One of the most beloved hairdressers is dead. Oribe passed away on Dec. 17, leaving many celebs heartbroken. As the world mourns, learn more about this iconic stylist.
Oribe – born Oribe Canales, 62 – passed away in the early hours of Dec. 17. The death of the man who worked with some of the biggest supermodels of the late ‘80s and ‘90s – from Cindy Crawford to Naomi Campbell to Linda Evangelista – was first broken by his longtime friend, Mary Greenwell. “ORIBE is one of the great ‘original’ hairdressers,” she wrote. “He was a brilliant hairdresser and simply adored by all.” This was quickly proven, as tributes from celebs like Christie Brinkley, Andie MacDowell and the many models he styled over the years starting flowing in. So, who was this hairstylist to stars?
1. He was a Cuban immigrant who grew up in the South. Born in Jaruco, Cuba in 1956, Oribe emigrated to the United States with his family when he was a young boy. “I was born in Cuba and moved to North Carolina in the 1960s,” he told Into The Gloss in 2013. “I had a really nice, happy Southern upbringing with wonderful parents.” Yet, the Tar Heel state wasn’t going to satisfy him for long. “I was a big dreamer, attracted to the glamour of the movies. I thought I wanted to be an actor, so I moved to New York City and got a job working at a club called the Blue Angel. It was French and had dancers, but unless you were the star of the show, which I wasn’t, you were a server. I served salad and dessert.”
2. He found his life’s calling…in Buffalo. Sorta. “The Blue Angel burned down one night when I wasn’t there. After that, I took a receptionist job at a friend’s salon on Third Avenue. The hairdressers there seemed to do pretty well, so I decided to give beauty school a try,” he told Into The Gloss. However, the nightlife of New York at the time was too distracting – this was the time of Studio 54, 12 West, etc. – so he had to make a huge sacrifice…and head upstate. “So, in the winter of ’77, I moved to Buffalo, New York, to finish school. I got great training from a guy who knew and introduced me to [iconic sylist] Garren.”
3. Oribe opened his first salon in 1987. Oribe joined Garren as an assistant. “He was in Vogue and I thought, ‘Why not?’ We had to dress in this crazy beige, it was really weird, but great, like a male bordello party.”
After leaving Garren’s employ, Oribe worked with Leslie Blanchard to learn how to do color. “I really learned a lot about working with color-treated hair there. And since I was the young one, Leslie would always give me the cool movie stars.” He returned to Garren, which helped him get his first editorial credit, which was a shoot for GQ. “For my first big, fabulous cover, we covered the model’s face with hair. You couldn’t see her face at all. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
He began working with photographer Steven Meisel and makeup artists François Nars, which saw him work with some huge names in the modeling world. “If you saw the pictures from the time, you would die. They’re so iconic, with 14 year-old Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Steven having them all tap dance,” he told Into The Gloss “It was just spectacular. We worked and played very well together—we were like family.” With his growing fame and fortune, Oribe opened his first salon in NYC’s Upper West side in the late 1980s. He opened his salon on the 10th floor of the Elizabeth Arden Salon on Fifth Avenue in 1990.
He had a favorite client. “Christy [Turlington] was always my favorite,” he told Real Style magazine in 2013. “She was so spectacular. She still is. She grew into an amazing woman. But I love them all… Cindy was incredible and still is. Claudia was incredible. They were all amazing. You know what’s funny about that era is that I have a huge archive, but every time you look at those pictures, it is today. They are not dated. It is what people do now.”
He launched his product line in 2007. “After years in the industry and working on sets, you get to be a bit of a chemist,” Oribe said of the collection, per The Window. “You mix things to get the desired effect, so eventually you know what works.”
“My work is still very challenging and very interesting,” he told Into The Gloss. “I get to do amazing stuff—for example, right now I’m working with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana on their campaigns—and I don’t think I’m all that, which makes it great. I fuck up all the time. That is what keeps me going, that is what keeps it exciting. I’m my harshest critic. My dad told me, ‘Never say you don’t know how to do it—just try it.’ And I always did. I push and work on something until I get it right.”