31 January 2023

Estetica Exclusive: American Crew’s David Raccuglia on 2020 All-Star Challenge

Top groomers, barbers and stylists from around the globe are soon to be competing in American Crew’s completely revamped 2020 All-Star Challenge. Estetica’s Sergi Bancells met with American Crew Founder, David Raccuglia, to talk about this year’s competition and the amazing reward the five international winners will be getting!

So, David, what’s going on with the All Star Challenge this year?
[David Raccuglia]: “A lot! As you have been our partner in the press and covered it beautifully every year since our initiation, you know that this year we have decided to make it a whole different ball game. And a lot of it is based on the whole category of men’s grooming getting so much bigger. Our original intention was to find the global stylist’s interpretation of what the American Crew Man was. So that was what they submitted and how we judged them, based on trend and style and technical ability, including every detail like choice of model, choice of haircut – everything.
This year we’re still keeping the criteria very high, we’ll be judging them on technical skill, balance, and proper choice of style. But we’re increasing it because we’re going to have five winners in five different categories and we’ll be choosing imagery based on these different categories. So instead of fifteen countries being narrowed down for a competition with one winner, we will pick five international winners, bring them to Los Angeles, and do a full-blown editorial. So instead of the competition, each one of these stylists will be colleagues and will do their work for American Crew together in L.A. We’re going to shoot on the streets and we’re going to shoot in a studio – it’s going to be as if American Crew were doing a campaign!

Have the five categories been defined already?
[Phoenix Thomson, AC Senior Education Manager, joins the conversation]: “Yes, one is Barbering –so the mastery of skills, fading, etc.– the next one is High Texture –so shape and control with high texture shapes–, then Length –how to cut men’s hair longer and keep him masculine at the same time–, Retro –so creating something very classic–, and then Trend –so more on the creative side–. And this will reflect on the editorial shoot that David does.

What’s your advice for the barbers and groomer entering the competition?
[David Raccuglia]: “It’s not a time to experiment. It’s a time to show the skills you’ve mastered. Someone who is a master barber shouldn’t decide to do long hair that day. This is something where you will be judged on all aspects of technical excellence: the overall look, the strategy. So it’s important to put forth your best effort on what you truly love.
[Phoenix Thomson]: “Absolutely! Stick to what you are great at. I want to see a beautifully tapered hairline. I want to see a full profile when judging. It’s very important to me to see everything. Impeccable styling. Spend time on the finish –a perfect shine or a matte finish– whatever you choose to do. And the shape.

Do you have what it takes? Entries for the American Crew 2020 All-Star Challenge will be accepted through March 1st, 2019 here: allstarchallenge.americancrew.com

In the past this was a unique competition because everyone was willing to come and work with you, but this is next level, because it’s like being part of the brand, doing something together with you and Phoenix Thomson, as if there were really creating the new campaign.
[David Raccuglia]: “Yes, and we’re going to be able to focus on the technical excellence of what they won. What I like about this is that instead of fifteen people competing against each other –there weren’t really problems–, but maybe not everyone was sure if they were happy with the models, and different things. Now all five winners come and we’re all in it together to make the perfect campaign with their hairstyles. So we’re very excited. We have a feeling that the work is going to be outstanding.

I remember that this was always an important opportunity for you, as the founder of American Crew, to meet with people who use American Crew products every day.
[David Raccuglia]: “Yes. First off it’s probably my favorite time of the year because I get to celebrate with international stylists that I’ve never been able to meet and see what they’re representing. It’s part of what makes American Crew knowledgeable about the global category. We get to see what’s going on in all these countries, what these stylists are feeling, their trends, what they’re representing. So it brings a lot of knowledge to our brand. It’s not that we are American Crew, this is our brand, Phoenix is going ot put a campaign together, our American people are going to do it and this is the way it looks. We love the fact that we can celebrate globally people who can bring us their point of view and make our brand that much more international.

David, whenever you do a collection there is usually a story behind it. Now with five international winners, will this still be the case?
[David Raccuglia]: “We’re ultimately going to have to let all the winners inspire us in how we style and pull together a collection. But the reality is that American Crew’s collections – I’m really not that involved. Phoenix and Paul Wilson create the collections based on hair trends, our own inner-company collections. So my involvement entails figuring out how to photograph it so that it represents a modern photographic style.
We’re working on a couple of new collections right now, and Phoenix has told me a little! (laughs) So I want to be very clear. I’m not the one who creates the collections. I’m the one who celebrates it through a photographic technique and I work with them on it!
With this one it’s different, because we’re going to look at the final winners – we have a lot of clothing stylists, companies that we like, so we’re going to style it accordingly. It’s always difficult when you shoot more than one man together. So we have to figure out how to shoot a collection and a campaign with five different hairstyles and five different guys, and then they’ll be some sort of thread through styling, through lighting and stuff like that, that ties it all together. We can’t just force that in because we have to use the imagery from the international group coming into the competition to inspire us as to how we form this collection.

Sounds amazing! After celebrating the 25th anniversary last year, what’s next with American Crew?
[David Raccuglia]: “Even though 26 is not a celebratory year, we feel it’s going to be one of our best. We love what’s going on with the All-Star Challenge, we launched a very strong Style Makers’ campaign, which is all about the professional’s relationship between the consumer and the stylist. It’s very L.A., it’s bright colors, it’s very, very upbeat, showing how important and how good a man feels after he leaves the barber’s chair, looking good and cleaned up. Then he goes back into his normal life, and that’s a big part of his success and the great feeling that men have. It’s a first for us. We’re looking at this campaign in a very unique way. It is all about just being cool and trend forward. It’s about celebrating what the relationship is and what a haircut does for a man’s life.

Well, it’s got to be also about the culture that you’ve created.
[David Raccuglia]: “It always surprises me every time I go somewhere and somebody says, “What do you do?” and I say, “I work with American Crew,” – it really has expanded in 25 years: a couple of generations of guys, a massive amount of users out there now. And the reality of it is –I feel– yes, we have the best grooming product on the planet. But what we also have are the best groomers on the planet, through our education and our commitment to education. These hairdressers and barbers are the best examples, they are our army, they are our soldiers. When they do those beautiful haircuts on men and make them happy and apply our products, that’s the magical combination. So we wanted to celebrate that with style makers. It’s not just our product. It’s our product being painted on the perfect palette that these barbers and hairdressers have executed – technically perfect haircuts for the hair and texutre of the man who is using our product.

Over the years there were surprising campaigns from American Crew, like the Elvis and the Harley-Davidson ones. What kind of new partnerships or launches can we expect in the future? 
[David Raccuglia]: “That’s interesting, because we have looked at many opportunities since the Elvis and the Harley campaigns. We loved both of those and they were very brand-enhancing for us. But one of the things we realize now as a company is that what got us to the dance was education. We were one of the first companies to be technically obsessed with teaching both hairdressers who had never touched men’s hair or never used a clipper how to barber. Now we’re just as obsessed teaching barbers how to technically use scissors and combs. So we have both. Our future right now is all about education. That’s one of the most important things that we have on our docket: figuring out, at this juncture, 26 years later, how to make sure our education is fresh, best-in-class. Instead of partnering with somebody else, this is our new mantra, and Phoenix is working on that right now. We have these conversations on how we can do this. And the reality is that we have a global presence. I think people like you, who have always worked with pros, will love what we’re doing with education. We’re taking this new curriculum that Phoenix and we have been working on into a whole new sort of positioning. It’s not like we’re abandoning anything, because what we’ve done we’re very proud of. But we’re putting a modern look into this and we’re dissecting the categories so that people can take the courses accordingly. It’s very exciting stuff.

For more information, please visit allstarchallenge.americancrew.com


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