Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
A Danilo-ism: Church is in you. Your church is you. And whatever frees that up in you, you need to do. That’s your talisman, that’s your affirmation—what resonates and empowers you to be a better you?
Danilo has long been on our radar for On Beauty—not only because of his imaginative genius, industry veteran standing, and open and enlightened point of view—but because he’s so much damn fun to talk to. He launched his hair career in San Francisco in 1978, and has since worked alongside some of the greatest talents of our time: his roster includes Gwen Stefani, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman, among many others. But spend even five minutes with him and it’s easy to see why everyone wants to be in his chair. His genuine warmth and presence is a rare find in anyone, much less someone so legit that he can go by first name only. We are so pleased to present Danilo's expert—and entirely individual—opinion on the beauty industry, rituals of self-care, and thoughts on working in a world of women. (This interview runs a bit long, so grab a cup of coffee and cuddle up for the read.)
You and Julie go way back—how did you meet?
I’ve always wanted to do a bath house, a water house, a healing place via water and herbs—ultimately, treatment. I was trying to get my hands on an original bathhouse in Manhattan, and there were spaces (I was looking in the 90s). I had—I still have—a whole plan for it. But I went to the spa convention, the first one they were having out on the wharfs, and everything was bubble baths and sponges, and just, you know, trendy, packaged, heavily fragranced stuff. They were gift concepts; they weren’t really bona fide treatments, and it was all presented in the same way. But I come around this corner, and opposed to this huge room that’s bustling over there, there’s this little Chinese dark-wood étagère shelving unit with some bottles in it, and I walk up and I’m like, "So you really look like the spa I’m looking for! Tell me about it, you’re like the real deal." And it was Julie! And she told me and of course I became an addict and started spreading the word. In Fiore was in its fundamental stages, well on its way already.
So that was our meeting—she satisfied what I’d hoped to find there in terms of what’s interesting. I’m a purist—I can see through all the crap, all the fragrance. Anyway, her wrapping was incredible, classic, and what was in the bottle was a new spin on this idea of whipping essential oils together to get a consistency and that was just her initial building block. Being Mediterranean and American Indian, I love the idea of oil on my skin. It’s been quite a growth since for her and I, through all the years. Everyone loves it; I have access to the premier makeup artists in the world, the diversification of beauty in the world, and I’ve been able to turn them on to In Fiore which is great.
The 4-2-4 is insane and when I do it to myself and go out people are like, “What is up with your skin?” I use my brush and come out looking like I just lost ten years in the shower.
What is your favorite In Fiore product?
I love several of the balms, I use them every day. I take a dollop of balm and I put a cream in it and I mix it in my hand to extend it—I’m 6’2” and it lightens it and is very efficient. I always get compliments on my skin and I think In Fiore is a great help. I like the botanical waters. I love Vis Clair “eye crack,” which is coming back. I put Décolleté on my face. I break boundaries. I’ve had to learn lessons; Julie’s like, “Don’t get it near your eyes!” But I just like to slather in it. I love Veloutee, I love all the fragrances. I like Crème de Fleur. That’s the biggie.
The 4-2-4 is insane and when I do it to myself and go out people are like, “What is up with your skin?” I use my brush and come out looking like I just lost ten years in the shower. Often, I do a clay mask first to tighten me. Then I put on the Lustra and let it seep in, even if I go meditate and it’s twenty minutes, then I’m in the shower with the Treate and I use the auto facial brush to exfoliate—really dig around a little—breaking it down. I’m a little more active on that because it’s about the motion that gets it up and out. It works really well. That’s a special occasion, but to be honest, the botanical waters are a great way to re-perk and zip on out. I get a total refinish on my face very quickly. You get the nutrition immediately.
How do you feel about all-natural hair care?
Well, it’s about the science—accessing a qualitative extract, and getting it to a place where it can break down and enter and achieve what you’re looking for, as opposed to just lying on top.
We’re in a time where we have new knowledge and abilities to make products. I know with our chemists (our chemists are Japanese, as well) we have things like what I call “smart silicon”—it’s a product that is electromagnetically charged to go where it’s needed, and it’s not deposited where it’s not. So that’s very consumer-friendly and the whole point—to get it where it’s needed.
The other thing is, herbs are very different from toxins that people put on their hair. They’re much more harmonious and friendly and results-filled. They may not put up the plastic shield all the time but they give you luster, nutrition, and clarity from the scalp to the ends when done properly. I have lines I love: my friend has Christophe Robin and I love his stuff, I love Rene Furterer, Leonor Greyl, probably my biggie that’s very specific is Phylia [de M]—and they’ve got the science and the patents. They’ve managed to patent a formulation of extract and deliver results. Through our science and our nano and all that, we’re able to get deeper now. It just doesn’t lie on top.
I’m a believer that skincare has come to hair care. It doesn’t stop with your face, take it all the way up!
It’s so funny, I always say “super natural” because once it’s in a package it’s been touched on some level. There’s a lot of intent and development in whatever get squirted into a bottle. A big focus for me is skincare to haircare, and that’s exactly what a co-wash is, it’s like a very advanced oil and dirt emulsifying treatment that nutrifies and leaves behind lovely delicate hair.
Are there co-washes you like?
I try a lot of the natural ones…as far as natural-natural, Christophe Robin has a shampooing crème—he has several, actually, and they’re all really cool, but again they’re not quite as sci-fi elevated. They have a bit of a residue but they’re lovely. What I find about pure natural that hasn’t been sci-fi’d a little is that you get itchy scalp. I find a lot of people have irritation eventually.
Why hair myths would you like to dispel?
This idea that I can live in a modern world and sweat and be dirty and polluted and I don’t have to wash my hair—it doesn’t work. It depends on what you have but at least wash your hair two times a week. A third would be spa time. It gets dirty up in there.
How has the beauty industry changed over the course of your career and what would you like to see more of?
It’s several categories. It’s how things are being grown—our sources and the diversity and the whole…not complication, but reality behind that (whether global warming, fertilizers, hydroponic, whatever it is). The growth of the nutrition. There’s the bottling of the nutrition and the sustainability; all of that goes back to enviro stuff, which I think is really key. And then the other component is the hybrid of technology, the idea of taking technology that was learned on a rocket ship and applying it to delivery systems. The cross pollination, the science to nature. Getting the science keys that unlock the delivery system of the nutrition is very modern.
I think vanity’s the quickest way to change people’s lives. I think people listen.
And we’re going a lot of places with that. People are constantly thinking of new things to do that are revolutionizing. For me, when I developed a dry shampoo with Pantene, I was like, can this not just be more on top of more? Can this offer some sort of skin benefit, scalp benefit, tonifying benefit? Inside-out is a biggie, getting it in on a deeper level as opposed to just sticking it on top and repelling everything. Can we let our skin breathe? Can we give it nutrition? Is the nutrition wellness for our skin? And what are the larger effects?
I have a whole different thing about packaging—I’m like, is it necessary? And if so, is there a better way to do it? And most definitely there almost always is. Like, why don’t we get rid of any plastic that isn’t recyclable? Why don’t we go back to glass—there are all these incredible new ways to prepare glass so that it’s thinner and stronger, and could basically weigh what a plastic bottle does. We could do so much with that. It’s just endless and that’s something that I think everybody’s looking at now because we have…issues, but it’s also the way to be. It makes so much sense. So it’s not only what’s in the bottle, it’s how it’s bottled and how it’s delivered. Those are all new things, new categories, new consciousness, and very important.
I’ve found that you can’t tell people, for instance, to recycle. They may not do it. But if you somehow invest that in their vanity…I’ve learned that through vanity I can get people to do anything. And better yet, do it without them even knowing it, and they go, “Wow.” They get it, they get subliminally educated, they start to participate and it makes a difference. I think vanity’s the quickest way to change people’s lives. I think people listen.
What have you learned from working with women?
I’ve always had a high regard for the female, femininity, Gaia, she, her…all of it. I’ve learned a lot; first of all, I probably know more than most gynecologists do. I know so much about the physical, and then there’s the emotional, spiritual, and empowered side of it all. I’ve seen the good and the dark. I’ve experienced their artistic gifts, their compassionate and emotional love, their devotion, their frustrations, their anger, their aggression—to each other. In some ways, they can be their worst enemies. But they’re sitting on the golden egg that is the most important truth of existence. When you think about earth, it’s Mother Earth not Father Earth. It’s that birthing place, that essence, that wellness, that circle of life, that is femininity.
I also enjoy celebrating that which is woman. I interpret the female—I’m more prone to celebrating an individual than to making you look like everybody else. I find a place for you and your beauty.
Right now, in a modern world, the playing ground is getting leveled. There’s the reality of men feeling threatened, because guys are only given one option—they can’t have babies, so sharing what has always been their job, for some of them, is difficult. But I’m heighteningly aware of the fact that we all start out female in the womb, and I think that’s interesting and essential to our beings. I always hope that more men get in touch with their femininity because it will only benefit everything.
I’ve always been in touch with my feminine side, so I’ve really enjoyed the sisterhood of womanhood. I’ve had a lot of female role models, and I was glad that I wasn’t isolated from having them. (I always told my parents I was the daughter they never had.) And then, to make my living on the super beauty of women—I’ve worked alongside some of the most major fashion houses as chief hair—I was exposed to such a level of style and femininity and diversity. That was an amazing education. And the spirit and emotion of women, getting in touch with my “manopause” because I’m around so much menopause…the list goes on. They’ve been a real sensei to me, they’ve been wonderful teachers and companions.
I also enjoy celebrating that which is woman. I interpret the female—I’m more prone to celebrating an individual than to making you look like everybody else. I find a place for you and your beauty. And female needs are different. We’re in such a time of change. The woman is changing. I think of us as trees as opposed to flowers—trees live long and grow, and strengthen in age, and flowers bloom and wilt. Our trees have flowers that bloom, and those are moments, and I think women have this journey and this built-in sensibility that is kind of amazing. And we’re seeing a nice—it’s taking its time—but there’s a place for all of us and women are really showing up. They always have, but I’ve seen a lot of change and I’m hopeful through women and feel they have a bigger investment somehow. And for that reason, I think we’re in a better place with their guidance, tutelage, and mothering.
What essential product are you never without?
Eyeliner is the one thing you’ll never see me without. I’ve lined my eyes since I was 17. The eye crack (Vis Clair) is another great one, and I carry my lip from Tata Harper. I’m a big fan of what I call elevator makeup, and that’s just boom-boom-boom; the doors close, I mist myself, I line my eyes and put some red lips on, pop in a piece of gum, and the door opens. It’s like, “Where are we going? I’m ready.”
I like some trippiness thrown in on top, like, what? What’s going on? I look for that in all fragrance products: experiential and transformational and ceremonious. I like it to bring me into the now, the future.
My In Fiore regimen is a big one. I love my oils. I love my “stink,” as Julie and I call it, because I always put the balms on. I don’t travel without them; it’s not a good day when I don’t have it on me. My friends the other day said, “We can sure tell it’s your car, it’s got oil prints all over the outside.” I was like, “I just took a shower, leave me alone.” But I’ve slid off many a thing, fresh from the shower. The other day I’d just gotten out of the shower and I had to get something in my car, so I had to sit on my leather seats and I think I just had my underwear on…anyway, there was an oil print but I was like, well, it’s leather—buffalo, at that—it’s going to love it. It made it better.
Something I never leave without is a veil of fragrance. And I have multiple layers—the balm is the first hit but then there are all kinds of other fragrances I put on, other treatments I put on, and then there’s an overall fragrance that I mist into the mix, so it’s a layer of many before I get out the door.
Can you share one of your favorite rituals?
In the morning, I light incense and meditate, and I’m a big fan of healing water. I like to bathe, I like to steam, I like to sweat. And then I like activities. I like the ritual of care. The waters are essential, and the climbing and biking, and just walking—it’s a mix. And let’s not forget: eat something good. I’m already slathered in products. I’m different; most people bathe after the gym—I go to the gym clean, with my stuff on. I sweat, but I’m clean. It all works out, I leave behind the excess and it’s almost like I had a little sauna on my body. It all got absorbed.
What’s your favorite beauty era?
There’s technology in the present and future and I’m loving the influences of that, but I loved the whole time before it was all such a business, when women did themselves. And the beginning of the business was amazing, so it’s more centuries for me. The idea of the Victorian era, which was a beautiful thing between the corseting and the Gibson girls—I mean that was insane. And then when we came into makeup; I love the twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties…the seventies got a little dull for me—the hang of hair. I missed all the doing and it was the undoing at that time. And then we started to get back into a ‘do, and now we have a mixed bag of all of it. I’m hard to pin down that way. I can see beauty in a lot of it. There are certain looks that were so ugly to me, too, but I find inspiration in most of it. It’s such a communication of the times. Even when it was a lot of makeup and the abuse of the body, it was still fascinating—the 60s are a good example of that—it wasn’t natural, it was hyper-visual. But I liked it.
I’m heighteningly aware of the fact that we all start out female in the womb, and I think that’s interesting and essential to our beings. I always hope that more men get in touch with their femininity because it will only benefit everything.
When I look at a project, I look at all the information and I connect the dots and create a picture through that. I just did twenties finger waved hair in brilliant colors then encased in rubber and detailed in a glitter rubber. And that’s all the elements coming in; that’s punk, that’s twenties, that’s today…I think I’m more that person.
What are your must-have beauty items for long-haul flights?
It’s so funny, I do this thing called Life Ball it’s a big AIDS benefit around the world, and I was going to Vienna, and the plane’s full of celebrities and we land to a red carpet, and they all want to get done, you know, before they land. It’s like, girl, you should have brought that turban, scarf, hat, sunglasses, and favorite shade of lipstick and just hit it! You’ve been on that flight for nine hours!
Now, what I’ve found is that my botanical waters and my eye crack and my Veloutee do just that. Boom-boom-boom, I’m sitting in my chair and people are like, “Wow you look really good,” and I’m just like, “Yeah, that took me three pumps and I’m here.” That’s all it takes.
Goat milk fasts. Truly. Dr. Linda’s goat milk fast. It gives everyone radiant gorgeous skin and eyes. It’s an eight day fast. You just eat goat milk and herbs. I’ve never seen anything do what it does—everybody always looks so good when they’re done.
I’m not a standalone; I wear Kashmir, I love it. Currently, El Cosmico by DS and Durga. Rather than just talk brands: herbaceous and floral with a trace of galactic. I like some trippiness thrown in on top, like, what? What’s going on? I look for that in all fragrance products: experiential and transformational and ceremonious. I like it to bring me into the now, the future. I want something to have a ritual quality. That’s a good practice in general and it works well for everybody. It anoints all.
Do you have a special charm or talisman?
Always, I’m always wearing them. Yes—I’m that guy. A Danilo-ism: Church is in you. Your church is you. And whatever frees that up in you, you need to do. That’s your talisman, that’s your affirmation—what resonates and empowers you to be a better you? So, yeah. I got ‘em. I have stones and I have incense and I light candles…whatever it is, I do what I need. One of my talismans is fragrance. It’s always present. I can’t get into my daily ritual without the presence of fragrance. Huge difference.
I love an ocean, I love a mountaintop. These days, less is more, really. I would say summertime is often my most summer destination. I stay above the hemisphere in the summer, and then I get to spend a lot of winter in my home [in LA] because of the nature of work. So I follow good weather around a lot.
What is your In Fiore dream product?
Hair care! Hair spa. A deep renaissance for your hair through product. I’m a believer that skin care has come to hair care. It doesn’t stop with your face, take it all the way up! And that’s what I push on a corporate level—like, what is this doing for the scalp, how can we address the scalp, because if your scalp is not clean and healthy, then it’s not detoxing properly, which is one of the biggest functions on your body. And let’s remember, hair has no life energy, whereas skin regenerates itself. But hair is a detox byproduct, it’s waste, and it needs all the help it can get. Hair care is a genre that Julie acknowledges and I acknowledge, and I’d love to do it with the In Fiore flair.
I’ve also talked to her about doing a signature lipstick. I think it would be stunning. It’s Julie, it’s that woman with that sensibility. I have a drapey gown on, I put a little red on my lips, a little brightness for my eyes, and I’m ready to go. It’s like, sell who you are, because that kind of woman is so wonderful.