Hairstory interviewed Rubi Jones on her personal and professional stylist evolution.
A family that highlights together stays together.
I come from a family of all girls, and extended family coming in and out of my house. My aunts would end up in our garage with highlighter caps and perm solution, a little salon in the house. So it was always in my life, but not necessarily something I wanted to do. But looking back, in 6th grade I decided to wear my hair a different way every day; I could repeat a hairstyle every two weeks maybe… I guess that showed I was going to be in hair later on.
College or beauty school?
I was studying Art History and I didn’t belong there. So I did a study abroad in Paris as a way to stay in school but leave at the same time. I remember being in Paris during fashion week, hanging out in the Tuileries and thinking, “I want to be a part of this, but I don’t know how.” My whole life I looked at magazines and loved them, and things started leading me to hair. I was cutting all my roommates’ hair in college, and a little part of me said, “I should quit and go to that beauty school down the road.” I didn’t quit, but I did sign up for beauty school; I come from an immigrant family where you have to go to college, but as soon as I started beauty school, I felt, “This is where I belong.” So I finished that semester and didn’t sign up again. My love for fashion magazines grew and made me realize I had to leave the west coast and move to New York, because that’s where everybody was.
If you can make it there…
I moved to New York and looked for a job as an apprentice. I worked at Warren Tricomi for a month; it wasn’t my vibe at all. Those names that I saw in magazines led to Bumble and bumble where I could be both an apprentice and have a hand in the fashion industry. I did the training, and in order to do shows, you had to pass the test. But I hadn’t been through the styling class, and even though my double-french twist was amazing, I didn’t do any shows that season because of salon politics. I was so mad because I knew I’d done well.
So my name was given to an agency, and the first show I did was with Sam McKnight for Mulberry. His assistant who was also leading shows asked me to do another show a few days later. Ironically, the look was a double-french twist, and I nailed it. I started doing more editorial work outside of bumble, but I had to keep calling in sick because if they found out I’d get fired.
I learned so much at Bumble and I’m so grateful for it, but I was one haircut away from being on the floor, and I was calling in sick more and more. So I left and went to Whittemore House, and started working with Anthony Turner.
…you can make it anywhere.
My husband and I both dreamed about living abroad at some point, and he got an opportunity to go to Paris for his job. We moved the week before fashion week. It was a perfect time to get the ball rolling, and I ended up getting more jobs with agencies’ artists in Paris. I assisted Ward, worked with Anthony, and Esther Langham, and built up my own book.
But there’s no place like New York.
I’m not much of a planner, and I don’t know how I got to thinking about the future, but I remember thinking, “I don’t want to live in Paris forever,” and I was building this network, and I could see us down the road growing up together, getting agents, bigger jobs. But I wanted to be in New York for that. It was a feeling like when you want bangs, you need them right now or you’ll probably get scissors and do it yourself in the kitchen. Three weeks later my husband got a job in New York and we moved three weeks after that.
When I moved to Paris I felt I’d taken two steps back and one step forward, but it was a big step forward because I was doing the type of work I couldn’t do here, and when I came back to New York, I felt I was taking two steps back and one step forward again because I was a second assistant. I had to rebuild my book, and I’m still doing that.
I knew Wes and Roxie at Bumble, and I ran into Wes at a party, who told me I should come by and check out Hairstory. I was so nervous when I came the first time and met Michael, because when I was at Bumble he was already gone, and I heard about him and the glory days, and everyone had built him up, rightfully so. He gave me a bottle of New Wash and said I wouldn’t have to use conditioner ever again, and I was like, “I don’t believe that at all.” But, I never had to use conditioner again.
Then came the book.
Somehow the black hole of the internet led people to me, and I got a random email from a US publishing house to do a hair tutorial book. The proposal didn’t really resonate with me, and it had way too many typos in it, and since I’d never thought of doing it before it was easy to say, “No thanks.”
A few months later another publishing house approached me with the same thing. My mind had warmed up to the idea, so I got a literary agent, got the contract, but I felt the production value wouldn’t be up to my standard, so basically I said no. The next day I got an email from another publishing house with the exact same pitch. By then I knew exactly under what terms I would do one. They agreed, and that’s how the book came about.
At the end of the day, it’s about collaboration, and reinvention.
The book was a huge learning experience because it turned out to be a more commercialized version of my point of view. I talked to Anthony, and I thought when you reach his level, the frustration of not having things go your way goes away. He said, “Oh my goodness no; it still depends on the client, the photographer, and everyone else. I never judge anybody’s work, because I know it’s never 100% one person.” I felt so relieved by that because as artists we can be so critical of our work. When I first got the book, I put it back in the envelope and didn’t look at it for a week. A friend told me that instead of being limited by the things we’ve done in the past, “You’re an artist, and the beauty of that is you can create something tomorrow, and the very next day you can recreate yourself again.” That’s what we do.
Q+A originally published on Hairstory. Interested in Hairstory products? Learn more.