By Katherine Ellis
Photography by Maximilian Engel
Bruno Racine, one of the leading hairdressers in Canada’s capital, is the current creative director of the Ottawa Fashion Week. His talent, energy and leadership have helped OFW grow over the years.
In this Exclusive, he chats with FAJO Magazine about the process of putting together a fashion week, his own salon (The Loft) and his fabulous career achievements so far.
KATHERINE ELLIS: How did your hairdressing career kick off?
BRUNO RACINE: One thing led to another! I had different careers before: from being in the military at Royal Military College in Kingston to being an auditor for Deloitte & Touche. But I was never happy with what I was doing at work. When I was working for Deloitte as an accountant, I realized that I hated my job and couldn’t see myself working in an office for the rest of my life. I am way too social! So I went on to study at the Sutton Hairdressing School, about 15 years ago.
Who was your biggest influence?
A friend of mine, Jean Lamoureux – an incredibly talented hairstylist – and my teacher Margaret Strachan at Sutton. She was so classy and motivating. She was such an inspiration.
Can you tell us a bit about The Loft?
It opened 15 years ago; it was just me cutting hair, answering the phone, booking appointments. I was doing it all. A month later, I hired Carole Gleeson, who is still with The Loft today – and the rest was history.
Now, my partner Paul Valletta and I have two locations: The Loft & Le Spa, and we manage over 60 employees. Seven years ago, we started a mega beauty store online, called Exclusive Beauty Boutique. It is currently one of the biggest online beauty distribution networks in Canada. Two years ago, we also started The Loft Academy, which is the first hairdressing school integrated with a salon in the Ottawa region.
How did you become involved with the Ottawa Fashion Week?
I was previously involved in the Toronto Fashion Week as a hairstylist backstage, and thought it was such a great experience. Then I started thinking: why is it that I always have to run to Toronto or Montréal to be part of such exciting events? Why don’t we have a fashion week in Ottawa?
I did get involved with different fashion shows here in the past, but I didn’t like the egos around me. Then I met Hussein Rashid, the producer of different fashion shows. We were a great fit and his team was great too. After one season of working together, we incorporated OFW as a non-profit organization.
So now, we own OFW with Paul Valletta. I like a good challenge. The hair team is exclusive to my salons. My stylists are highly trained for styling backstage at OFW and it certainly differentiates my salons from others.
What are your duties as the creative director?
Everything: from dealing with sponsors to selecting designers, from building the beauty team to the actual production of OFW.
I am also involved in producing a charity show where we get celebrities to walk for us for a cause. This season, I worked with All Access With Kevin Carroll, for a UNICEF charity fashion show. Celebrities like Tre Armstrong, Rosey Edeh and Gabrielle Miller participated in the event.
How would you describe your personal style?
I am more of a smart/casual person. I was recently told though that I am more of a Bohemian! I thought that was cute!
I also can’t live without sexy and unique shoes. I just bought an indigo blue pair of patent leather at Holt Renfrew; they are faboo!
Who does your hair?
Last time, it was my senior stylist Natalie Cox from Le Spa.
When you meet someone for the first time, do you always look at their hair first?
No, not at all, but I think once they know I’m a hairstylist they always panic!
Can you share with us what your typical day at OFW is like?
I basically make sure everything falls into place smoothly. It is the planning before that is insane. I actually enjoy watching the shows and seeing our team bring the production together. Did you know that it is a volunteer-based event?
As for a day during OFW – it is actually easy; I just make sure the execution is going smoothly. I meet with the designers presenting that day, make sure my leaders for hair [Sylvie Prud’Homme] and make-up [Shawn Hlowatzski from Smashbox] are executing the looks on time. I also make sure my artistic director, Allison Hughes, has everything under control with her designer co-ordinators.
I socialize with our sponsors, get interviewed by the media, talk to many guests and celebrities. I am basically floating from backstage to the market space, monitoring the execution of the event and making sure everything runs smoothly. I also watch every single show [from the front row], of course!
Over the years, we went from attracting 500 attendees to 6,000! OFW is now considered a Red Carpet event in the capital, where all media attend to see the new collections and to find out who is who in the front row.
It’s so glam and so amazing! I’m so proud of everyone.
For more information about the Ottawa Fashion Week, visit http://ottawafashionweek.ca/