It's an incredible narrative befitting a new arrival in Tinseltown: From humble beginnings growing up in a tiny Italian village as the grandson of a barber and son of a hairdresser, Rossano Ferretti at age 15 leaves home on a quest to conquer the world of hairstyling in the mid 1970s.
En route to becoming an international sensation, he's mentored by the legendary Vidal Sassoon's team, and amid the swirl of London's swinging fashion scene sets his scissors to the heads of supermodels, coifs celebrities and opens, to date, 19 hair salons (Ferretti calls them hair spas) in the priciest neighborhoods around the planet.
Ferretti's Beverly Hills salon opened in September and recently he swept through town to look it over and teach a class for the stylists on his haircutting technique —it's patented in Europe — called Metodo Rossano Ferretti. The salon is all minimal elegance: a palette of black, gray and white; Philippe Starck-designed chairs; opulent chandeliers and handpicked fabric on select furniture that adds warmth to what could be an otherwise intimidating two-story space including upstairs manicure-pedicure stations and private hairstyling rooms. Wall-sized vintage black-and-white photos of his mother and grandfather watch over the work below.
The staff is surprisingly welcoming and gracious. Ferretti is dapper in a dark suit and scarf — charming as he touches a shoulder here and a shoulder there as he speaks. "I love women," says Ferretti, smiling. "And I'm always working to create beauty, sensuality and sexuality — sexy in the right sense of the word, not in the vulgar sense."
But make no mistake, he is also about business — possibly even world domination. Ferretti "is incredibly ambitious, which he backs by action," says Sassoon, whom Ferretti doesn't call just a friend but also the only person he really respects in the beauty industry. Sassoon developed the well-known five-point cut, a version of the classic bob, and coined the phrase, "If you don't look good, we don't look good." Upon his name a beauty empire was created.
"Vidal changed the [beauty] industry," Ferretti says. Part artist, part mogul — Ferretti makes it clear that his goal is to do the same. His eponymously named salons in locales including Paris, London, New York, Madrid, Milan, Mumbai, Vienna and now Beverly Hills are just the tip of his ambitions. Ferretti has started hairstyling academies and is working on hairdresser seminars for China, India, the U.S., the U.K., Brazil and Russia. He's done hair for fashion's A-list, including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani and supermodels and celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Lady Gaga and Linda Evangelista. And he is a global spokesman for L'Oreal.
Asked about hairstylist Ted Gibson's campaign for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to award an Oscar for hairstyling, Ferretti nods his head. "I'm really working a lot on giving hairdressers bigger credibility in the market," he says, "because nobody today of the new generation wants to be a hairdresser growing up. Everybody wants to be a chef, thanks to the bigger chefs who are all celebrities themselves."
Asked if it's true that he charges $1,000 a haircut, Ferretti, who's been called the world's most expensive hairdresser will say only, "You can only charge that if you're worth it."
To be fair, getting your hair done by marquee stylists such as Frédéric Fekkai, Sally Hershberger and Gibson can cost $750, $800, even $950. And Ferretti's Beverly Hills stylists who are trained in his Metodo charge about $150 to $250 — pricey, but comparable to what many Beverly Hills stylists charge.
Because of the recession "people are going to hairdressers less around the world. But when they go they want the right one," Ferretti says. The salon uses L'Oreal's Kérastase and Shu Uemura products and stylists are flown to Parma, Italy, twice a year to update their skills. "If you don't go back to the craft, training constantly, where is the future?"
As Christian Serafini, a stylist and international Metodo Rossano Ferretti instructor, begins the haircutting demonstration, Ferretti interjects with instructions, jumps in to cut hair (with a pair of texturizing scissors he says he invented) and simultaneously explains his technique.
"The scissors don't do the haircut; the scissors are an elongation of my hands. My body movement around the hair following the natural fall of the hair makes the haircut," Ferretti says. "It's about texturizing the hair."
Both Ferretti and Serafini rhythmically swoop and curve their bodies as they cut and carve into volunteer Angie Rittenberry's locks. She's an escrow officer in the real estate industry with long ash-blond highlighted hair cut in heavy layers.
Ferretti says that the big difference between Los Angeles and the rest of the world is that L.A. is a hair color city more than a haircut city. Most women come into his Beverly Hills salon for highlights or balayage, so the staff has more colorists than stylists. "But we are here to give a more haircut culture," says Ferretti, not necessarily meaning short haircuts so much as good haircuts, since L.A. women can be addicted to their long hair.
Ferretti explains that his Metodo is about the complete journey in the salon — including ambience and respect — and that the consultation is key. "My biggest tip I can give to a woman is that if a woman feels as if the stylist behind her doesn't understand her, she should go home. Don't destroy your hair," Ferretti says, adding that beauty is individual, about proportion and harmony.
When the haircut is over, Rittenberry looks at inches of her hair on the salon floor. "He didn't even seem to cut that much off," she says. "And that's usually my biggest concern — that they won't listen to me. It's beautiful and it feels wonderful — much more manageable. I have so much hair, it's so easy for it to feel weighed down, but this is very light, soft and feathery."
Ferretti adds, "Now this hair is full of layers, but you don't see the layers. We invented the invisible cut."
Sassoon emails later that "there is no one way to be a great hairdresser, you either have it in you or you don't. You must be prepared to make your job your hobby."
But for Ferretti it's also about something else. "I always had the vision," he says. "The dream and the vision are life-driving. If you don't have that, you know, it's difficult."