Richard Kavanagh is a human example of the sentiment: “Never judge a book by its cover.”
Covered head-to-toe in tattoos (his Japanese koi is dope BTW), from first glance, the 45-year-old New Zealand-born hair stylist can seem every bit intimidating. On the contrary, Kavanagh is the polar opposite.
Having cut his teeth working for the likes of hair God, Guido Palau, the Sydney-based mane master now travels to Paris, Milan and New York to work on some of the world’s most highly sought-after fashion brands including Prada, Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Miu Miu, Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent.
His wealth of knowledge in hair and fashion has made him one of Australasia’s most celebrated fashion heads, and his work has been seen in the pages and covers of Vogue, marie claire, Oyster and of course, Gritty Pretty magazine.
What really makes Kavanagh different, though, is his soft, gentle and humble approach. A family man with a ginormous heart, Kavanagh recently joined creative forces with Gritty Pretty’s founding editor Eleanor Pendleton in a bid to put both of their platforms forward for something greater than just lipstick and hair spray.
Kavanagh’s latest venture #carewithkav has already seen him donate $300,000 (!) worth of his eponymous Richard Kavanagh Hair Irons to Hair Aid – a not for profit organisation that focuses on providing hair cutting training in order to provide livelihood skills to low-income individuals and families in the Philippines. This initiative is designed to create the opportunity for street families and people living in shanty towns and slum areas in Quezon City, Manila to learn a livelihood skill that can be used immediately after the five day training program to earn money rather than being forced into poverty, slavery and sex work.
[Eleanor wears: Maurie & Eve sunrise dress]
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EP: Alright, mate. Give me the lowdown. What is #carewithkav?
RK: I first became aware of the work Hair Aid were doing in 2014. I was in a position to donate a large number of hair styling tools to help them support their work. I initially sent them 1700 sets of Richard Kavanagh Hair Irons to be used by people living in poverty in the Philippines. Now, to further support Hair Aid, we are selling a limited edition range of Richard Kavanagh Hair Irons to customers, packaged together with a paddle brush for $180. Through this initiative, we are trying to raise a further $30,000 for Hair Aid to further support their work in the Philippines.
EP: What is it about Hair Aid that made you want to generously donate?
RK: The retail value of our donation so far is over $300,000. What I like about Hair Aid is that they’re a charity that empowers people by providing life skills, in particular, hairdressing skills so that they can earn a living to provide for their families. This resonated with me because it’s not just a band aid measure of giving cash, or food, but it literally provides a path for people to live better lives through their own hard work. This has the dual benefit of providing people a better life along with the self esteem, and self respect that comes from earning your own keep. One woman, from Quezon City in Manila, received skills and tools from Hair Aid and now, she is doing three haircuts a day. This has tripled her income and it means she no longer has to send her 12-year-old daughter to a brothel each day to feed their family.
EP: How can Gritty Pretty readers get behind this cause and support?
RK: I would be so stoked if Gritty Pretty readers would support this project by buying the signed, numbered, limited edition hair irons and paddle brush set (buy here). If you’re not in a position to purchase, I’d love it if you shared this story and helped raise awareness for the particular project.
EP: Be honest with me – what makes Richard Kavanagh hair irons different?
RK: I designed these irons for my own use while I was working backstage at fashion shows and magazine photo shoots. In short, they have to be good because when I’m working, all I have are my tools and my products. If my tools don’t work, my work isn’t quality and the model or celebrity’s hair doesn’t look good and I don’t get re-booked. Richard Kavanagh Hair Irons are ceramic and tourmaline, fast heating with 8 sensors for even heat (this is important so you don’t get that pesky clamp mark at the roots). They also come with an extra long cord, so you don’t get snagged up with short cords and to ensure safety, they have an auto shut-off function. They switch off after half and hour so if you accidentally leave it on when you go to work, you can relax knowing it won’t burn the house down.
EP: Okay finally, why did you want to collaborate with Gritty Pretty to help spread this message?
RK: Gritty Pretty has rapidly become the premier beauty destination. Gritty Pretty readers are informed, intelligent, and have a particular standard that I know this will appeal to. I also really wanted to style your hair into some killer looks!
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RK: You’re a supporter of numerous charities and organisations. Thanks for helping support #carewithkav! What exactly convinced you to get behind this?
EP: When I received your email, I practically jumped at the cause! I remember replying immediately. Being that I’m half Filipino (my mother is Filipino-born and my father is Australian), this initiative really resonated with me on a deeper level. I remember seeing, first hand, the extreme poverty in the Philippines when I was about 14. I remember sobbing to my mum because I had never seen anything like it – naked, starving babies, houses that resembled nothing more than a cardboard box, and beggars knocking on car windows at traffic lights. It was such a huge culture shock and it was an important reminder of just how fortunate my sister and I are to have been born and raised in Australia. I still have a lot of immediate family living in Manila so when I saw the brilliant work that Hair Aid do and the tremendous efforts you’ve contributed with #carewithkav, how could I not involved?
RK: You’ve seen firsthand the poverty in the Philippines. Was this – and your own cultural background – a big motivator for supporting #carewithkav?
EP: Absolutely. As I mentioned, this really struck a cord with me. What I really like about #carewithkav and Hair Aid is that it’s a charity that promotes skills via the beauty industry. I’ve been a beauty editor for 9 years now and any charity organisation that is somehow linked to the beauty industry, obviously connects with me. I’m psyched we could create this beautiful hair editorial to help promote sales of Richard Kavanagh Hair Irons for Hair Aid.
RK: Be honest. Of the looks we created for this editorial, what’s your favourite?
EP: All of them. If I didn’t say that, you’d kimura me! [Laughs]. But, if I had to choose, I would say the textured and tousled waves. I loved watching you at work – applying Redken Volume Rootful 06 root spray followed by Redken Volume Guts 10 spray foam to my dry hair until it was wet then blasting it dry to give it grit. I think some people are really afraid of mousse as a styling product because of bad ’80s memories but nowadays, thanks to cutting-edge formulations, mousse and foams are a really great tool for creating that undone, lived-in kind of look. It can even be just as good, if not better than, some sea salt sprays.
To help save lives, shop Richard Kavanagh Hair Irons here.