Mane of the Hour

Top fashion models and designers rely on Frank Rizzieri of Moorestown to banish bad-hair days.

downpour has forced the Tory Burch fashion show to abandon the rooftop garden of Rockefeller Center for shelter inside. Now, while the fashionistas wait to pass judgment on the sportswear designer’s spring 2007 collection, the models and their support teams have set up shop along a narrow corridor on the seventh floor. It’s makeup artists on one side, hairdressers on the other, and only enough space between for reed-thin fashion models to slip by. Crazed would be a polite word for the mood.

Frank Rizzieri, though, is calm and in control. The hairstylist-in-chief, veteran of runway shows for Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Cynthia Rowley, Perry Ellis, and Carolina Herrera, is perfectly in his element—or one of them, the other being CEO and creative director of Rizzieri Salons and Spas, with upscale salon/spa facilities in Marlton and Washington Township.

In either setting, Rizzieri, 40, is easy to spot. Tall, dark-haired and broad-shouldered, his rugged but affable features framed by a casually backswept mane, he could pass for an actor with a gift for romantic comedy. At one point in the Burch show, a makeup artist, emerging from a brace of giggling models, puckishly asks him if he’s married. Answer: yes. “That’s a shame,” she says with a laugh, “because one of the girls is in love with you.”

Everyone seems to love Rizzieri, professionally speaking. He’s done hair for shoots in Glamour, British Vogue, and Marie Claire, given coiffure tips to Elle readers, and was named North American Hair Stylist of the Year by the Professional Beauty Association in 1989, 1990 and 1993. Salon Today has rated his New Jersey salon/spas among the top 200 in the country from 2003 to 2005, the latest ranking available.

The Burch show was but one of a half dozen runway extravaganzas for which he styled hair during New York City’s Fashion Week in September. “Runway is fun and exciting,” he says. “It’s like a race. You get in the car and go a hundred miles an hour, then suddenly stop.”

Burch wanted all her models to wear the exact same hairstyle, preferably “something classic.” At a planning meeting, ideas tossed around centered on buns and ponytails. To these, Rizzieri responded, “Duh.”

His better idea? A combination of the two: a pony-twist, so to speak, or as he explains, “a ponytail, literally twisted” and pinned up.
In the crowded corridor before the Burch preview, he firmly but gently combs back each model’s hair and pulls it into a ponytail.
“Am I hurting you?” he solicitously asks one willowy blond, who is reading a magazine as he works.

“Nope,” she responds, looking up with a smile. “You’re fine.” Then, in an aside, she adds, “He’s such a sweetheart. Not everyone asks.”
It’s that combination of sensitivity and savoir faire that brings repeat clients to the two Rizzieri Salons, where they pay a higher rate to have Frank personally cut and style their hair ($100 vs. $44). The gift he has just may be in his genes.

Rizzieri is a third-generation hair guy. His grandfather, Franco Cipriotti, opened the Maison de Paris in Camden in 1924, home to the first cosmetology school in New Jersey. His father, Salvatore Rizzieri, moved the family business to Haddonfield in 1975, changing the name to House of Capri. That’s where Frank got his start.

“I was born into the business,” he says. From the time he was nine, his father took him to the salon on Sundays. “I folded towels and listened to Sinatra,” Rizzieri recalls.

He still likes Old Blue Eyes, but it took him awhile to adjust to the rest of it. As a teenager, “I’d walk into the salon and say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m stuck here,’” he recalls. His sense of duty prevailed when his family let him know they expected him to go into the business; but he admits he wasn’t the most inspired student in his cosmetology classes.

“What guy at fifteen wants to go to beauty school?” he asks.

Slowly things changed. His father also owned a gardening business, and for a time Rizzieri gave that a try, thinking it might prove an escape route. “I like working with my hands and creating things,” he says. “But then I realized I could do that with hair, too.”

Rizzieri’s break came in 1995, after he met a much-in-demand hairstylist named Didier Melige. They became friends, and that year Melige asked Rizzieri to help him do hair for Helmut Lang’s runway show. That led to more jobs with Melige and, ultimately, to gigs on his own.

At that time, the designers themselves hired the hair and makeup artists for their Fashion Week presentations. Nowadays, cosmetics companies tend to sponsor the shows and do the hiring. It’s almost essential for a stylist to have a sponsor, and Rizzieri picked up a very desirable one in Aveda. His Marlton facility includes an Aveda School for Beauty and Wellness.

For practical reasons, Rizzieri keeps an apartment in Manhattan, but his home base is Moorestown, where he lives with his wife, Ana Marie, and their two sons, Salvatore, 4, and Lorenzo, 1.

Ana Marie is herself a makeup artist with celebrity clients, and teaches a makeup class at the Aveda School in Rizzieri’s Marlton salon. Meanwhile, paterfamilias Salvatore Sr. still proudly patrols the premises.

So, does the fourth generation feel the filial gravity tugging them towards their destiny of beautiful comb-outs and blow drys? Young Salvatore does, according to Frank. “Already,” he says proudly, “he’s saying, ‘I want to work in the salon like Pop-Pop and Daddy.’”

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Best Of Jersey articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown