A renowned hair stylist created organic hair care that's food for your head
Yarok is a line of botanically based products that are so good you could actually eat them.
Hairstylist Mordechai Alvow runs a successful salon in New York City and has appeared in the pages of Allure, Elle, InStyle, Marie Claire and Vogue. Which isn't surprising considering that he has worked with international designers Alexander McQueen, Anna Sui and Yohji Yamamoto. Actresses Naomi Watts and Vanessa Lachey are fans.
But the celebrity clientele and working on the runways of New York Fashion Week might never have happened it it wasn't for an unusual "aha!" moment that Alvow had many years ago.
As a young stylist in the 1990s, Alvow noticed he would develop terrible rashes on his hands from working with models’ hair on photo shoots. In between shoots, he’d run to the doctor to get a Cortizone shot to try and heal his skin, but the shots were a short-term fix, and the rashes would quickly reappear. Alvow was faced with the fact that he may have to give up hairstyling as a profession altogether.
Around the same time, the models on set would constantly complain to Alvow about their damaged, brittle hair, looking to their stylist for a solution. It was at this point that a light bulb went off.
“There was nothing in the marketplace that delivered results without the damage,” Alvow told From The Grapevine. “In the late 1990s, everyone in New York started to discover healthier lifestyles, including myself. I stopped smoking, improved my diet and discovered yoga.” Alvow ditched toxic products completely, his skin healed and his journey in holistic hair care began.
The Israeli-born Alvow started experimenting with homespun, oil-based formulas to revitalize and replenish the hair and scalp of his New York City clients. At the time, he owned a salon at the popular Equinox Sports Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The research and development happened in his tiny kitchen, and his devoted clients enjoyed reaping the benefits of his organic concoctions. “I went back to my roots, the love of cooking, ingredients and smells," says Alvow.
Alvow grew up in Israel across from an orange grove where he awoke every day enveloped in the scent of citrus. Alvow’s parents had a passion for cooking and enjoyed experimenting with ingredients. “My first experience with new and rare ingredients was with my grandma who used herbs from her backyard garden,” says Alvow. “As a child I loved going with my mom to apothecaries, they were my candy store and what was very exciting to me. The scent of nature filling the space, the colors and shapes of the bottles.”
But Alvow understood that it wasn’t enough to make nontoxic products. They had to really work, for everyone from supermodels on photo shoots, to mothers and working women. “I used products that provided hold and at the same time were safe and healthy to use.”
Yarok launched into the marketplace at a time when natural products were relatively rare on shelves. “People thought that something natural was too crunchy or bohemian,” says Alvow. “I felt that it was time for organics to meet glamour.”
Mordechai Alvow’s work has graced the pages of Allure, Elle, InStyle, Marie Claire, New York Magazine and Vogue and his international runway experience includes Alexander McQueen, Anna Sui and Yohji Yamamoto. (Photo: Yarok)
Botanically based Yarok products can now be found in beauty stores and salons around the world. The company donates a portion of its proceeds to a nonprofit helping protect rainforests in the Amazon.
All Yarok products are formulated from organic, wildcrafted and otherwise responsibly harvested plant ingredients, hand-picked for their medicinal and sensory benefits, and sourced from pristine locales around the world. The products are created fresh – in small batches – to preserve their freshness, integrity and performance. Alvow says that he finds he uses a lot of citrus in his formulations, a sweet reminder of the citrus smells of his childhood.
Alvow has captured the essence of the brand in the Yarok Beauty Kitchen in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The intimate salon pays homage to the kitchen environment that inspired Alvow as a child. In fact, if you were to visit the salon, you'd likely find Alvow custom blending hair colors in glass beakers or tailoring an aromatic, essential oils treatment just for a particular client's hair needs. He's more of a chef than anything.
“I designed the first and only organic treatment bar, where we custom blend formulas to give each client’s hair a meal using fresh organic avocados, coconut cream and almond butter from over 50 nut oils, like black cumin oil, chia seed oil and a variety of essential oil to choose from.”
Alvow has managed to successfully run a global brand while remaining at the center of the company’s operations by applying a holistic approach to his business operations. “I treat everything I do as a whole, one,” says Alvow. “I keep my team updated constantly. Communication is key. And I remember to say thank you to those around me.” The company is headquartered above Yarok Beauty Kitchen which helps Alvow foster a culture of transparency. It also allows Alvow to remain close to his art.
Alvow says he gets most of his inspiration for a new product by simply listening to what his customers say they need. His latest, and admittedly most challenging, innovation is an all-organic dry shampoo that will soon go to market. “It’s been a year in the making and we’re almost ready!”
Lindsay E. Brown is the managing editor of Eco-Chick, the web’s first ethical fashion, beauty and travel site for women. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, and Cottages & Gardens. Lindsay has been featured as a fashion and beauty expert on the Veria Living Network. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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