Rinaldo Canonico grew up in the southern Italian city of Lago, and at eight years old he was sent to different trades after school to learn a skill under a maestro.
He apprenticed with a shoemaker, tailor, blacksmith ?and a carpenter. But it wasn't until he climbed onto a stool and put shaving cream on a customer's face ?in a barber shop - and spent his tip on ice cream - that he knew this was the job he liked the best.
In his late teens, Rinaldo worked in a salon frequented by all the movie stars. Philippe was one of Italy's most famous hairstylists at the time - and the aspiring stylist wanted to be just like him. He also styled hair alongside Vidal Sassoon, who after moving to London became internationally famous for changing the world of hairdressing fashion.
Rinaldo came to Canada in his early twenties and first worked at a barber shop on Somerset Street, which is still there. He left to open his own salon and worked side-by-side with Pat, his wife and muse of nearly 40 years. Together, they created a go-to hair salon and spa where local clients rub shoulders with the international elite who come for that customized salon experience. Rinaldo is the centre of the salon, but he acknowledges that his dedicated staff carries on his legacy through all he has taught them.
As proud ambassadors of his brand of salon excellence, Rinaldo believes his Ottawa clientele have the same panache as in any other city in the world. Always impeccably groomed and dressed, Rinaldo has styled heads of state, royalty, prime ministers and their wives, as well as local and international celebrities including the Empress of Iran and Sophia Loren. Rinaldo was also responsible for softening Margaret Thatcher's big bouffant hair. He has helped to change the face of beauty and style in the National Capital Region, as only he can.
Do you have a signature cut? I can create the most amazing hairstyle as a stylist. But it makes an impact when it is worn by a well-known person. In the 1980s, when I cut Mila Mulroney's hair with bangs, half of Ottawa then wanted the same cut. When Vidal Sassoon cut Mia Farrow's hair so short, everyone wanted shorter hair. It is all about who wears it. That is what makes change.
How does hair relate to personal style? Everybody sees your hair before anything else. If you have a hole in your shirt, no one sees it if you cover it with a jacket. I could wear a shirt that is 20 years old and still look good. But if you have the same haircut for 20 years and don't change it, that doesn't work.
Why does your salon attract the rich and famous from all over the world? It's like finding a five-star restaurant no matter where you are. People do their research. We were named the No.1 salon in Canada. When you have a well-trained, educated staff that is on top of all the new products, techniques and trends, you attract everyone.
What hair product should every woman have? A good salon-quality shampoo and conditioner - that's it. When you go to a salon, you are coming to a professional. When you go home and use a different product and your hair sticks out all over the place, you blame the stylist, but it's not the haircut. It's what you use at home. If you don't use a good product, the hair doesn't behave.
What do you love most about being a hair stylist? People! For me every person is beautiful. I don't look at the face of a person and say they are beautiful. I look at what makes them beautiful, personally. The loveliest thing about a woman is her personality. Smile from inside - that's what makes a beautiful woman.
Is it hard to get male customers to your salon? It was a little harder a few years ago, but today's man understands what a salon is. Men represent about 10-15 per cent of our clientele - they enjoy the experience and then tell their friends. Men need to take care of themselves too.
Hot beauty trend for 2012? Hair is longer with lots of curl. Very chic hairdos. And lots of blond.
What hair length looks better on a woman? I analyze a client's lifestyle and daily routine to assess their personal style. I look at the total person and what she wears from head to toe - the whole picture. The hair has to suit and it has to fit. I tell my clients what would look best on them. It is all about the combinations for that perfect look.
Any plans for slowing down? No. I could never retire and do nothing. My father worked until he was 90 years old. Even until he died, people would ask him for advice. It is so simple. Love what you do. You have to do something and if you don't, what is the point of that? Don't sleep. Live.