An art gallerist in a previous life, Takamichi Saeki is one of New York City’s most celebrated hair stylists, known for his precision cuts and salon-meets-art gallery, that can only be described as downtown cool. We spoke with the master stylist about his background, his road to beauty, and his many iterations of being an entrepreneur.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into hair.
I began in the creative field as the Assistant Director of the ISE Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization in Soho. Here, I worked with Japanese artists and scholars, doing everything from art production to studio management. In 1991, inspired by Gertrude Stein, I opened my own gallery, focusing on conceptual art. It was through this experience, and understanding form and composition, that I found my way to hair. I began my second career at Siren, a salon in Nolita. It had developed a cult following in the 90s; Andre Balazs and John Cale were regulars.
Men's hair is definitely a unique specialty. Did you go in knowing you wanted to specialize in this, or was it more happenstance?
I didn’t intend to be a specialist in men’s hair, but gradually, my aesthetic attracted a lot of men who did not consider themselves as typical “barber clients” and felt more comfortable in a more sophisticated, but still masculine environment.
We’ve heard you were previously in the art world. How has art influenced your current career and salon?
My interest in and experience with shapes and forms in painting definitely led my interest in hair styling. Art has a large part in my salon too, with a mural by Barcelona-born acclaimed artist, Santi Moix, to a painting by Richard Humbleton; art is a constant source of inspiration for me.
Japanese culture has had a tremendous influence on contemporary beauty styles. How have your roots influenced your style and work?
Precision and details are very much rooted in the Japanese culture, and great assets for a hair dresser!
When did you decide to open your own salon, and what was the inspiration behind Takamichi Hair? We'd love to hear the little details, too.
I had this desire to open a salon where people could meet and exchange ideas, talk about art, business, food; a salon inspired by Gertrude Stein’s studio in Paris, where all kinds of creative people gathered. I opened my first salon in 1999 and it was truly a gathering of all kinds of talented people.
What's your favorite part about being a stylist?
Meeting people from all different backgrounds, cultures, ideologies, and all with different types of challenging hair!
What's the most popular men's cut right now? Any trends in men's hair we should know about?
For a few years now, the men’s under cut has made a major statement in fashion. We are going away from that now, back to a softer line, a more natural look.
Who do you most admire?
My grandfather, he was my style icon.
What's one thing no one (or very few people) knows about you?
I cut my own hair.
Hair crush and product you can't leave home without?
I love sea salt spray and can’t live without the Davines medium hold wax.