Hairdressing Icons: Rita Rusk
Published 23rd Jul 2014 by rachael
Rita Rusk is a true Scottish hairdressing icon, as the first Scot - and woman - to be awarded HJ's British Hairdresser of the Year, alongside husband Irvine, in 1987. Born and raised in Glasgow, Rita came from a family of hairdressers. "I got a job as a Saturday girl in a salon, and took to it straight away," Rita told HJ in 1987. "I really enjoyed everything that was associated with it - the atmosphere, the people and the work being done." Her cousin ran a salon in the city and Rita paid £100 to become a trainee there. "You had to pay for a traineeship then, and £100 was a lot of money," she explains. But the investment paid off and, 16 months later, Rita graduated as a fully trained hairdresser. She continued to work with her cousin for three years before joining another salon in the same city. She met Irvine shortly afterwards at a hairdressing event and, within six months, they were married and owners of their first salon in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. Irvine and Rita went on to open another three salons in Glasgow, where Rita is still based. As well as running a successful business, the pair also started to present shows. "One of our earliest shows was Salon International in 1976, where we presented a look called the Butterfly. The hair was pretty outrageous and it took everyone by storm." From that, Rita and Irvine were invited to present shows and seminars throughout Europe, America and Japan. [hji-gallery-legacy] Rita never looked back, as Rusk's work was published worldwide and their name grew. They entered the British Hairdressing Awards for the first time in 1987 - and won the British Hairdresser of the Year title. But soon after, Rita and Irvine split. Irvine moved to America while Rita continued to build the business in Scotland and appear on stage around the world. In 1984, Rita developed the weaving scissor, followed by the straightening iron in 1986, both of which continue to be a success today. Recently, she has returned to her passion for invention and her latest project is The Wire, a hand-held device to create volume and curl in hair. "As soon as you have a product it's important to protect it," she said at the time. "You should register your trademark and patent as soon as you can. The minute a product hits the market it can be copied cheaply and easily. Trademarks are registered immediately, but patents take much longer to get. However, a good patent company will take the strain and help you enormously in the process. Inventing a product isn't a 'get rich quick' scheme. You have to be committed to your industry and invention. My scissors still sell globally and I sold my flat irons to a manufacturer. If you have a product with longevity you can make money, but don't expect it overnight."