As hair color director for The Salon and Spa at Saks Fifth Avenue, Brad Johns defines hair color style for women around the world. His illustrious career in the beauty industry began at Cinandre, and he has since worked as color director for Jean Louis David in Henri Bendel, Clive Summers, Bruno Dessange, Oribe at Elizabeth Arden, and as Artistic Director for both Avon Salon & Spa and The Brad Johns Studio at Elizabeth Arden. Constantly setting trends, Brad has been dubbed the Golden Boy, the Color Czar, and the founding father of the “chunking” technique. However, Brad’s look is constantly evolving and his individual approach to hair color has made him a favorite among the film, modeling, and music industries. His work can be seen gracing the pages of every major fashion and beauty magazine, from Vogue to Allure—by whom he was voted the best colorist in New York.
Tell us about your background and what influenced you to become a colorist.
I’ve been into the art of transforming hair color since 1973. I grew up transforming troll dolls’ hair with food coloring in a very poor neighborhood where beauticians would come to color the ladies’ hair, and they always looked happier after. Seeing that transformation stuck with me.
I came to New York to study acting at NYU and ended up coloring all the students’ hair in my dorm. While at NYU, my onscreen dreams were halted after being told my blue hair just wouldn’t do. What could have been a major life blow instead became a new beginning. My best friend Vivian encouraged me to take my talent for hair and attend beauty school. The first day I walked in for my interview and smelled the perm solution, I knew I had arrived.
I thought if I could transform sad, poor women and make them look and feel better, that would be my career, my art. My art evolved from coloring troll dolls to dorm mates to family to women from all over the planet.
What is your personal beauty philosophy when it comes to hair color?
Hair color should complement the eyes first, the skin second, and the season third. The shade range in which someone should stay is determined by their childhood hair color. If I think a brunette’s eyes and skin color might look better as a redhead or blonde, I investigate her family’s hair color history. If I find those colors in their family, I go with my instinct and a fiery redhead, a honey-wheat blonde, or a chestnut brunette is born.
What hairstyle and color trends are you a fan of right now? Do you like the ombre look, for example?
I’m not a fan of fad hair color. I invented “chunking” in the 90s and use it as an everyday highlighting technique, not as a “trend.” I feel that once a trend like ombre becomes a fad, people get tired of it, lose interest, and then nobody wants it. Trends are just that, they come and go. My philosophy is more about identifying your best personal hair color based on your individual features and lifestyle, not trying to match the look of a celebrity.
Do you have any tips for women to maintain their color and keep it looking fresh longer?
Hair color is an accessory that you never take off. Just like any other expensive accessory, you have to take proper care of it. I recommend specific shampoo, conditioner, and styling aides for my clients so they don’t ruin the art of their great color. Women don’t need homework; I advise my clients on what specific products to buy so they aren’t bothered with reading labels and deciphering ingredients on the back of a bottle.
What do you love most about the work you do?
As long I am helping people bring out their individual beauty by adorning their hair with colors and shapes, I’m doing what I love most. I love the idea that when I start working, I feel like a little kid with a paint brush. My art is transforming people into feeling and looking better.
What comes next for you?
I have over three decades of hair color experience and have been a Color Director at many major salons, including Oribe, Avon, and Red Door, as well as running my own salon. I’ve also served as a spokesperson for Clairol for many years. What’s next is a book I’m working on about how hair color has transformed my life.