BEAUTY ICON: MEET ORIBE CANALES, THE MAN BEHIND THE BRAND

Some beauty icons no longer walk the earth but do bring us the best in make-up, and haircare. Like Oribe (pronounce O-ri-be) Canales, the famous hairdresser behind the big hair of the nineties. His brand Oribe (pronounced Orbee this time, easier for Americans) has only just begun to make the Netherlands a bit more beautiful.

Only the best can be beauty stars

You are certainly aware that there are hairdressers, hairstylists and a phenonomen called hairdresser to the stars. Only those who have the talent, the charisma and ambition can travel around the globe attending to the needs of celebrity clients. And only those setting the trends at the catwalk can join this crew of high end creation, joining forces with make-up artists that stand out. High profile models and actors want to be touched only by people who know exactly what they are doing. People who, when they are either stressed, tired, lonely (or all of these) know how to reach out to them and recognize the condition of their stressed out hair (or skin) without mentioning it to them. 

But let’s be honest: to climb the ladder to the highest rank of beautifiers one must have a bit of luck too, be in the right place at the right time. Enters Oribe Canales. When he came from Cuba to the US as a kid in 1956 and to New York mid seventies as a teenager to be an actor little could he know that in 2022 his Oribe hairproducts would be at top hairdressers around the world. The acting never happened. But he did start out as the assistant of famous hairdresser Garren who worked in the Plaza, and soon assisted him on shoots for magazines. Soon he himself was the hairdresser with the 1 year waitinglist, flying around the world to do hair in the private homes of celebrities.

Nineties darling

Oribe Canales was the darling of the nineties topmodels, giving Cindy, Naomi, Christy and Linda their signature looks. But stars like Jennifer Lopez were his long time client, JLo sticked with him from her first album cover. Oribe would be by her side every waking and working moment, making sure her toussled hairdo looked good wherever she was in the world. He loved the messiness and imperfection of her hair and saw how interesting that was. In the fashion industry his nickname was Mr. Big Hair. 

‘He loved beauty and wanted women to look beautiful and sexy,’ JLo wrote on her instagram the day he passed away in December 2018, ‘he was a true artist.’ Miley Cyrus was another star who confided her hair (and deepest insecurities) to him. As well as Christy Turlington, who called him ‘the most handsome, the funniest, the one and only’.

The handsomeness explains some of his succes, for charisma made the man and his Miami Beach salon a huge succes. He looked like a movie star himself, fit, tanned and with jet black hair. His arms were tattood from top to bottom. His slogan was: ‘Women should leave my salon looking like a million dollars.’ And they did.

In 1985 he created his own hair-and make-up agency, starring Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown and Serge Normant among others, now great beauty names. He worked closely with Versace during the nineties. He had some bumpy years in the late nineties, due to grunge and minimalism, not quite his taste. Having grown up with the stars of black and white movies and dreaming of doing big glamourous hair he loved glamour. And believed it would come back. It did. 

With Steven Meisel and François Nars -who believed make-up should never be a mask- he created a fashion dreamteam. They worked for all the important magazines, largely Vogue Italian. They are believed to have launched the topmodels of those days, ‘the Supers’.

That lovely, rich look

The next step was his own brand. He created it in 2008 together with businesspartner Daniel Kaner. He wanted only the best ingredients for a range of products using the latest technologies. What sets Oribe apart from other luxury salonbrands is also the fragrance, called ‘Côte d’Azur’. No chewinggum or coconuts here but an airy, chic scent made by an old French fragrance company, containing bergamot, white jasmin and sandelwood. Also: the beautiful packaging that makes every salon (and shower) look beautiful. The bottles are not quite the dishwashing detergent bottles his friend Karl Lagerfeld suggested, but still remarkably different from competitors. Oribe Canales is no longer with us, but his know-how is, caught in bottles of haircare that mimics skincare and should be used layering. After his death – at 62 – the Oribe brand was bought by Japanese KAO Corporation. Co-founder Daniel Kaner joined the management team and is still at the wheel in New York, guaranteeing Oribe’s salon formulas will not change (sometimes when brands are sold to big conglomerates and the original founders are no longer around the receipes are changed or adapted to a larger market – or for more profit-). 

Bert Visser, hairdresser, hairstylist (teaming up with Guido Palau during fashion weeks) and owner of Bert Visser/Love for Hair salon at the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam (bert-visser.com) has not noticed any change. He has made plenty of room for the salon brand he most believes in. With its 9 different hair collections Oribe provides for every hair type and -condition. ‘I love the way Oribe treats hair like skin, something you will experience when using it. And the look of the brand makes me happy again and again,’ he says. The Oxygen Hair Spa Treatment treatment at Bert Visser includes hair steaming and is a perfect pick me up for dull hair after summer, bringing it to life with softness, not heaviness, giving it that lovely, luxurious rich look that makes Oribe Canales live on forever. 

Words by Karen van Ede

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