It’s impossible to think about fashion and beauty without thinking about Oribe. The legendary hairstylist, who has died at 62, is one of the main reasons that runway hair and makeup became big business, wrote The New York Times in 1992, after he sent top models down Chanel’s Spring runway that year with mussed-up bouffants so expertly tossed and disheveled they raised nearly as many eyebrows as the clothes. He’d do it again the following Spring season, this time for Marc Jacobs’s infamous Perry Ellis collection, only suddenly bombshell lengths got gritty—a look that, coupled with clashing prints and untied combat boots on that runway, helped catapult the idea of “grunge” into the mainstream, with women suddenly begging their stylists for hair that was less glamazon, a little more greasy-looking,
Born in Cuba in 1956 before arriving in the U.S. as a child, Oribe Canales would make and break trends over and over again, on runways and in countless campaigns and cover editorials for the likes of Vogue, collaborating with such iconic image-makers as Steven Meisel, Fran?ois Nars, Richard Avedon, Gianni Versace, Kevyn Aucoin, and Annie Leibovitz. And of course, there was his gang of girls turned one-name wonders: Christy, Linda, Naomi, Cindy—the rise of the va-va-voom ’90s supermodel owed much, quite literally, to his great and talented hands.
Leaving behind a legacy that includes his Fifth Avenue salon at Elizabeth Arden, which he opened in 1991, as well as an eponymous line of styling products beloved the world over by backstage professionals and his expansive celebrity clientele—Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Penélope Cruz—Oribe will be remembered as a master of his craft, conjuring the kind of unapologetic glamour that spoke to the world’s most alluring women. And yet perhaps it was his relationship with Jennifer Lopez—who, after long admiring Oribe’s work in Vogue, hired him for her debut album, 1999’s On the 6—that transformed him from fashion insider to Hollywood go-to and eventually a household name in his own right; the pair would go on to travel the world together for more than a decade.
In an Instagram post today, Lopez credited the larger-than-life hairstylist with defining her signature look and remembered his profound charisma, humor, optimism, and kindness: “[Oribe] made me love the glam part of things. Bc he loved it so much and saw it as a powerful tool to empower women. He loved beauty and wanted women to feel beautiful and sexy. He loved the messiness and the imperfection and saw how interesting that was. He was a true artist.”
Below, his closest friends and peers in the industry—his "family," says Naomi Campbell—share thoughts of Oribe with Vogue.
“When I first got to New York, I was 20, and Oribe and I were on the same career trajectory. Three days a week I’d show up for a job at Vogue and there would be Oribe. We, like most people in fashion at the time, couldn’t believe our luck. We had so much fun, on set, in the dressing room, traveling.He had this idolized version of what a strong and sexy woman was, and he made you feel like that. The lasting mark he made on me—besides how to back comb and use a velcro roller—was when he wanted me to dye this chunk of blond hair in the front of my head. And when Oribe said do it, I did it. I never questioned him (even though we both agreed it didn’t look great in real life, only in pictures, because of the way the film picked it up). Anyway, it became my signature for several years and to this day, when I get my hair colored, the colorist will say, ‘Do you know how many women came in and wanted that chunk?’ It makes me laugh, which he always made me do. He had just enough of the bad boy in him to keep us laughing all of the time.”—Cindy Crawford
"I first met Oribe in December of 1986. I was 16, and on set with Steven Meisel, Carlyne Cerf, and Francois Nars. From that day on, they became my chosen family in the U.S., and they remain my family until this day. It was always just great to be together. We’d work until 3, 4, 5 in the morning. We all (me, Linda, Christy) just wanted to be touched by him, transformed by him. He was a special human being, a very elegant man who never complained and was very proud and supportive of us. He made me feel protected and safe—unconditionally. He’d even pick Christy and I up for work in the morning in his jeep. We loved his jeep; it was all about Oribe’s black jeep. Above all, he could do anything—it wasn’t just bombshell beauty, he made me look like a boy many times—and he always did it with respect and the love of women. There aren’t many people like that left."—Naomi Campbell
"I met Oribe in the '90s and, for me, he optimized the true glamour of fashion. He was fun, gracious, and so good looking—and always fabulous! I will miss him dearly."—Kate Moss
"Oribe was my best friend. The most amazing human being, he was talented, handsome, smart—and the funniest of all. He was like a brother to me and I will miss him tremendously. I love you forever, Oribe."—Fran?ois Nars