Redken’s Justin Isaac is a prodigy in the industry with a journey and career that most young colorist model as an example of a perfectly successful career with a brand.
Justin travels the world, and helps educate others using the brand as the vehicle through which he teaches the new generations of Redken professionals. We met up with him and asked him about his journey and intention with which he has practiced the beautiful art of coloring – get to know him better below!
How did your journey with Redken begin?
“My journey with Redken has been an amazing ride. This is my 19th year here and I can’t believe it. So I have already celebrated my quinceañera, we’ve been there. The training that they give us and the opportunities that they let us be a part of are amazing. To become bigger and better than ourselves is life changing. A lot of the people that I’ve known for those 19 years we’ve become a family. So yeah. Redken is home.“
How did you see the evolution of the brand in the last 19 years?
“Well I think it’s been a huge evolution since moving to New York after the L’Oréal acquisition, getting a new identity, upping the ante, and started aligning ourselves with fashion. It’s about reaching to the heart of hairstylists, not just the mind and the money aspect of their lives. So we have evolved to finding our way in who we are at our core, we’re about the learner and making people live better and earn better. I love it because saw the evolution from a science-driven family to now a more open idea that embraces fashion – we are the leaders at fashion week!“
- How do you feel being part of a brand that means something other than the name?
- “It’s just awesome. It’s like working out in Nike. You’re a Nike person, you’re not going to be walking around in Adidas – Nike is your thing. It’s more than just buying the stuff, it’s buying into a lifestyle and there are people that are Redken people. They might not be part of our Redken Artist Tribe, but they’re part of the spirit, about having fun and being creative, and improving people’s lives, and taking the opportunity to make a good living but also make people feel good.“
Tell us about the experience of being a Redken American stylist overseas.
“It’s amazing where Redken has gone! When I started traveling with the brand, we couldn’t get people to clap. They were people that loved the product, but we just couldn’t make people clap. It would be me and Sam Villa… and we didn’t let them off the hook, we kept doing it, and year after year we would get one person, then two people, five people… and now it’s amazing to go international and see the Redken culture on fire, just blooming!“
- Barcelona’s Redken Symposium on Tour last April was huge for Redken…
- “Absolutely! Spain is such an up and coming market for us, and there is so much potential there. The artistry you see there is amazing. I really think that the best artists are in Europe. I love our American artists, but our best artists are in Europe and it’s my deepest wish that all the American people see the international classes at the Symposium next year in Vegas. Because that is the gift of the Symposium, being able to see cultures and hairdressers you wouldn’t see normally. And Barcelona was incredible. As an American going there, I was humbled to go and do my craft in a country where they have been doing it longer than me – but that’s the beauty of it. The language… 75% of the people there didn’t speak English, so I think that for me it comes to emotion not needing a language. I speak hair and I speak in emotion to hair color, and that helps me when there is a language barrier, because people feel what I’m doing. I have learned to utilize my body, because there are other ways to teach apart from literal words you can use.“
So… are you already working on the Vegas’ 2017 Redken Symposium?
“Oh yes… We actually flew right back from Barcelona to New york for three days of planning straight from there. So we get together for three days and chose teams and got a concept, work, plan, skype, do different conference calls… and then we hash it altogether in those three days. We put out a plan. This is what we want our stage to look like. This are the models we’d love, this is the DJ, the chandelier… whatever it is that we want!“
Can you unveil anything about the show?
“Well, I think what’s incredible about the Vegas show is again, speaking to international artists as we are a global company. There will be people from all over the world working with us, and we have more international artists on stage next year than we have never had! Every time someone asks me about Symposium, they ask what classes they should take – so obviously I will suggest my class (laughs) but if you were someone from my salon, I’d tell you to go see this person from Germany. Go see this person from Spain. Go see this person from Italy. Because you just don’t have an opportunity to see them. Truly this event is more of an international Symposium not just by people that are coming to see it, but by actual artists that will be sharing their work.“
Another area where Redken is making some amazing changes is the digital and social media presence, what do you think about this whole new world?
“You know, it’s crazy, it’s a whole new game. It’s like we just got off the main stage color and right after us is three young up-and-coming artists that are social media stars. They don’t work for a company, they work out of their small salons, but they put all of their images on social media an got a following. It’s interesting and scary in a sense. One way that this is scary is that it’s nothing new. You could do something and before there was an unveiling of it, and there was momentum and buildup and a campaign – and now once somebody takes a picture, it’s done. So even though I believe you can’t do anything new, everything has been done in some era or time-frame with hair, you can do something new today and someone in this room took a picture of it, then it’s done. And there’s people all over the world who have taken it and run with it and renamed it. So on one hand it’s scary with that, but on the other hand it’s good because the reach of which we are able to pass information is phenomenal. The reality is, and we totally believe this at Redken in our education, once you give it away it is no longer yours. Once you create it, it’s not yours. I know for myself, social media is something I have to have a responsibility to it because people want to see photos of the models, or photos backstage. People want to see what we are doing, and hey want to see more than what is out on the show floor. People want to be backstage and be part of something bigger. So I make it my point to take more pictures and post my work because I realized people want to see it. It’s not about me showing off, it’s about what I am doing because people want to see it and it inspires them. You have to stay up to what is the hottest thing.“
If you could speak about the signature content that you teach, what would it be?
“My signature concept that I teach would be creative color. I would teach this because for me it’s important to understand what the trends are as well as the fads, where we’ve been to know where we’re going. More importantly, is that you do work from your heart and is personal to whoever is infant of you, so the idea of creative color is to instead of teaching you how to do this look now, teaching you the pieces of the puzzle to be able to make whatever you want. So understanding how you can use shapes on the head to how to do the lines you could use, to hair paint, to a lot of forms in application, so that when somebody sits down in front of you they bring you a picture where you are able to break it down and you know what to do. You’re not just a technician. I want everyone to be a critical thinker and color with intention, not jus go on auto-pilot. I call them creative principles, as a foundation. These are my principles of creativity that allow me to make the choices that I make when people ask, why would you put those two colors together, or how did you know to add that light piece by the face? It’s because of these creative principles that I have created for myself all along, that now I have a better understanding. It gives me the strength and the courage to make these looks. I know what it is going to be before it happens, so that is at the core of where I am. Trends are going to change all the time.“
I’m curious, where did you get the Color Ninja nickname?
“Well, you cannot give yourself a nickname! (Laughs) There’s no street-cred there. So it was not myself, I was in Italy doing a tour with Sam Villa and Chris Baran and it was one of the people on the team that named me “Color Ninja”. I think that was in 2008, so the name has stuck with me since then. It’s catchy…! (Laughs)“
How do you balance this strong activity you have with Redken with your professional and personal life?
“Well, the balance of life is something that I think you have to always strive to do and I think each of us make choices depending on the life you want to live. There’s some things that are non-negotiable and there are some things that are and we have to compromise on. So for me, this year has been very hectic and I have traveled a lot, and i’m involved in a lot of things. Redken, but for me it’s not work, it’s my dream. I never had a dream about owning a salon, or managing a team or an academy, but I always had a dream about being a color director in a company. So for me, traveling an inspiring people is my dream. That being said, yes it wears you down – but for me, I need to take care of myself and go to the gym everyday, or every other day, especially on the road, I need to eat better and sleep better.“
- You still live in Los Angeles?
- “Yes. When I’m home, I have to take time, that is one of the reasons why I live in Los Angeles: I need to go to the beach and unwind, I have a great group of friends that I grew up with where I am just J, not Justin Isaac. They don’t get the celebrity stuff, so we all need those people to keep us grounded. For me, I pick and chose what I do. If I am going to be home, I have to grow. Impact others. It’s quality over quantity. Sitting in my garden. I enjoy my puppies. If all we do is travel and spin the wheels, then we shut down. We have to enjoy the life.“