Remembrances
5:24 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Hairstylist Vidal Sassoon Was Fashion Revolutionary

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:19 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The beauty industry has lost one of its titans. The hair stylist Vidal Sassoon died today at his home in Los Angeles after suffering an undisclosed illness. He was 84. NPR's Neda Ulaby has this remembrance.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Vidal Sassoon was emblematic of an era.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHE LOVES YOU")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One, two...

THE BEATLES: (Singing) She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. She loves you...

ULABY: The Swinging Sixties, Carnaby Street, Mod London. The proper look for the well-dressed bird was a miniskirt from Mary Quant, go-go boots and an angular bob from Vidal Sassoon. He described its science in a documentary about himself from two years ago.

VIDAL SASSOON: It was the last cut of geometry that in essence covered the whole head.

ULABY: One of the most elegant and influential stylists of the 20th century was born into abject poverty. His single mother put him into an orphanage at age 5 because she did not have the money to care for him. At 14, he went to work as a shampoo boy. But after World War II, Sassoon got serious about his Jewish heritage. He fought for Israel in 1948. When he got back, he took speech lessons to impress the glamorous clients he wanted, including movie stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ROSEMARY'S BABY")

JOHN CASSAVETES: (as Guy Woodhouse) What else was in that drink?

MIA FARROW: (as Rosemary Woodhouse) It's alive. Guy, it's moving.

ULABY: Mia Farrow's haircut in "Rosemary's Baby" made her huge eyes even bigger. Sassoon's five-point style was influenced, he said, by Bauhaus architecture and made him a worldwide fashion brand. He opened beauty schools around the world and created hair care products reflecting his ethos: liberation from styling, wash and wear, blow and go.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: Thank you, Vidal.

SASSOON: If you don't look good, we don't look good.

ULABY: Later in life, Vidal Sassoon turned towards philanthropy. He founded the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and became deeply involved in the plight of victims of Hurricane Katrina. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.