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ARTIST PROFILE:

ORLANDO
PITA

The preferred hairstylist of Sofia Coppola and Amal Clooney explains the inspiration behind his new line.

Written By JAYME CYK

ORLANDO PITA AND AMBER VALLETTA BACKSTAGE AT GUCCI, 2004
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ARTHUR ELGORT / CONDE NAST VIA GETTTY IMAGES

ARTIST STATS

Name: Orlando Pita

Known For: Stunning, sculptural hair and experiments with texture

Where to Find Him: New York City

Clients: Amal Clooney, Sofia Coppola, Jennifer Connelly

Years in the Industry: 33

Instagram: @orlandopita

Beauty Essential: Dr. Hauschka Rose Cream

Mentions in The Violet Files: Backstage Beauty Shortcuts, Paris Couture Beauty

Agent: Tahra Collins @ Art + Commerce

At the age of 14, Orlando Pita’s father forbade him from ever picking up another pair of scissors after Orlando gave his brother a particularly horrendous ‘do. But nothing could stop the budding hairstylist, whose family emigrated from Cuba to New Jersey when he was a child. “I was thinking about what I did wrong with my brother’s hair,” recalls Pita. “I wanted to try again so I asked my grandmother if I could cut her hair, and it actually came out okay. That gave me the confidence to keep at it. I cut my mom’s hair, my cousins’, my friends at school—once I even convinced a substitute teacher to let me cut her hair.” 

But Pita’s hobby didn’t turn into a career right away. Instead of attending a traditional beauty school, the 21-year-old worked on Wall Street until he realized the world of finance wasn’t for him. One morning his brother, who was assisting a fashion photographer, called Pita to let him know the hairdresser on set had canceled at the last minute, and that they couldn’t find a replacement. Pita volunteered, little knowing that this was the start of a glorious career. 

Gigi Hadid in CR Fashion Book Issue 8
Photography by Sebastian Faena, Hair by Orlando Pita

Pita moved to Paris in pursuit of hair opportunities, and quickly landed a job working with legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh. At the time, however, the self-taught stylist didn’t have a clue who Lindbergh was—which possibly worked to his advantage. “I wasn’t nervous,” Pita remembers. “My attitude was, ‘If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.’ But it did work and it took off in a big way.”

When he says big, he means working with some of the best teams in the business—photographer Mario Testino, stylist Carine Roitfeld, and designer Jean Paul Gaultier, to name a few. His sculptural and experimental creations led to another fortuitous opportunity in 1986, when he began working with then-unknown designer John Galliano during London Fashion Week. Pita went on to construct some of Galliano’s most iconic beauty looks, both at his namesake label and at the House of Dior, including huge crimped bobs, wigs covered in hair pins, and sculptural meter-high bouffants. “For me, inspiration is everywhere,” Pita says. “A shape of a building, the hardware store, and the people I work with motivate me.” 

I told the lab to think of my line like Seinfeld—it’s about nothing, but it’s about everything.

— orlando pita

Case in point: Pita says he couldn’t have created his haircare line without the people closest to him, particularly his mother, who has very thin hair and struggled to find products that were both effective and user-friendly. In February, he unveiled Orlando Pita Play, a collection that is straightforward, nontoxic, and easy to use. “One unique aspect to my line is that the products are designed to work equally effectively on wet and dry hair,” he explains. “I’m often working on wet hair when at my salon and dry hair when I’m on set or backstage, so this was important to me.” And his unique craft travels further than backstage and on set. His unrivaled body of work has caught the eye of Gwyneth Paltrow, Amal Clooney, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Connelly, as well as Madonna and Lady Gaga, all of whom are his clients. In 2004 Pita opened his salon, Orlo, in New York. “Versatility and products that work on all hair types was always at the forefront of my mind when developing the brand,” he adds. “I told the lab to think of my line like Seinfeld—it’s about nothing, but it’s about everything. I want my products to feel like nothing is in your hair, but do everything they need to do.”

violet
inquires

Orlando Pita on Dolly Parton, Japanese food, and his obsession with fragrance.

NEVER-FAIL TOOL

My Firm Hold Hairspray because I can use it as a styling lotion if I add water to the formula, or I can blow-dry and utilize it as a finishing product. It can be used in so many different ways.

DRUGSTORE DISCOVERY

Nivea Creme because it tames curls and calms frizz, but you have to use a small amount because it can be quite heavy.

NECESSARY INDULGENCE

Japanese food or shoes. I love Ushiwakamaru in NYC, and I tend to favor Premiata shoes.

ANTI-AGING STRATEGY

Definitely diet and exercise are key to anti-aging. But I started taking care of my skin at a young age. As a teenager I clean a pharmacy that had a skincare bar, and I became very friendly with the woman that worked there. She started me on a skincare regimen at age 14 with Orlane. I had a cleanser, a toner, and a moisturizer, and I feel like that’s really helped me have the skin I do today.

CAN’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT

I can’t leave home with putting on some perfume. I’m fragrance obsessed. I have so many and I’ve been collecting fragrances for so long that I have ones that are not on the market anymore. I like to take a little of this one and little of that one and mix my own scents too. My current favorite is called Tann Rokka Kisu.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: ORLANDO PITA AND MADONNA; CHRISTY TURLINGTON AND PITA; PITA AND KEVYN AUCOIN; CLAUDIA SCHIFFER, PITA, AND VERUSCHKA / PHOTOS VIA @ORLANDOPITA

DREAM APPOINTMENT

Dolly Parton because I love all of her different hairstyles. They’re not quite my taste, but I’ve learned to embrace the things that aren’t.

PLAN B

I have honestly never even thought about a Plan B for any aspect of my life, much less hairdressing. I find that it’s a distraction from Plan A, which will always be my focus.

DO YOU SEE THE PERFUME BOTTLE AS HALF-EMPTY OR HALF-FULL?

I’ve always been a positive thinker.

PREFERRED VACATION DESTINATION

I travel a lot for work, so for my vacations I like to drive and just be away from people. My life is really social, from the salon to my fashion show work—when I’m off, it’s just me and my husband, George, and our dog, Gigi.

FAVORITE SPA

I’m into Chinese acupuncture. I want real structural skeletal work when I go to the spa. I go to this guy named Jack Lee in Chinatown.

HEALTH & WELLNESS SPOT

I love juicing. I used to go to this fasting spa called We Care Spa. Now people go there to lose weight, but for me it’s more of a medical therapeutic thing.

WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE WHEN MEETING SOMEONE? 

Their eyes. People say the eyes are the gateway to the soul. I think eye contact is so important—it lets the other person know you’re engaged.

HAIR HITS BY
ORLANDO PITA

Get inspired by our Pinterest board of more hair by Pita. 

FIND YOUR
DREAM BRUSH

Hairstylist Alex Polillo on the best brushes to buy and when to use them.