You couldn’t find two people with a better friendship alchemy. Linda and Bob Recine, the renowned hair and multimedia artist, have been friends for 40 years and collaborators for 10. In addition to styling countless icons for shows and shoots, Bob has held major installations around the world, is a revered photographer, and has published a book, Bob Recine: Alchemy of Beauty. Here, the duo sat in Bob’s Chelsea garden to talk about their humble beginnings at Henri Bendel, their mentor, Geraldine Stutz, and the best thing they’ve ever collaborated on.
On Henri Bendel & Geraldine Stutz [President of Henri Bendel 1957-1986]
Linda: I started working at [Henri] Bendel in 1983; it was the height of Comme des Garçon. We worked on the catalogs together, with Gus Peterson.
Bob: I was there since ’81 or late 1980. Jean Louis David was opening a store and I went to see Geraldine Stutz and that’s how I met all those guys. Yes, 1983, that’s when we met. I was this kid around [Henri] Bendels doing the windows, doing the art, doing the shoots. I was very close to Geraldine Stutz and those were all very personal in-house things, so, I did them. There was no such thing as agencies that hired photographers.
What was our production? We got into a station wagon, Gus (Gosta Peterson), me, you, the model, the makeup artist….
Was there a makeup artist? Who did the makeup?
Maybe! Just 3 or 4 people. That’s all it took to shoot the catalogs. Driving all around. It was a very homegrown business, if you even want to call it that.
Gus [Peterson] would find the girls on the street – the bigger their nose, the better.
Right. He loved very eclectic beautiful things, which was the style of Bendels. They were the only ones with European clothes of abstract designers.
Do you remember Buster!? The doorman! They had a doorman at Henri Bendel. He was there for like 75 years or something. A guy from Harlem…he was there since he was like 15 years old or something.
He wore a brown suit, a little hat and he stood outside. He was the mascot. You just knew that Buster was going to be there and open the door.
Do you remember the guy downstairs at the makeup counter? He had a full face of makeup? Gerard! He was amazing.
Way before men wore makeup!
Another funny thing about Bendels is that if you wanted to speak with Geraldine Stutz you had to sit with her in the hair salon and scream over the noise because she never had time to meet you. The only time she could fit anyone in was when she was sitting at the hairdressers and she was wearing the Bendels smock. And she was never dressed; she was always on her way to get dressed.
Right. I would do her hair all the time! She was one of the first women who I thought was modern because she was older. And at that time, her whole thing with me was because Jean Louis discovered me, I was the kid who could do no wrong. I gave her like a punk haircut and she loved it!
She was amazing.
She’d walk through the store, half naked, with a million people following her and she’d be dictating notes to like 3 people at once.
Smoking away. She ran that whole store. She was tough.
Tough as nails. She was just this open person, fascinated by everything. She’d always be asking, “What is that?” “What are you wearing?” “Where does that come from?” And then she’d elaborate on your answers with her ideas. She’s the epitome of that phrase, "elegance is refusal.” There was just something about her that was just so far advanced that you knew you were in the presence of something magical. I learned a lot from her, I learned that it was all about listening from an early stage.
Do you remember the makeup room? To this day, there is still nothing more beautiful than that scenario. Everything was intertwined…the jewelry…and I’ve seen some crazy stuff but still, to this day…even the whole store, it’s the most glamorous and elegant.
There was nothing at Bendels you didn’t want.
On Bob's First Salon & RODIN by RECINE Hair Oil….
Linda: Do you remember when you opened your salon and you invited me to go mirror shopping? You wanted a bunch of 20 foot mirrors.
Bob: I was reaching the point where I needed more. I never wanted a salon, I wanted to create an experience. So what did I do? We got 16th century French mirrors. The whole thing for me was building the place, I designed the whole thing and then I was like “I guess we have to open the door.” It's still there, still working…since 1987.
And you made oils!
That was the reason for making the shop. As Vogue said, we were the “jewel box” for hair. If no one was getting their hair done, people would come by and say what is this place? I was the first one to have just chairs (not salon chairs), French mirrors. We’d be crunching flowers in peoples hair and we had heating caps that had teddy bears and hearts on them. It was like an acid trip, basically. I wanted to train everybody to be a fantastical hairdresser that would make shampoos for your hair, fragrances for your hair, color your hair, cut and style your hair, put jewelry in your hair. I wanted an extension of where my mind was at the time. I didn’t want a “salon.” I wanted something new.
A hair Happening!
Then I got into a deep, deep study of essential oils.
I told you I was starting a business and I wanted you to try the oils. You did the best PR for me, talk about boots on the ground. Then one day you said, “Hey, why don’t I make an oil for you!?” and I said “DONE.”
Elegance is refusal, that’s what it is. And that’s our alchemy. I’ve had businesses and I’ve been collaborating with artists my whole life. The beautiful alchemy with you, Linda, is that we come from a certain place of understanding, a type of design, a type of elegance, a certain aesthetic basically. So when we talked about the project. I was like, “It's so much work!” And you said “You make it!”
And “I’ll do the rest.”
My whole life, I’ve never entered into such a deal like that. With you, I don’t want to worry about a design or a bottle and that’s the beautiful alchemy that we have. Of course, we have the same idea product wise – something esoteric and pure…pure. Our aesthetic is the same.
Can you imagine if Geraldine [Stutz] could see our hair oil? I don’t think there is anyone who understands how amazing it is in the way we do.
Not many. That’s why we remain friends this long. Thank god the hair oil thing happened.
You knew I had all that experience working with oils on all types of levels...for treatments…for fun…
Then I said “Just tell me what kind of oils you like.” I was buying all kinds of oils and shipping straight to you.
I’m super proud of our hair oil, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done because its years and years of experience and knowing what’s going to happen.
And now we are going to keep going.
I’m excited for all the new stuff!
It’s the perfect collaboration! It’s so rare.
You are a reflection of myself.
I’m so flattered!!
30 years of friendship....and working together!!
RODIN by RECINE Luxury Hair Oil tips
Always begin with two drops of oil, warmed by rubbing your hands together, and apply from the ends of your hair toward the roots.
For a healthy lustrous glow - apply after shampoo and conditioner, to wet or dry hair.
As a conditioner - add two to ten drops to a single application of your own conditioner and style as usual.
As a styling aid - add two drops to damp or dry hair to help restore the ends of your hair and prevent styling tool damage.
As a brushing treatment – add two drops to dry hair and using a bristle brush, brush for two to three minutes for a healthy glow.
As a scalp treatment – gently massage two drops into scalp, especially effective for dry patches and flaking.
To enhance color in sunlight – apply to wet or dry hair to lift color and highlights as it protects and promotes hairʼs elasticity and luster (Not a sunscreen).
A big thank you to the wonderful Bob Recine.
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