"I wanted to create my vision where I’m not trying to follow anybody but to create how I see the hair and how it should be in a picture"
He’s come a long way from growing up in Syria to now having his work grace covers such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Glamour, Hair Stylist Riad Azar talks about what beauty means to him, his love for New York women and his new passion—photography.
Like many beauty mavens, Riad was introduced into the fashion world by watching his mother design dresses when he was a boy. He would watch her meet with clients, create, sketch and design various pieces. By the time he turned thirteen, his interest was piqued into the world of hair as his best friend, who worked in a local hair salon, would frequently visit to cut his mother’s hair. “I would tell him, ‘Give me the brush, I will do it!’ and he said, ‘No, let me teach you,’” explains Azar. Little by little he learned more about the artistry of hair cutting and styling and starting doing his mother’s hair, then aunts and cousins. “I really did not plan on doing hair. It just happened,” said Azar.
His drive would lead him to the fashion capital of the world—Paris, where Azar trained at the Franck Rausch Academy and the National Institute of Hairdressing. But his heart drove him to the Big Apple where he jumped right in and started working on runway shows for Gucci, Dior and Michael Kors. New York was and is the perfect place for Azar as it is an everyday inspiration for him. He loves observing people and the women of New York who have infinite style and beauty. “New York women are modern. They live in a very hectic city and are very business oriented, they have to look chic but not fussy and not high maintenance…I feel like [NY women] are modern, minimalistic fresh,” says Azar.
Living in a city that is constantly on-the-go and the competition is literally breathing down your neck, how does Azar challenge himself as a hair stylist? “It’s not always just the talent. You really have to network, get to know more people and get those people to see your talents. It is always like there is no satisfaction point,” explains Azar. “It’s being patient and working continuously. Creating better work and know that it doesn’t happen overnight.” He constantly peruses european fashion magazines to stay up-to-date, to know what’s to come for the next season and inspires him to constantly re-invent.
Azar is creatively evolving on a 24/7 basis and one day decided that he wanted to put himself in control behind the camera and started shooting. With a blog on Tumblr called “Hairography by Riad Azar”, he started shooting and doing hair the way he saw it. “I wanted to create my vision where I’m not trying to follow anybody but to create how I see the hair and how it should be in a picture,” Azar says. “It is basically expressing my philosophy of how I see women. When I look at the blog, I feel like I can finally translate it 100% fully the way I see it.” Between shoots for his blog, Azar keeps busy working on both coasts with clients such as british music artists Neon Hitch and X-Factor’s Rebecca Ferguson and he just wrapped up an editorial shoot for Tatler. What makes Azar the ultimate team player on set? “I think it’s analyzing – the perception. It is not a physical tool. When I look at a model or any woman in general, it’s important to have the ability to see who she is and how she can look better instantly in a short time.”
If he has a moment to catch his breath, he can often be spotted frequenting his favorite joint in Soho – Café Gitane. “I feel like it’s maintained the level of interesting clientele from actors, celebrities to models but in a very casual way. I love the food and it seems you’re always running into somebody you know. It’s kind of fun.” And if you’re in New York, he may be “spotting” you on the streets.
—by Lorna Soonhee Umphrey
Photos: Courtesy of riadazar.com