Mercedes Ortiz-Oliveri

How long have you been doing hair and what were you doing before hair?

I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years. I started as an assistant while trying my hand at a philosophy degree, and denying myself the art/fashion degree that I really wanted. I fell in love with the industry after seeing the type of connection formed with people and the impact professionals in our industry can have on individuals. The act of service through art of our industry really excites and fulfills me. 

What advice to you have for the next generation of hairdressers?

Find mentors in those whose careers and lives inspire you. Get to know how they work and the whys. Observe everything they do throughout and work to understand their process. Take every class you come across and don’t ever stop. Understand the value our profession brings to society and support others coming up alongside you. 

Giving back is important to me:

I’m always exploring new ways to have a positive impact, in my community, on my staff, for people in need. I try to find new ways to commit acts of service using our craft. The energy I’ve felt after organizing trips with hairdressers to volunteer in Puerto Rico, and a local cut-a-thon for charity is heart warming and fulfilling like no other. Also, my business is committed to donating a portion of retail sales through our initiative TrimGivesBack to different organizations monthly. 

How do you stay curious?

So many ways to answer this question!
- I find the commonalities between total strangers very interesting and inspiring, we all have more in common than we realize.

- I stay connected to the music and arts scene, I can’t tell you how often I leave a show inspired to try something new. 

- By traveling and seeing new things and places constantly, both near and far. There are so many interesting things to explore and learn so close to home, it’s easy to be distracted by the allure of the exotic faraway places and often we don’t realize really interesting things within a couple of hours of where we live!

- But mostly, through the connections I’ve made with people. My friends are a fiercely creative, talented, driven, and supportive bunch. They truly keep me inspired. 

What’s in your kit?

Hikari Beam scissors, I’ve owned two pairs over 19 years and rarely feel the need to use the Matsuzaki pair I also own. A Cult&King straight razor that I love, and feel an immense respect for everytime I wield it. A Dyson dryer, I’m not sure how my shoulder ever survived anything else. A Vess brush, Phillips wood rounders, an R Session paddle brush, YS Park combs, and clips. I also still love and use the same BobTuo cutting collar that I’ve had for about 20 years.

What is your creative process or signature approach?

Try to understand what type of experience someone is truly looking for so I know how to approach their service. Sometimes people just want a little tweaking to their current style and regimen to feel well taken care of and occasionally you get the ones that are really looking for a big change and want to push boundaries. Finding simple solutions that don’t intimidate are key to building trust and cultivating relationships with our clients. I work hard to establish that our craft is a profession worthy of respect like any other.