Ray Civello Talks Shop at Aveda’s Born to Style Contest

We were at the Aveda Institute Toronto recently for the final showdown of Aveda’s Born to Style Scholarship Contest. Five finalists went head-to-head in a runway competition that had each contestant showing off her skills at ready-to-wear looks and couture styling for a chance to win a full tuition scholarship at the Aveda Institute Toronto, valued at just over $13,000. The five finalists each presented the two complete looks via a runway show with models supplied by Alpha Beta Pie and dresses by Toronto party dress boutique Poor Little Rich Girl. Kristjan Hayden, Creative Director for Civello Salon and Aveda Canada, hosted the show, and contestants were scored on complexity, skill and how well their inspiration translated on the models. The panel of judges included Paige Dzenis, Associate Online Editor, FASHION Magazine; Melissa Hill, Editor-In-Chief of Salon Magazine; and CEO of Aveda Canada Ray Civello.

Ray Civello’s name has been synonymous with the Toronto hair industry for years and he has achieved success that most entrepreneurs only dream (or obsess) about. His beloved Civello chain of Aveda lifestyle salons is spread across Toronto (with one in Oakville) and has been a go-to for young professionals (YPs) for any noteworthy occasion…or for no occasion at all. We caught up with Civello pre-show to discuss everything from success as an entrepreneur to the changing nature of the hairdressing profession.

On entrepreneurs:

“There are uniform characteristics to all entrepreneurs, no matter the profession; the successful ones have a similar philosophy of the mind, or mantra. For starters, in an era of information overload, they have the ability to focus, and they stay focused. Entrepreneurs have an uncanny ability to remain on path. Once they get something in their head, they are not easy to detour. Entrepreneurs who make it won’t let anyone else stop them; they see it before it happens and stay focused to make sure that it gets done. Entrepreneurship is about having a strong vision and hoping that others want that. It’s about looking at situations and being able to fulfill a need. That’s creative entrepreneurship – to have people say ‘I want that’ who didn’t know it existed before.” 

On three ingredients to career success:

“Persistence is a huge factor, having drive is a huge factor, and passion is a huge factor. Passion to me is not work; if a young kid loves practicing the piano, there is a difference between that kid and the one who puts up a fight because it’s a chore. It can’t become work because then it becomes about work/life balance, which is a very subjective thing. You may need eight hours of sleep, and I only need 4.5 or 5. Being in love with the hard stuff is what really is important; there really is no easy route. Practicing every day is very critical and you need discipline to practice whatever it is you do, whether music, sport, writing – even hair.”  


On practice:

“Like any art, hair is a craft built from years and years of practice. Practice takes discipline, so if you are not a disciplined being, you’re probably not going to get it. Sure, some natural gifts and innate skills factor into it, but they are not the be all and end all. Natural talent doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. I was the worst student in hairdressing school. I was terrible. I couldn’t make the hair do what I wanted it to do. While classmates would pull out the rollers so effortlessly to reveal flawless locks, my curls would all fall flat because I was trying too hard and put too much product in or made another careless error. I knew early on that this wasn’t going to be easy. The only option I had was to spend hours of my own time each day practicing the craft. Practice and discipline are huge; there is just no easy way.”

On today’s young professionals:

“A lot of young people have this common belief that success is overnight and that they should be this grand success up on stage, met with instant influence, make lots of money and have a good work/life balance within years of graduation. It doesn’t seem practical, it doesn’t seem reasonable. If someone finds that path, good for them. I just don’t think it’s that easy.”

On how hairdressing has changed:

“The whole ‘look’ of what’s attractive is the biggest change. Women today all have the same hair – long with imperfect layers. This is what 80 per cent of the women are wearing. The reasoning is simple. Women feel empowered with long hair, men love long hair, and you can do more with it. It works with a lot of bone structures and is very flattering for many faces. This has changed the whole art of hair. Before, if I had 15 clients, I would only be doing two of those; today it would be at least 12. That is the biggest change, and is a result of fashion being a little more generic. There used to be a lot more value placed in the creative aspect of it. It was more of an art, or a craft, and there are only a select group of hairdressers in the world who are creating this way now. They are the ones creating visual imagery for high fashion runway shows, TV, music videos and editorials.”

“The creative process is somewhat different in a salon, especially today. There is this approach among hairdressers right now of, ‘I have five things that work really well, and that is what I will stick to in some variation or another.’ The creativity comes in the fine-tuning. It takes hard work hard to custom those looks, to know how it compliments a client’s nose, eyes, bone structure, shoulders and hips – good hairdressers have to catch all of that. You have to talk to client more to find an approach that is a little more unique to them. Hairdressers who really love their craft are focused in custom tailoring as opposed to a one size fits all approach. It’s all in the details.”

On good hairdressers:

“Hairdressers who are good at their craft probably aren’t talking too much, they are too focused. The typical idea of the rambling, gossipy, or therapist hairdresser means that they are not doing their job properly and that it is mechanical.”

On the industry:

“When I first started in 1976, all the salons were congregated on two streets in Yorkville. If you weren’t getting your hair done in Yorkville, you weren’t going to a good salon. Salons would host creative nights where they would invite friends from other salons and we’d share skills and trade secrets – there was a lot of celebrating of the craft. It was social and fun and attracted a lot of men, unlike today. In our classes today, there are maybe two guys in a class of 18 people. Years ago, it was a 50/50 split. It has changed a lot; before it was more of a rock and roll profession, not taken too seriously. Hairdressers would show up late with a line of people waiting for them. We now see a high degree of professionalism in young people starting in the profession.” 

On hairdressing as a career choice:

“When I came home and told my dad I wanted to be a hairdresser, the first thing to come out of his mouth was ‘no you’re not’. I was told it was a terrible idea and that I would never make any money. I thought I would try it for a bit and if it didn’t work out, I would go back to school. Now, it is a more respected profession – and my dad is now my biggest advocate. Stereotypes still exist in media but hopefully we are moving past this. People need to understand the physical demands on hairdressers. They are on their feet eight hours a day with their arms in the air; it is physically exhausting. Mentally, they have to be present to interact with customers, which requires a lot of energy. It takes strong visual skills, communication skills and physical skills to make it. These days, there are prestigious schools that ensure students become successful and get the best in training. Programs like tonight, with the prize of full tuition, make this more attainable.”

The judges awarded $500 bursaries to the 4th and 5th place contestants, Pakeeza Hashemi and Mariana Castro Duarte; a $1000 tuition bursary was awarded to the 3rd place contestant, Rufaro Madzongwe; the 2nd place contestant, Jessica Nguyen, was awarded a $1500 tuition voucher, with the 1st place contestant Melissa Koay taking home the grand prize, full tuition valued at $13,000.