ERIC GABRIEL

ERIC GABRIEL

NEW YORK STORY IV

Hairstylist Eric Gabriel on his big break in the
Big Apple.

Cordula Reyer photographed by Irving Penn for American Vogue, September 1988, hair by Eric Gabriel

I never thought I would do hair, and New York was the last place I thought I’d live.

I was born into a family of hairstylists: Aside from my father, who was a photographer, my mother, brother, and grandfather cut hair.

During my senior year of high school, my mom made me sign up for beauty school. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but it turned out to be really fun. Punk kids came out of the woodwork for my Edward Scissorhands-esque haircuts, and my instructors asked me to teach them how to recreate the looks.

When I graduated, my friend and I drove across the country to New York, with plans to go onto Europe — I wanted to live in London as a kid  — but we never made it because I was broke.

Fabienne Terwinghe photographed by Richard Avedon for American Vogue, October 1988, hair by Eric Gabriel and Oribe

Fabienne Terwinghe photographed by Steven Meisel for American Vogue, September 1988, hair by Eric Gabriel

I ended up staying in New York, crashing on Danilo’s couch, and cutting hair at Girl Loves Boy, a really rock ‘n’ roll salon in SoHo. One day, Oribe came to the salon with my client whom he had stopped on the street to ask about her haircut.

He watched me do three cuts and left.

A few days later, his agent, Omar, called me and said Oribe wanted to put me on some tests. I was so green, I had no idea what that meant.

It was my first time on set, and I tried two styles:
WILD and CONSERVATIVE.

Oribe thought they were genius, and threw me right into the industry.

Cordula Reyer photographed by Irving Penn for American Vogue, September 1988, hair by Eric Gabriel

I’d say that I started at the top:

I worked with Steven Meisel, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon — all the masters — but back then I didn’t even know who they were!

A year or two later, I got an American Vogue cover with Irving Penn, Kevyn Aucoin, and Elaine Irwin. Omar was like: American Vogue is the only thing Oribe’s ever wanted in his career, and you got it before him. But Oribe was so excited for me, and my family was super proud. My mom was like:

Who knew, out of all of us, that you would be the one?

— as told to The Thick

Did you see? Gabriel displays his talent in a 1994 Harper’s Bazaar editorial, makeup artist Kristin Gallegos shares her New York story.

Josie Borain photographed by Irving Penn for American Vogue, August 1989, hair by Eric Gabriel