An Interview with Industry Leader, Jill Leitz
We were lucky enough to sit down this month with industry icon, Jill Leitz. Jill is a Redken International Performing Artist, 3-Time NAHA Winner (2017 NAHA Finalist), educator, member of the Beauty Underground team, and salon owner at Salon Salon in Boulder, CO. She is nationally-published in top magazines. She has traveled the world to share her knowledge and to create hair masterpieces. She has been competing in hair shows for nearly 50 years, and she’s not stopping now! Jill LIVES for the big hair/fashion shows, and she knows how to perform!
So we wanted to know directly from her… How did she do it!?
Where did she get started, what did she do, and how has she managed to become who she is today?
Jill Leitz, on Fashion Shows:
Dianna Rands: When did you start working in the beauty industry (how old were you)?
Jill Leitz: I was 18 years old.
DR: Was it as a hairstylist? …or first as a salon receptionist or salon aid?
JL: I started off as a hairstylist.
DR: What was the first thing you remember wanting to be as a little girl? Was it hair-related?
JL: Yes, I’ve always been attracted to hair. I remember being little enough that I was on the shoulders of my grandfather with my feet hanging over his shoulders; I would take his comb out of his pocket and comb his hair. I was about 15 months old.
DR: How long did it take from starting in the industry to working your first fashion show?
JL: It took me about 2-3 years after I got my license. I remember going to one of my first big trips in NYC. I came back from there and immediately got involved in anything I could in Lansing, Michigan. I competed in competitions for cutting and design.
DR: When and what was that first show?
JL: 1968/9 in NYC, I jumped into any competitions I could in Chicago and Detroit.
DR: What was the scariest thing about that first show?
JL: Failing. What was really scary for me was wondering if I would have enough time to complete my look. At that point, I hadn’t developed that skill to be faster. So I definitely felt fear of not having enough time at my first show. I was never worried about not knowing how to do something; that has only crept in during the last 10 years or so. Even though I probably know all the techniques, it’s good to stay on the edge.
DR: What mistakes did you have at your first show?
JL: It wasn’t the first show, but at the first photo shoot I had, I didn’t bring enough of the right equipment. I really wanted to make a good impression, so it was pretty embarrassing. Lesson learned: It’s better to bring and not need than need and not bring. You have to know what a good “session showbag” looks like. The only way to master that is by doing them… trial and error.
DR: What successes did you have?
JL: As a competing hairstylist, my dedication has really paid off. I won the first competition I was ever in. Somehow, even with my “fear of the clock,” I always won these timed competitions. I usually took 1st or 2nd place. I still have all the trophies in my attic. Those competitions really laid the groundwork for my skills today. They laid the foundation for me.
DR: Who was your idol at the time of your first fashion show?
JL: A mentor, Linda Hankus. Vidal Sassoon (my sixth year doing hair) – coming in and just introducing hair cutting. And Trevor Sorbie – met him at my first big show in NYC. Learned about Vidal through Trevor, actually. It was all about cutting and not setting. That was when I had to learn how to cut with shears, as I was only cutting with a razor at the time.
DR: Did you get to work with them?, or Have you since?
JL: I went from knowing and adoring Trevor in the 60’s, to the 80’s when I worked with him for 10 years. I went to LA to audition to be on his artistic team (that’s where I met Ruth Roche). Unfortunately, after ten years, he closed his business in the states, so that was when I went to audition for Redken.
DR: What was the biggest fashion show you ever worked on?
JL: Every Fashion Week in New York is big. We (as Beauty Underground artistic team) have developed such an awesome reputation there that we now get asked back by designers. It feels so great to get to come back each year to work it. Once in NYC, I did hair for Gisele Bündchen, and at LA Fashion Week, I did Kelly Osbourne.
DR: Very cool! How did you land those gigs?
JL: I used to do NY Fashion Week with Redken, and now with Beauty Underground.
DR: How did you feel afterwards? Do you like working the HUGE shows?
JL: LOVE IT! I love everything I get from it. From the exposure to the designers to the other artists in the room (makeup artists, clothing stylists, etc.). Its a huge burst of inspiration you get by just being involved in it. It is very hard work but so worth it.
DR: What advice would you give your younger self right before her first fashion show?
JL: Get as much information as you can that’s available – know everything you can about what looks you will be doing so you have all the support in your session bag. All the things that you need. If you aren’t the lead stylist, you most likely have to wait until you get there to know what the look is going to be. Still, have a sense of the tools you will need. Know what a general good, strong session bag is, and add/take from it for each event.
DR: What advice would you give a stylist that is about to attend their first fashion show? What should they do to prepare in the weeks/months leading up? What to bring? What not to do or say while there… What to make sure they DO do while there…
JL: Again, know what a complete session bag looks like. Follow up ahead of time with any questions you have about pre-looks. Come to work, not to socialize. Know your place, and follow the plan. Do the job that you were asked to do by coming. Know why you are there, know who the lead is, and know what your part of the team is. Don’t try to be the lead if you aren’t the lead! No time for divas. You are part of a team. At Fashion Week, each model has to have the same look so it looks like the same person did every single model.
DR: Are there any shows that you still have on your bucket list?
JL: Some of my biggest aspirations are anything outside of the U.S. as far as fashion. I’m also still looking for chance to win NAHA Stylist of the Year! That’s not a fashion show, but a big dream of mine. I’m really hoping to achieve it before I die. It would be great to walk up there with a walker haha!
DR: In ONE word, how would you describe your relationship/feelings about working in the beauty industry?
DR: You are obviously an inspiration to others, both inside and outside of the salon. Where do you find your inspiration? From whom? From where? How? What do you do?
JL: I just love being around like-minded creative souls (like those in The Beauty Underground). A constant in my life is being around Ruth Roche as much as I can. I love working with Charlie Price and that opportunity is a true gift I’ve been given. Really, I find inspiration from anyone who has the same drive and love of the craft as I do.
DR: Do you have anything else you want to share pertaining to fashion shows and your experience with them?
JL: If you’re part of a team and you’ve committed to do it, stay open and stay willing to be a part of “a team.” Also remember that fashion shows are a great opportunity to get inspiration and experience live and in-person. At fashion shows, you are in the “right now” of fashion. Take advantage of it!
DR: Thank you so much for your time and insight, Jill! It’s been a pleasure.
Dianna & Mandy