PR Heroes: Vidal Sassoon
Why Vidal Sassoon’s one of my PR Heroes
I was reading a book charting the life and work of Vidal Sassoon. With his obsessive preoccupation with geometry and perfection, the legendary hairdresser not only transformed the way hair is cut, but also was central to the fashion liberation of women; he utterly re-thought the way the hairdressing industry operates and looks; he introduced the concept of salon-range hair products, and spawned a network of hairdressing academies. At the height of his powers this poor boy, raised for many years in an orphanage, had a £ multi-million business operating around the globe. He was publishing books, licensing the brand and had a TV show in the US.
As I read his story what struck me was the way he ‘got’ PR. Let me share one example with you to show you what I mean…
On the cusp of his meteoric rise, Vidal Sassoon was asked to create a special haircut for the actress Nancy Kwan. Although she is little known today, she was a huge star at the time having just appeared in a smash hit film ‘The World of Suzie Wong.’ Everyone was talking about the film and its gorgeous Eurasian star.
One evening, after a day’s work, Sassoon gathered his team and working on the top floor of his London salon, with Kwan in the hairdresser’s chair, he came up with a unique cut for her hair. He worked inspirationally and as he neared completion of the haircut, Sassoon realised he was creating hairdressing magic. She’d walked into his salon with 4 feet of hair and was about to leave with a short, geometric ‘bob’.
Recognising this was news, Sassoon immediately called in photographer Terence Donovan asking him to come over so he could take pictures of the moment. Donovan did so and the photos went as Vidal Sassoon said “everywhere.” British Vogue, then all the international Vogues carried the photos. The ‘Nancy Kwan’ hairstyle became an international sensation, creating a worldwide trend and Sassoon became a global household name.
Sassoon was brilliant, but he also understood the power of PR and didn’t wait or hesitate to deploy it. On that incredible night he could have been forgiven for not bothering to pick up the phone to Donovan, after all he’d just worked all day and into the night – but he knew it was important; PR operated hand-in-glove with his business and was therefore able to exert its full power. That’s why he’s one of my PR heroes.
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