There is little that can be said of a man whose career in fashion has stood the test of time by enduring in a business where the latest and the greatest seem to rule. The man’s resume reads like a who’s who of fashion and in all of its contiguous aspects. He is as prolific as a professional as he is an artist doing his job and doing what he does best.
If all that is not enough, Ruscica juggles two careers with the greatest of skill. While these endeavors might seem polar opposites to most, for him they are intertwined, inter-related and possibly even incestuous as you will read in this interview.
The purpose of these interviews is to enlighten and introduce readers to all aspects of fashion and style as well as just the obvious and Tommy is a man who fits the profile to a tee on multiple levels. It would be in your best interest to read the interview and then google him to find out what it takes to be a fashion and style virtuoso.
Now in his own words:
Jeffrey Felner: You can invite any 5 people to dinner. Who would they be and why?
Tommy Ruscica: Francesco Scavullo, whom I had the pleasure of working with several times before he passed. As a teenager, I idolized his work but never could I have dreamed of ever being in a position to work together. On a L’Uomo Vogue shoot, he quietly whispered in my ear “I have never seen anyone do men’s hair like you”. I would love to thank him again as that experience with Francesco was life altering.
Next is Gwen Stefani as I am fascinated by how incredibly good she looks and sounds. I think being on TV has revitalized her career as well as a recent divorce has made her once again a force to be reckoned with. Next would be Elizabeth Taylor as I have been both obsessed and fascinated with her life, not only as an actress, but her struggles with her weight and addiction. I think she would be great fun at the dinner table with amazing stories and a great sense of humor.
Next is Frank Lloyd Wright since he is my favorite and the most famous architect of the 20th century in my opinion. His talents were so vast that I would love to pick his brain over dinner, just to understand how he came up with such incredible designs.
And lastly, Garren who is one of the most incredible hairstylists in the world. I met Garren when I was a bartender, while in cosmetology school, and I showed him some of my illustrations of hairstyles. He said he would be interested in representing me as he felt I had raw instinctive talent and a personality that would fit in well on photo shoots. Garren’s agency was the first to represent me in my early career and I have much to thank him for. He too, is hilarious and dinner would be a blast.
Man, what a dinner with these five would be! Huh?
JF: What advice can you offer to the legions of millennials who think they are stylists and or models? Can you speak to the topic of the celebrity factor as well?
TR: The fashion business has radically changed in the last 10-30 with the most instrumental/influential aspects being the dawn of e-commerce, digital photography, etc. So to answer your question earnestly, I needed to input a little back ground as my response is not especially a positive one.
Many experienced & talented artists have lost work because standards have been lowered. To speak to a young artist, I would advise getting a lot of experience testing. Particularly free testing. Don’t be afraid to take risks even at the expense of not always looking favorably. This is all my opinion, not fact. After all there is no financial compensation, so before you agree to the work make sure you can collaborate creatively.
When creating or adding to your portfolio, online or even hard copy (rarely required anymore) do not put anything in there, even if it’s published work, which you do not like or does not represent your talent in some way…
Most importantly, to the young artist starting out, figure out who you are as an artist. It will not happen in a day or a week, but if you stick with it and the talent is substantial, you will find your way. Develop your own style so when someone of experience looks at your work in a magazine or ad they recognize who did it. It has happened to me many times and it’s a great feeling.
The really successes usually bring something different to the table as far as their look, attitude, and likability. Exceptions always apply.
As far as celebrity goes, I am much more impressed by talents actors, musicians, etc. when they are acting or performing. Working with celebrities in my experience on an editorial shoot has been both great as well as awful. The great ones are the genuine celebrities, unaffected by their fame and do not travel with a huge entourage. Publicists can often kill a photo shoot by dictating what a celebrity will wear, do etc. as opposed to just dealing with the celebrity which often is a much less complicated scenario.
To just touch on the subject of celebrity briefly as it has been covered by many, I think we as a society have put celebrities on a pedestal that often is meaningless and shallow. It’s amazing how many people with little or no talent are on TV and make a small fortune and are talentless but yet have a large impact on the youth of today.
Is it an asset to work with celebrities? It is so often very advantageous for your career. Will they trust you if they do not know you? Sometimes, depending on the chemistry you have in a very short period of time.
JF: Let’s chat about balancing 2 very full time and successful careers? Do you have a preference and why? Can you explain how you transition back and forth?
TR: Both my careers are different in terms of my involvement; as a hairstylist, when I am hired for a day, a week etc., it encompasses most of that time. In the early days of DESIGNLUSH, starting in 2005, I did our financials and watched our status like a hawk as we were a young small business with limited resources. I also spent time in the showroom when not booked learning what I could about our designers, our products etc. I developed a very strong affinity for the artistic side of the business as it seemed to come to me as naturally as hair. My lifelong ability to see proportion very well has served me no matter the endeavor. From 2009-2014 I then brought even more focus back to my hair career. Staying busy and creative is also just part of my M.O.
In the last 3 years my role at DESIGNLUSH has laser focused on social media; to date we have over 80k Facebook likes. Two years ago I included twitter and Pinterest, learning as I went on. We have over 5K twitter fans in a short period of time and this past year we starting on Instagram.
My philosophy has always been, if you are going to do it, do it as well as you can. Half way measures are not very effective. I have no preference in careers as my love of both come from two very different places, but equally as relevant in my life.
On a final note, my affinity and passion for hair has not changed. What I have to do in order to do my work, is sometimes daunting as people can be both difficult and unprofessional but once I am in it, I am there 100% and loving the creative process as much as I did on my first shoot in 1983.
JF: How about telling us what was your favorite project/moment when styling, designing for the home or just in life?
TR: Wow Jeffrey that is such a tough question. With a 33 year career in men’s grooming and a 10 year career with DESIGNLUSH, it is almost impossible to answer. Many of these episodes were the quieter more subtle ones. I remember Francesco Scavullo (who spoke very low and quietly towards the end of his life) and I were shooting a 16 page editorial for L’Uomo Vogue and he whispered to me in the most sincere way anyone ever has “I have never seen anyone do men’s hair like you” it was just that simple.
This one short sentence changed my life in little ways which eventually grew to major changes. What artist doesn’t crave praise from a master of their art or an icon?
As far as DESIGNLUSH goes, well I certainly had never opened up a business that actually had retail space. As we were renovating the space, I wondered and feared if we would we even make one sale. We were unknown in the industry and it appeared to me that we were probably crazy, inundated with denial and yet my partner Stephen and I felt compelled to take the risk… My partner and I sat on this beautiful sofa that is still one of our most popular (The Ella Sofa) looked around an otherwise empty showroom and felt elated and proud that we had our very first piece in our new showroom. What a feeling of wonder, excitement, fear, and exhilaration all rolled up into one simple activity.
JF: If you could pick a dream project/collaborator, well in your case 2 dream projects, what/who would they be and why?
TR: As far as my grooming, my biggest dream now, is to help older men 45 years and up to look and feel better. I think one great way to do this on a large scale would be to land a great spokespersons position with a great hair / skin or company.
I think I can be a huge help as I have learned a great deal through much experience in my profession and have a natural gift to subtly and in some cases dramatically change the way a person looks for the better.
With models it’s less challenging. With the older gentleman there are some obstacles to get past. I am personally not in favor of plastic surgery for men and I have never seen face lifts looking good or natural on any man.
In addition I can publicly speak pretty fearlessly and I am told my sense of humor and spirit is infectious. So I think I have the skills, personality, and decent looking for my age to represent this age category. I potentially would be a great package for the right company as this market for the older gentlemen has barely been tapped, at least tapped. The system has gone devilishly wrong with its greed and false advertising of ridiculous diets, exercise home machines that promise you, you will look like the guy on TV using it. I need to teach people where to start, how to do it, how far to go and simultaneously make it simple, fast and easy as the average man past a certain age tends to be less interested in their appearance than their younger counterparts. Time is always a factor, so motivation is crucial. I know I can help. I know I can motivate .I know I can be a power of example. I hope to make that dream and service a reality.
With regards to DESIGNLUSH: One dream of ours would be to collaborate with great architects such as Frank Gehry. We would love to collaborate with him on any project, residential or commercial, hospitality or otherwise. What a dream that would be, his architecture, our furniture, lighting, and interiors together.
However, the best dream though is simple and that would be remaining at the forefront of great furniture design. Withstanding the passion and tenacity it takes able to meet the demands of our private clients as well as those that source us for their projects such as interior designers, architects, design firms, high end retail stores, etc.
As a final note, I would just like to thank you Jeffrey for your patience as I took forever to answer your interview. I hope it worthy of your followers and they enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it; for more about DESIGNLUSH. Designlush is on Instagram as well.