Hamid Latif talks to Fashion Central

Interview by Khawaja Pervaiz Saeed

Hamid Latif is happy to admit that he has perfected the art of hair coloring and is doing wonders for his adorable ‘jet set’ celebrities at the world famous VIDALSASSON Saloon on the 5th Avenue in New York.

Having excelled in his career with VIDALSASSON, this man of exceptional talent and abilities manages to fascinate Hollywood stars like Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts, who look effortlessly fabulous, once they have gone though a session with him. 

1. Hamid Latif Sahib, please share with us, your background and training as a colorist, and how you managed to achieve recognition as a top colorist in the competitive ‘world’ of USA?

I grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan and by virtue of academic excellence in school got selected for a scholarship in USA, where I was to pursue my studies. Unfortunately when I landed in USA, I was allocated to study in a university in Albama, USA and when I reached there  I found the environment unbelievably unacceptable. Certainly that was not the USA I had dreamed of; within the first seven days I found the courage to call up my mother and shared with her my dilemma.

She was responsive and endorsed my decision to refuse the scholarship and return home and happily I caught the first available flight.

I returned to America a few years later and got admission in a top of the line School of Cosmetology. Two years of comprehensive training and success in the exam conducted by New York State Cosmetology Board enabled me to get a licence to work, followed by practical training at John Sahag Salon.

It was at this stage that I got a lucky break. Through accident I managed to get interviewed by a team of experts at VIDALSASSON and got selected out of over 200 candidates (mostly Americans) which kicked off my foray into the saloons world.
Along the way got noticed for my abilities and was promoted to Colorist position, the TOPTINTER position, Senior Tinter, Assistant Color Director and now I am the (Color) director with full team of highly skilled colleagues working under me. 

2. Do you come to Pakistan frequently?

Yes, I am the very desi kind of a person devoted to my mother. Unfortunately I lost my father, as a child; he was a colonel in the Army, and laid down his life battling for his country , when I was just three years old. My mother, provided me the best of education and grooming, I remain a big admirer of her and love her for affable and impeccable manners and approach to life which  is entirely humane.

3. Your association with fashion related industry in Pakistan; is it business oriented and are you rendering training services also?

I must share with you that I have been fortunate to come across people like QYT and AYT.
Somehow I feel that they have it, the subtle thing called flair or an “eye” for putting together fashion shows and they have managed events not only  in Pakistan but also in American cities like Texas, Chicago, New York, New Jersey

In the coming month a big fashion show is in line, to be held in Virginia and currently we are working on it.

What has also emerged from this partnership is the opportunity  made available to  junior colleagues to  stop struggling and learn entirely new concepts. 

4. Can we discuss some technical aspects about hair styles and what color can do to them?

Hair coloring has to be approached in a most sophisticated grown up way and in an urge to get that chic look, seek the expertise of Colorists who are excellent, Mind you colors and chemicals go together and to avoid any adverse effect the right products have to be used. It is only the professionals who make sure of this, and as a result maintenance is not a problem. 

To give you an example, Loreal of UK has developed Kérastase products which are unique, avant-garde formulas with innovative ingredients. Women aspire to Kérastase for the ultimate in hair care and the ultimate in beautiful hair; this also includes Chroma Reflect Masque – Radiance-Enhancing Masque for Very Sensitized Color-Treated Hair.

5. Any advice for hair coloring of Men?

Yes, when they go for a hair color they must avoid the shoe color polish look. The head should not be colored in one dark color. Flying colors are a good option and so are the natural colors, salt & pepper.

6. Do you have any ‘guru’?

Instantly I can name one, Gregory Miller. He was my teacher and I have enormous respect for him.

7. Can you name some celebrities who look up to you for an ideal touch?

The list is long indeed but some big names that come to mind are Jenifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Chery Chaos, Nick Nulty, Reese Witherspoon and of course Queen Noor of Jordan.
From Pakistan those who have sought my services are Vaneeza, ZQ, Sunita Marshall, Resham, Ayesha and one and only Mehreen Syed.

8. Do you find any difference in the IQ level of celebrities from Pakistan and USA?

Oh! A huge difference; the Hollywood celebrities are simply brilliant about their do’s and don’t’s.

9. What is your next goal perhaps three years down the line?

In a few years time I look forward to becoming the Regional Color Director looking after the saloon in a couple of countries across the globe.

10. Do you plan to continue in USA?

I feel very satisfied here because I am dealing with a full palette of color which is referred to as melting pot diversity; the presence of brunettes, red heads, blonds increases the challenge. And then we also have creative coloring for models.

In Pakistan the color levels are limited. To give you a technical example , in USA we have color levels from 1 to 10. In Pakistan we just have two levels; for example 3 and 4.

11. Have you at any time been affected by racial discrimination in USA?

I do not deny that  racial discrimination is not there in USA and there are times when one has to suffer. Yet I am always forthright when communicating with Americans and do not hesitate to introduce myself as being of Pakistani origin.

The positive side here is that if you perform and deliver, you manage to earn respect and acceptability.

I can safely say that I have come up the ladder without any recommendations or as we in Pakistan say ‘sifarish’. The climb up the career path was all merit based.

12. Any other interest, besides your profession?

Yes, I learnt classical dance at a very young age. And my revered ‘ustad’ was Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak. Even now dance is my passion and I consider it a form of worship.

13. Any message for those in your line of business?

The message is simple, live and let live and respect people for what they are.

Hamid Latif is happy to admit that he has perfected the art of hair coloring and is doing wonders for his adorable jet set celebrities at the world famous VIDALSASSON Saloon on the 5th Avenue in New York.

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