A modern twist on an ancient art: how Japanese influence in a Beverly Hills salon is resulting in seriously fashionable hair.
“Hair is my canvas,” says Kazumi Morton, a renowned color specialist so famous for changing people’s hair color that she has clients who fly into Los Angeles just to have her dye and balayage (handpaint highlights) onto their hair.
Trim and perky in a floor-length summer dress, Kazumi has her hair twisted into a practical knot for a day of work at the Gavert Atelier salon in Beverly Hills. She says her interest in color was sparked when she was growing up in Kyoto, Japan where her father designed and dyed obis, the colorful silk sashes that adorn kimonos.
“My father was a painter and my mother was an artist. Since I was little, I always loved playing with hair, so it just came naturally to me,” Kazumi explains. “Later, when I was in Vidal Sassoon Academy, I realized I wanted to become a colorist. I love the art of mixing color, creating depth. It’s the layering that creates true, natural, beautiful color, and the results lasts longer.”
Kazumi also teaches the art of hair coloring at the salon on Wednesday nights. “I still learn a lot by teaching,” she says. “Every time I teach, my assistants have crazy ideas, and sometimes I think, ‘Wow! That’s brilliant! But, I also let them make mistakes to reiterate what can go wrong and learn from that.”
The color specialist says she observes the natural skin tones and hair colors of her clients to choose complementary shades and achieve a natural yet eye-catching look, explaining, “It has to be in you naturally,” and adds that it’s important to ask for a professional opinion.
To get the color you want, she suggests bringing photos to your appointment. “When you say honey blond, that can mean many different colors, and might mean something different to me,” she says. “When it comes to colors, we speak different languages; bring a picture to avoid your chosen color getting lost in translation.”
Kazumi often works in tandem with Mika Fowler, a cutting specialist at Gavert Atelier. The two recently colored and cut the tresses of the Twilight cast, including star Rob Pattinson. Mika, also from Japan, says she never planned to be a hairdresser, but is now a sought-after stylist.
Mika sports jet-black hair in a layered ‘do that falls just past her chin. Unlike most stylists, she dries her client’s hair before starting in with the scissors. “No one wears their hair wet. By doing a dry cut, I can see the end results as I cut, and I can adjust and see the texture,” she explains.
Mika says a cut needs to follow bone structure. “With hair color, you can try something different and push the limits; it’s fixable,” she says. “But with a haircut, once it’s done, it’s done. My biggest policy is that you don’t go against girls and their hair. Follow what they have: bone structure, eyes, hair texture.”
Mika has successfully used her philosophy to successfully style celebrities such as AnnaLynn McCord, Lynn Collins and Taryn Manning. Her advice to singular women: “Stay young and be a bad girl. This city has so much possibility and single people have no limits. I always keep the mindset of a single person.”
Mika reveals that up until several weeks ago she had long hair. “I lost my dad to cancer five or six years ago, so I donated my hair to Locks of Love. I wanted to do something nice for someone else.” She had been growing her hair out for several years so it could be used to make wigs for cancer patients. “So many girls go through hard times, difficult stages,” she says calmly. “One of them is often cancer, but you never expect it to happen to you.”
For both Mika and Kazumi, hair is more than a career; it is a passion, a chance to explore, and chance to innovate and create, and even a chance to give back. And from the looks for their clients’ hair, combining ancient Japanese artistic techniques with American style is a winning combination.