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Edward Tricomi: "Believe in the Art; Money Follows Like a Shadow"

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Racked caught up with hair legend Edward Tricomi at his salon at The Plaza last Friday. We wanted to talk to him about his career—we'd heard he'd worked with Yves Saint Laurent. Here's what he told us.

Racked: How did your career start off?

Edward Tricomi: I was a musician, and was around 17 or 18 years old and I needed a spare job. My sister and my cousin were hairdressers and my sister suggested it would be a job I could do without it taking time up with my music, and my cousin dated the best-looking girls I ever saw in my life, so I said, "It's not a bad idea." So I went to hairdressing school, came out, and I started to do it.

I took a job in the city at a salon—it was the hottest salon in the city at that time, in the country, and everybody from Bianca Jagger to Liza Minelli—everybody came there. This is 1970, 71, 72. I stayed there for about two and half years and I left that salon with Xavier, who was one of the other stylists, who opened his own salon, and became the art director of that salon, and worked with Xavier for three years.

When I started to work with Xavier, I started to do shoots. I was living with Janice Dickinson. And Jan was shooting Vogue. She introduced me to Polly Mellen, and Polly Mellen came in for a haircut, I cut Polly's hair, Polly loved what I did, and the next day booked me with Irving Penn. So I started my career with Vogue at the top. I didn't work my way up, I worked by way down.

Racked: We heard you used to work with Yves Saint Laurent.

Tricomi: So I started with Polly and Irving Penn, and my career started to take off. I was with Xavier for two and half, three years, and I left that and went with Pipino Buccheri, and I was the art director of Pipino Buccheri for 13 years. It was the number-one salon in the country—it was a great team there, and a lot of us did editorial. It was a real editorial house. And, subsequently, I worked with everybody—I worked with Valentino, I worked with Saint Laurent, I worked with Ungaro, I worked with Irving Penn, Avedon, Scavullo—on campaigns, shows, all types of things. We did Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein—we were the hottest team. At one point we dominated every magazine—every magazine cover, every magazine inside.

I remember when I worked with Saint Laurent—one of the greatest things, and you're working with Saint Laurent, who's, like, a legend—I remember him teaching me how to tie bows. I would hold the hair out of the way for him when he was tying bows on some of the clothes. He was a very nice man. Then we would go to these dinners at night, and he used to call me Eddie—he was very funny—and he would give me pigeon. He would order pigeon and not tell me, and say, "It's hamburger!" He would say, "It's hamburger, hamburger!" I would say I know it's pigeon, don't lie. It was very funny, we had a little funny thing like that.

I remember working with Guy Bourdain and being in Karl Lagerfeld's house. This was when Karl was a young designer—he'd come home at two or three in the morning, we'd be working. I remember sitting—he had a big bathtub in his bathroom in the middle of the floor—and I would have a pile of books and I would be waiting for the makeup to be done, and I'd be sitting in there looking at these books. Fashion. He had tons and tons of books. So he came home one night and he had a World War II outfit on—like a pilot's outfit. Three of them came in and he looks at me and he said, "Oh, you look at the books?" I said, "Yeah, I love the books, you have great books." He said, "If you want one, keep one, keep anyone you want." He was really sweet.

Karl had an extraordinary collection of books—and he had them all in the bathroom, which was his library. It was really weird. But at any rate, it was great, and his apartment was art deco, this is before he moved and had a castle and all that.

I work a lot with Deborah Turbeville—we've worked together for 30 years. For Ungaro, I had made a lot of hats for him and he loved the hats I made, so he copied my hats and used them. I'm a very good hatmaker, I can make any kind of hat.

Racked: Hats?

Tricomi: My grandpa was a designer and, as a kid, I used to play with material. So, playing with material, one thing you make, you make hats. I had three sisters, so they always had Barbie dolls around, so I'd make hats for the Barbie dolls. And clothes for them . My grandfather was a designer, so it was very easy for me to learn how to sew and all that.

I design all my clothes—all my clothes are made by Craig Robinson, and Mel, who's my leather designer, makes all my leather clothes. I design my clothes and then I have them made. I haven't bought clothes in years. Basically all my clothes are made for me.

Racked: Have you ever thought about doing a clothing line?

Tricomi: I don't have the time, I have too many things going on. I'm a renaissance person—I play drums, guitar, piano, cello, harmonica, xylophone; I can do any kind of art, mobiles, sculpture, I can paint. I can make anything with my hands. I've designed all my salons. They're all designed by me and an architect. I can do anything artistic you put me to, no matter what medium you put me in.

Racked: So why did you choose hair?

Tricomi: It was fun. It's a fun job. I've never worked a day in my life. I'm going to b 59 years old this year coming and I've been in the business 40 years and I've not only rose to the top top top position you can be in, but I've had an amazing career, met amazing people. I've known everbody from Barbara Streisand to Mick Jagger. I've had an incredible incredible life.

I could've done anything. Anything I put my head to, I could make money with it. I always say: If you believe in the art, the money follows like a shadow.

Racked: Do you think you'll ever retire?

Tricomi: I don't believe in retirement. At all. There's no point in retiring.

Racked: Is there anyone you haven't met or worked with in 40 years that you'd like to meet or like to work with?

Tricomi: I study theoretical physics as a hobby; I study global economics as a hobby' and I study social anthropology. It all ties together. I'm a real nerd. So, I don't know. I love science. I'd like to maybe meet the head of NASA.

· Warren Tricomi [Official Site]
· All Warren Tricomi coverage [Racked]