In the mid 1980’s, twenty one year old Federico Calce set off from Milan on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. Little did he realize that this trip would end up revolutionizing the landscape of the high end hair and beauty world.
When he arrived in New York, the excited young man immediately started looking for a Hairstylist’s job.
He had trained at his family’s store in Milan and now he wanted nothing more than to be able to prove to his brother Rolando that he could be “Someone” and not just a kid living in his brother’s Shadow.
A well known hairdesser in Rome,Sergio Valenti,put Federico in touch with Bergdorf Goodman and the rest is History. The young man worked his way very quickly into becoming the chief stylist at Bergdorfs and stayed at the store for 5 years. However the burning ambition inside this man made him leave the safe heaven of The store and venture out onto his own.
His first salon was on fifth avenue and 55 th street and from very early on, he realized that the weather in New York was not kind to people’s Hair because of the high humidity. Therefore he started to use a new treatment called thermal reconditioning, whereby hair could be made to stay straight and frizz free for 6 months at a time, without having to use a hairdryer. This was an incredible success and his clients soon all wanted to try it.
He then designed the more advanced jesseter hairdryer, an invention using pure oxygen that dries and seals the hair cuticle from the inside out with twenty-seven plastic tubes. The result: polished, straight hair without frizz.
When Federico started his salon he realized that he had to think of ways to set him apart from all the other stylists. Therefore when the Peninsular hotel whose own salon closed at 7 pm nightly, asked him if he could style hotel guests hair after hours, he immediately said of course! His 24 hour salon was therefore born and he tells me now virtually every hotel in the city uses his stylists for this service.
While this interview was taking place one of his team actually arranged 2 such appointments , whereby they would be going to blow and dry a celebrity’s hair before they made an appearance on a show that night. Many of the tv morning hosts have this service in their rooms at 3 am.The salon’s phone will always be answered at all hours of the night and a guaranteed service is available within the hour. When I asked Federico whether he would ever answer the phone in the middle of the night he Quickly replied, “Absolutely!”
The salon has many celebrity clients and royalty. Some of these clients will have their hair done every day while they are in the city, even if it is for a period of several months.
Another huge part of his year are the twice yearly fashion shows in New York during February and September. Each of these shows have 20 designers with 24-36 models each. He will spend weeeks planning the events and will take 12 stylists with him to the shows to work on the models hair. It is an almost miltary precision style process.
I asked Federico whether he wanted to be like his brother in Italy who has nearly 200 salons now and he said, “Absolutely not”! He went onto to explain that his success was because he was not only exclusive, but also because his work is based on an individualistic level.
Many of his clients have been with him for 20 years or more. He explained that the average life span of a client with other salons is 2-3 years, due to boredom with the same look, over and over again. He is able to command loyalty from his clients because he knows them on a level where he can tell them excactly what he feels about the style they will look good in. He will always be prepared to try a new style on his client in order they will stay excited with their look.
Federico is a technical genius at styling hair, but equally as important is the fact that every client is like his long lost family. He welcomes each and every client in such a warm welcoming way, that you feel like a movie star. It is a pleasure to witness.
As I closed up this fascinating chat with Federico I asked him in one line what really describes his work. With his charming smile he replied, “I want to make my clients look beautiful on the outside but at the same time make them feel even more beautiful on the inside”.
I will look forward to following this man’s journey which only goes from strength to strength.