Danilo Talks Gwen, Katy And How Important Hair Care Is

Rachel Adler

Legendary hairstylist Danilo (who is responsible for the locks of stars such as Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry) teamed up with designers Cushnie et Ochs this season to create a sophisticated slicked back bun accessorized with a feather. I had the opportunity to chat with Carly Cushnie, Michelle Ochs and Danilo the day after the show to learn about the design duo, and how they worked together. Here are a few magnificient tidbits: the design duo were best friends all through school at Parsons, Michelle actually went to a military high school which is what got her interested in fashion (of all things), and Danilo calls Gwen his best friend. Could this threesome be any more fun? Read on for more from Pantene Celebrity Hair Stylist and Global Ambassador Danilo below!

Can you talk to me a little bit about the experience of coming up with hairstyles for the designers like Cushnie, and how you work together to create a style?
For me, when I create the look for a designer, I have to feel the vibe, I have to see your clothes, I’m really about head-to-toe. It’s not just about the hair-do, it’s not a hair show, we’re trying to capture a spirit and maybe have a trend, maybe have a point of interest in the hair. But for me I’ve always felt that something small could be very big too. For instance, the Cushnie show that I did, it had a simplicity to it that made it feel so profound, as opposed to being big, full, blowing hair. It wouldn’t have been the same thing. I want to take in the total look, I don’t just chop of her head and think of that. I think that’s probably the important thing, coupled with whatever the inspiration is. We’re here to collaborate when I walk in with a designer, it’s not the Danilo show. So I do need to know something from you so I can connect the dots and create the image for you. It’s trial and error. You just keep hashing through and “No, I like this about this, I like that about that” and sometimes it happens. I walked into the Cushnie et Ochs show and there’s just no question, I knew that women. And sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. It’s not my responsibility to know them, it’s just fortunate that I do like that type of woman and know her, and I like shopping at Bergdorfs too.

Earlier you mentioned that coming up with the hair for the Cushnie show took a very short amount of time – I believe you said about 5 minutes! Are there some designers who you work with that it takes hours to figure out the hair?

Makeup took longer than me! But yes, for instance, in Paris with Thierry Mugler, I spent two weeks making hair.

Is there a particular reason for that?
We were at a salon. Not a hair salon, but a French salon to work, and I had a whole room to, well work. There were a lot of looks. It was complicated. We’d be making things out of metal, out of feathers, out of plastic, out of wigs. Out of the wigs I’d make shapes too, so diversity of hand painting wigs, padding, trying each image. Those women were very different. That was exteme, a couture situation, so extreme in their look that every look was definite and you wanted to make sure you had powerful distracting hair. But everything was so detailed it all balanced out. No wimpy hair there, no small hair there. Small was not big there. Big was bigger.

You’ve been styling Gwen Stefani’s hair for years (and refer to her as your best friend) and also now style Katy Perry’s as well. Do the girls have a preference in how they like their hair styled?
Well those are two very diverse people. One has been in the industry for 22 years and is iconic, and one is up and coming and very powerful and award-winning, but they’re very different. My point being, one is learning her way and the other has always had a very strong conviction. With that said, what they do have in common is that they have a spirit of their own that they want to emulate throughout. Specifically, it’s so funny. With Gwen, there are so many looks, it’s kind of like, what haven’t we done? We know what we haven’t done. That’s what we’re doing or wanting to do, the next look. There’s a new look that I’ve done on her that’s just coming out to the public now that is an adaptation from a runway to a Gwen version of it. So even I look to other runways to get a spirit and adapt for all my clientele because that’s who they are. They reflect their own moods. But there’s no set, they’re all individual, some don’t care, some do care. Music people are much more colorful and artistic about their imagery. I’m so tired of the red carpet hair that you see. It’s starting to switch up again, which is great. It was interesting at the Golden Globes what was the hair ‘do and what was in the commercials. It was great. I watch everybody. Personally I like an individual, somebody who marches to their own drum and can wear it. And there is a new generation of actresses and singers out there, my hat goes off to Gaga for challenging everybody to represent whatever their camp is, and make it something different. I call Katy Perry the anti-Gaga because I always felt that culturally, anybody who was a little bit worn out from the barrage of imagery that Gaga has expressed really well, you know, she’s a softer version who comes out a different way. So I call her, she’s a little easier for everyone to take in. Therefore she’s the anti-Gaga.

That’s a good way of putting it. I know with Katy she’s really blown up lately, and you’ve been able to experiment with her style.
She’s got five hits on this new album. Catchy hits. Pop tunes. That’s huge. And she’s beautiful. She’s really one of the prettier people out there, as far as, I mean there are things that I don’t talk about, but she’s a beautiful woman. Girl became a woman. She’s a woman now, she’s married, so we can’t call her a lady anymore, she’s a woman. And stunning.

Do you guys go back and forth with hairstyles or do you teach her more?
There has been an education, I’ll say that. What’s been interesting with me and, I’ve said it to her, is that she wanted colored hair. For instance, I would color things a little more interesting. I’m in this moment now because I’ve been doing color for so many years and the list is long! To do a blue Betty Paige styled hair for the video, that was her idea. I was there to achieve it and make it fabulous for her, realize it for her, but what I learned with her is that she has great instincts about her career and about her imagery. And that’s why she’s looking that way. All that sweetness and that, it’s not quite camp but it’s approaching it, but she owns it and delivers it and it really follows through on her. What I’ve walked away with from Katy, really ultimately is, I feel she’s going to be a lot bigger than just a singer. There’s a future of many things. I had an opportunity to see her host the European MTV Awards and I was blown away. Eleven outfit changes and eleven appearances on stage and deliveries of lines, it really, she’s got great wit, she’s got a great sense of her own-ness, and that’s fun to be around. Because what I’m seeing is not only what I and other people who work on her hair will bring to the table, but also she’s learned a lot about the set, the costume, everything. She’s just, it’s ticking away in there, and she’s a quick learner, she’s very smart. I trust her own judgement. When she turns to me and says “I want this, I’d like this feeling to come out in my hair” I just go there with her, because I’ve seen her deliver and she knows, she’s in charge, she’s somewhat in charge of her image, which is great. That said, I didn’t do her hair last night [the Grammy’s], I wasn’t in charge.

Going back to your coloring comment, how often do you have to color Gwen’s hair?
Gwen’s hair, it depends if you like a root or not, and Gwen doesn’t like roots, so we probably do her about every 10 days, to two weeks. I could go for two weeks.

What do you do it keep it up so it doesn’t get damaged?
One of the big products I use is Pantene Restore Beautiful Lengths. Really that has been the saving grace, that mask from Pantene Restore Beautiful Lengths. It really has been. The funny thing is that Gwen and I have been together for 17 years, and I have used it and still use it because it’s so incredible. And now this new spray that I get from Europe from Pantene, but of course I’m always going to try to use anything and everything that’s going to make it high performance because women like Gwen, their hair has a job as well. It’s not just color, it’s performing in the color too. The public hasn’t seen it, but Gwen’s always pretty polished. Even her down look, her hair is still done. Her hair is still clean, it’s still blown out, it’s still cared for. And that’s really synonymous with my whole thing, I care about hair being cared for and heathy at the core and, therefore, you can do whatever you want with it. And she’s a really great example of that.