non-compete clause ride out. Despite his passion and admiration for Sassoon, Gordon never worked there – a fact that is perhaps a defining feature of his career. “A lot of hairdressing names came out of Vidal Sassoon, and they all just did a version of that,” he says. “Bumble was about doing something that no one else had done. Not for the sake of it – just because it seemed silly to do what already existed.”
From the first Bumble and Bumble salon, opened in 1977 on East 56th Street that recreated the downtown vibe uptown (“What I wanted was an eclectic clientele: the people who had just left school, the artists, the mums, the teachers,” Gordon recalls), to harnessing the creativity he witnessed on magazine shoots and backstage at fashion shows, Gordon has always created not simply a salon or brand, but a cultural movement around hair.
His latest project is Hairstory. Tucked away from the bustle of downtown NYC, Hairstory Studio has been described as “The Warhol Factory of Hair” and is equal parts think tank, photo studio, art space and production house. Online, Hairstory shares with its audience not only images of real people that the studio artists have transformed, but their personal stories too, proving the case that everyone has a Hairstory.