Online Exclusive: Mario Russo
A profile of the prolific Boston stylist and brand owner.
By Joanna Cosgrove
Mario Russo, the Boston stylist and owner of Salon Mario Russo, has been a mainstay on Newbury Street for the past 18 years. In 2000, his foray into hair, body and bath products began with the launch of one shampoo based on the lightweight moisture and antioxidant properties of olive oil as a natural ingredient. Not long after, the line grew to encompass a complete hair and body care line.
Mr. Russo was born in Italy and grew up in the small town of Formia. When he was in his teens, his parents moved to the U.S. where he attended Northeastern University to study engineering. Upon discovering his true passion to creatively engineer better hair, Mr. Russo went to cosmetology school. He completed his training in London at Vidal Sassoon where he learned to combine precise technical skills with the desire to creating a personal best look for every client.
“Everyone can look beautiful with the right cut and color. It’s a matter of seeing a stylist who has been trained to bring out that perfect individual style that compliments your lifestyle and sense of style,” he said.
The Mario Russo Collection.
When premier clothier, Louis Boston, expanded into the old Museum of National History building and wanted to include a full-service salon, Mr. Russo was the first person called. In 1992, Mr. Russo opened his second Salon Mario Russo on the third floor of Louis Boston. He also currently operates a third salon in Stowe, VT.
In the time following his salon expansion, Mr. Russo sought a professional hair care product line that delivered, in his estimation, the right blend of cleansing and conditioning.
“After many years of cutting and finishing hair, I was unable to find the right blend of professional products to fit my needs, so along with my chemist I formulated my own,” he recalled.
Created for his salon clients, the Mario Russo line of hair, body and bath products began in 2000 with one shampoo based on the lightweight moisture and antioxidant properties of olive oil as a natural ingredient. The use of olive oil as his key ingredient held special meaning for Mr. Russo: as a child in Italy, his bedroom window overlooked a grove of olive trees and his grandmother often used olive oil as a moisturizing cure-all for hair and skin care ailments.
Due to his love of everything contemporary, he made sure each of products included the most modern technology for hair and body care performance. “Olive oil is rich in omega-3,” he said. “It is the omega-3 that softens and conditions hair and skin in my products. Finding the right molecular strength was key in the development of my line.”
To that end, his current product line up embodies the marriage of olive oil as its traditional ingredient with the contemporary performance expected by today’s modern consumer.
“My olive oil based products differ from other professional product lines because of the quality and blending of ingredients in my product,” he commented.
The line, which boasts 21 unique hair care, bath and body products, spans not just shampoos and conditioners, but also a signature volumizer called Inflation (7.1oz / $21.50). Formulated with olive and verbena, the product is not just a nod to the economic climate but a tool to “inflate” as well as to control hair beautifully. A patented process turns the styling liquid to bodifying foam without the use of aerosol propellants.
“Inflation does just that, it inflates and gives volume to your hair without weighing it down,” said Mr. Russo. “Only a stylist would know what a product really needs to do to be effective and how to use that product efficiently, which is why I created my own.”
The hair care line also features olive- and aloe-infused Miracle Styling Crème (2oz $7.50 / 8oz $24.50) for “overstyled” hair. The product is a “barely detectable” formula that’s power-packed with olive oil and vitamin E micro-capsules that gradually release their moisturizing contents onto hair, offering protection from the harmful effects of blow-dryers and flat irons.
The body care line is supported with handcrafted bar soap, salts and the SeaSoap (3.6oz $7.50/7.2oz $12.50), which contains olive oil and sea kelp, is produced in keeping with age-old soap-making traditions. Crafts-people mix, pour and cut each bar by hand. All natural ingredients and 32 days of meticulous work produce a long-lasting, beautifully fragranced soap.
There is also a bubble bath and/or shower gel product called Olive Juice (2oz $7.50 / 8oz $17.50) with a mouthwatering ginger-lime, or pummelo (sweet grapefruit) fragrance.
Rounding out the body care lineup are hand and body lotions, a hand soap, olive lip balm, a cuticle crème and an all-natural candle derived from plant waxes, olive and vegetable oils and essential oils.
Mr. Russo’s products are sold in all three of his salons and on his eponymous website.
In his 20 years as a hairdresser, Mr. Russo has worked his tress magic on a wide variety of fashion conscious consumers and celebrities. When in town, renowned clients such as Teri Hatcher, Stephen Baldwin, Jimmy Buffett, Sarah Ferguson, Rhea Perlman, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Chris Cooper and Natalie Portman have been known to visit. Mr. Russo is also the go-to stylist for some major league baseball players and their wives (although he wouldn’t reveal their names, noting that baseball rivalries are especially fierce—especially in Boston!).
Looking ahead, Mr. Russo is excited about what the future holds for his business.
“It is so important to be a forward thinker, to keep moving and stay focused,” he said, noting that his forward-looking plans include both salon and product line expansion, though he was tight lipped about the details.