Month: May 2015

Vincent De Lorenzo – Chapter 11

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Chapter 11

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.

Last Chapter: Last Trip to Italy/ Dominic/ Vincent falls ill/ De Lorenzo today/ an industry remembers/

De Lorenzo Setion Draft:
As part of De Lorenzo’s growing commitment to the environment, they recently introduced a new computerised system that costs $500 000 to implement and uses a PC tablet for the ordering process. This system makes the ordering and packing process streamlined and error free and the factory virtually paper free.
Today De Lorenzo has weathered the ebb and flows of a fickly Australian consumer demand and managed to maintain its growth even against a growing competitive haircare market. Today, although the giant, faceless multi-national corporate haircare companies dominate the market share, De Lorenzo remains a player. De Lorenzo has remained statute to their corporate philosophy.

They remain 100% Australian made and owned, family owned and operated and cruelty free. Their products still do not contain any ingredients of animal origin and are naturally based using certified organic ingredients wherever possible.

Their commitment to sustainability is evident in their refusal to use petrochemicals and their constant review of manufacturing processes to find more eco-responsible ways to conduct their business.

Perhaps as is the way of the tall poppy syndrome in Australia to bring down successful entities, De Lorenzo family has attracted and fought off industry criticism, cynics and jealous rivalry but they continue to pay their dues and prove themselves.

The indeed remain, big enough to compete and small enough to care.

Vincent De Lorenzo – Chapter 10

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Chapter 10
De Lorenzo
“Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists.”
Bhagavad-Gita

In the mid 1980’s Australia had well and truly caught up to the rest of the modern world. Australia launched its first domestic communications satellite, from Cape Canaveral, USA and construction began on the redevelopment of Darling Harbour in Sydney while in Queensland, Australia’s first legal Casino, Jupiter’s opens for business.

In other news of the country, AM radio begins broadcasting in 1985, the same year that bushfires tore through Victoria and South Australia destroying dozens of homes and killing five people. John Howard becomes the leader of the opposition taking over from Andrew Peacock, Women began training alongside men in the army and Australia’s longest running television series Neighbours goes to air.

After the sale of Delva a few years earlier, the family’s future had seemingly taken a new path. With Vincent and Anton both in retirement the De Lorenzo sons went on to shape futures for themselves in the architectural and building industries- the new boom industries as Australia continued to grow and modernise.

Vinnie had become and architect for a government department in education. He worked on the 20th floor of a government building in the city known as “the back stump” and his work life was less than demanding. His brother Chris was a government engineer and worked two floors below him. Their cousin Anthony who had a building degree also worked in the same field. For all of the De Lorenzo sons, this new path was a lacklustre substitute for what was their life’s passion – working in the hairdressing industry.

Manufacturing was by now deeply engrained in each of them. Turning their back on the many years spent helping shape the family business just didn’t work.

Eventually, one day in 1983 Vinnie reached a turning point. He decided he had worked one day too many in a job that brought him no joy and when an opportunity came along for Vinnie to join the Delva sales team, he took it,
“Hugh Gresham had visited the house for dinner one night and asked me if I wanted a job in Adelaide, for me this was the out I was looking for. I knew I could do the job and so I took it. I bought a flat in Adelaide for $16,000 and a few weeks later made the move down there”

Vincent was not happy about this. His family being close to him was important and he was upset that Vinnie wanted to leave a career in achitecture to go back to the hairdressing industry – even if it was working for Delva. Vinnie and his father seemed to share a likeness to one another that caused the two of them to lock tenacious horns with one another. Like most father-son relationships, the more Vincent Snr pulled, the more his firstborn son defiantly retreated.

With hours of spare time on his hands and with not much else to amuse him Vincent began once again to formulate products in the lab in the basement of his point piper home. He concocted new formulas that adapted from collagen proteins to a newer innovation at the time- Keratin Proteins.

Vincent began to send these products to Vinnie in Adelaide to evaluate but Vinnie was busy carving his own path. He had done so well in his new role at Delva that within a year he was promoted to regional manager for Delva in NSW. Unbeknown to Vinnie, his father was silently pulling strings behind the scenes to get his son back to Sydney. Never the less Vinnie didn’t need his father’s help to make a win and eventually, showing much of his father’s talent for sales and charm, he lifted Delva to the next level and secured Delva’s first ever million dollar sales month.

By 1985, as if by providence, things at Delva took a turn for the worse and Vinnie was fired. Despite his success. The reason Vinnie was given was because there was a restructure in the business and the position was now redundant. Speculation circulated in industry circles that the real reason Vinnie was dismissed was because his father’s tenure as consultant for Delva was finished and the head boys at Recket and Coleman did not want another De Lorenzo in the business – this perhaps was considered a conflict of interest. Whatever the reason, Vinnie was devastated by the turn of affairs; Vinnie ‘s world began to turn on its head. This was a crucial turning point. Vinnie was more convinced than ever he did not want to return to architecture, this became the catalyst for the family’s next big venture – The creation of De Lorenzo Cosmetic Research & Development.

Meanwhile, Vinnie ‘s younger brother Chris De Lorenzo was back in Sydney working as an architect. Enjoying his work was not part of the equation. This was a career that he was not passionate about but remained in the position so as to keep the family boat from rocking or toppling over, as he feared it would. He too was yearning for a return to the family’s glory days. To Chris, Anthony and Vinnie, working outside of the hair industry was precisely that – work.

Vinnie recalls one of the first conversations they had about returning to the hairdressing industry:

“I think the first conversation we had about this idea happened in the car while we were driving somewhere. I asked dad how he would feel about going to business again. He looked at me like I was mad but there was also something in his expression that let me know this wasn’t the first time he had considered this idea. So we talked it through and agreed to meet at the house on Saturday with Chris and Anthony and Uncle Anton and put it all on the table to talk through and see whether this was a collective project.”

In our first meeting we planned our attack. We started with a name…One possibility that was thrown around was VA Hair products, my father joked to Anton “im the oldest, I come first, so get lost”….We then got talking about how much good will we still had in the industry – it seemed fitting that we use the De Lorenzo name…it was agreed the products were to be called De Lorenzo.

The family spent the rest of the year preparing for the launch. There was much to consider – finding a factory, creating a lab…They had many conferences, things needed to be decided on, what is their point of difference, what was their philosophy? What machinery was needed? Where would the factory be? What sort of staff did they need?. As with many family owned businesses, discussions were often heated as everyone had differing opinions on how to do things. Chris commented, “ Dad usually wanted things his way, and we could argue but usually, he would get his way. The funny thing was that he was usually right. We learnt to trust his judgement. He had a sixth sense for business”.

Anthony De Lorenzo adds, “In those early years, we spent a lot of time getting their bad golf swings out of the way”.

The roles for the company though were decided early on and according to skill sets. Anthony shared his father Anton’s nous for chemical engineering and so Anton and Anthony looked after that department, Chris looked after production and Vinnie took on a national sales position, already having proved his skill at Delva.

The family then had to find a home for their new burgeoning business. After much searching they settled on a property in Leichardt. Although slightly run-down with a little TLC, the family rolled up their sleeves and began to prepare the empty warehouse for the arrival of new manufacturing machinery. There were two, almost adjoining properties on eon Hall Street which was the production Headquarters and the other on John Street, the marketing and sales department. Vincent and Anton held forte at Hall Street while the younger boys took up residency in John Street. Anton and Vincent spent hours cleaning and scouring every old surface in the warehouse until it sparkled.

Once the machinery arrived, they had to learn how to run it and there were many teething problems, which inevitably lead to much family friction.

At first all of the bottles they produced had paper labels stuck onto bottles, this meant thousands of labels had to be soaked and ready for application.

“It wasn’t easy at first. I fought with dad about the structure of the business and as we started the business, no one took home pay – we only had the promise of pay”. Says Vinnie. Infact Vincent and Anton never took a cent from the company, such was their love for their business.

While structures were put in place, equipment sources and finer details looked after, Vincent and Anton were working hard on their first De Lorenzo product developments. They had developed twenty products to go to the market with. They weren’t general products either; they were specifically designed for various hair and scalp conditions and became known as Prescriptives. Through developing these products, they coined the concept of the four natural hair balances as a way to help hairdressers understand hair health. For each balance you would score on a scale of one to ten – sebum, acid mantle (or pH balance), moisture and protein.

“The products were labelled with factors or levels for each type and the hairdresser would decide what the hair factor was. No one has ever done that before! We registered this as our trademark – all of our products even today are based on that prescriptives philosophy.”

Unfortunately people don’t understand what hair is all about they think that by washing hair that’s all you need to do – you can often damage their hair in the process of watching – cheapness is rawness – the quality of the chemicals are raw. We lead in that area in Australia.

The next step was to find top staff, which they did. Many of these staff members came and went but De Lorenzo grew from the moment they opened for business. They grew from a staff of 20 to 130 people in the organization today.

In Australia De Lorenzo is still the only Australian haircare brand executing their own development and research. It’s a long and laborious process – while some products take 3 months, others can take over two years.

Hair colours take two years to develop. De Lorenzo source and buy only the best chemicals from all over the world. The constant challenge as Vincent put it was “how can you improve on the best?” Some chemical manufacturer would refine a chemical better than another so we constantly source out the best ingredients to use. It’s always evolving. We can’t create something and keep that way for three years; we have to constantly ensure our ingredients are of the highest quality. When we test products we have a standard to reach and then we have to better it. When we think it’s nearly right then we give it to the girls in the training room and they do half head tests. It then goes to a panel, then to the lab for more work and it goes back and forth until we are happy with the result. First they get the body of the formula settled on – then they add the fragrance. The chemist goes to a perfume company and they get samples to do tests with. Once the fragrance is added to the product it changes – then the panel test it and narrow it down to three. These three get sent to an independent panel of 26 hairdressers who rate each one and they go with the winner. Today fragrances are for younger people – older people prefer flowers and now people prefer fruits. But don’t let fragrance be the point you use to select it – is the product right for you that is the important thing.

The process doesn’t stop there either. Once the formula is developed our Microbiologist looks for bugs in the formulas, if the product has germs it will deteriorate so if he finds bugs it gets dumped – there is a strict quality control on this! The products have to last on the shelf for three years without its performance deteriorating. This is why providing refillable containers for retail is not an option we consider viable. We cant quality control the formulae with refills. When you have millions of dollars worth of stock all over Australia that needs to last three years, you have to be very careful and they achieve that through microbiology testing. Once it goes through all of these stringent tests, its ready to be packed and marketed.

We are confident our manufacturing process is as good as anywhere else in the world – that’s why we are ISO approved. It’s an internationally recognised quality standard.

Today the process remains as stringent however refined. The key components of the process include:
1. Research and development are recorded and file
2. Administration
3. Packaging
4. Education
5. Microbiology
6. Warehousing
7. Pick and packing
8.
When they went to market in June 1986, there were 20 products. Eventually the brand range would expand to 220. Within three years of business the company had surpassed Vinnie’s record at Delva in sales and every year since the company has grown. This was attributed to their reputation in the industry as well as their natural approach.

In the mid 80’s the word Chlorofluorocarbon or CFCs started to get bandied around. It became a buzzword for the generation. It was CFC that was believed by scientists to be responsible for a thinning of the earth’s ozone layer and it seemed that the use of aerosol cans, the burning of leaded petrol as well as industry that contributed. In 1987, the issue in Australia was magnified by scientists discovering that a hole in the earth’s ozone layer had moved over south Australia for a month. The following year, the Australian government signs the Ozone Layer treaty (what does this mean).

In response to the issue, Vincent and Anton decided they needed to create an Ozone layer friendly alternative for their hairsprays and aerosol products. The family designed a pump action, non-aerosol spray. Unfortunately, the hairdressing industry and general consumer did not share the De Lorenzo’s philanthropic approach to haircare and the product failed to make any significant blip on the sales radar. Eventually, the company discontinued the production of this new product. It seemed the De Lorenzo’s corporate eco-conscience was before its time.

In1989 De Lorenzo, the family identified the exporting opportunities that existed for the brand and, sooner than they had hoped, they crossed the great Tasman and launched in New Zealand. (go into detail here)

(Include details here about Vinnie’s venture to NZ and to US)

Vincent De Lorenzo – This is your life: Chapter 9

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Chapter 9
This is your Life
“Act well your part, there all the honour lies.” Alexander Pope

*Include story about Hugh Gresham, Delva courthouse
*Frank Boffa & Lou Cordoni
*Stories about Vincent in seminars/ more emphasis on his way of telling it like it was. But somehow making it seem affectionate.

Vincent’s close religious ties led to him taking on sister Elisabeth of our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent Kincoppal as an unofficial apprentice in his salon. Mother superior went to see Vincent and said she would like him to teach Sister Elisabeth. She wanted to learn how to style cut hair so that she could do this for her fellow sisters at the convent and also the retired nuns at the convent. Sister Elizabeth was with the salon for two years. She would come in and watch Vincent and the other stylists cut and style hair, taking notes and learning the trade, practicing on models from time to time.

“We had 35 women and 5 men talking about all sorts of things in the staff room what they got up to on the weekend, cheeky jokes, you name it and she was a great sport about it and got on well with everyone. She was wonderful.
Mother superior came in and said thank you very much now how much was Can you imagine her with all those girls saying all those things that must have made her hair go curly – all that – and she wanted to pay me – I said I should be paying you. That was a good experience cause I don’t know of anyone who had a nun as an apprentice.

The 1970’s sparked the first family world trip when Vincent and Pat took Vinnie, Chris and Jo-anne to Europe for the first time for a family holiday that combed business with pleasure.

The family travelled all over Italy, France, Germany and England as well as stopping in Hong Kong briefly on the way over. Vincent proudly introduced his Italian heritage to his children, taking them to Rome to see the Sisteen Chapel and to be part of an audience with Pope John Paul II. Naples, Florence, Pompei and Capri were also some of the fantastic Italian destinations the De Lorenzo family visited. Vincent wanted to introduce them to the world of culture, music and art and open their horizons giving them the opportunity to mature through the experience.

Hi daughter Jo-anne remembers well the end of the journey when Vincent gave her a ‘coconut haircut’: “He gave me short back and sides, like a long crew cut. I was so upset! It was so short the stewardess thought I was a boy!”
Sometimes the children were annoyed with dad, sometimes it was the other way around but when the time came for the children to be sent home and the business leg of the trip was to take priority, there was a strong sense of sadness for Vincent in saying goodbye. His diary entry recounts, “I feel very unhappy and there is a sense of sadness with us all. But I feel we have achieved and objective. The boys and Jo-anne now know what Europe is like and I have a feeling they want to come back someday”

Vincent and Pat went on to attend to the business side of the trip but they also managed to arrange to meet up with Joe LoBlanco and his wife Sari.

All the while, keeping in close contact with the family and business back home through regular phone calls and letters.

By the mid 70’s times the industry was changing quickly and with each decade, a new challenge presented itself with the Delva business. It had to be progressive and ever evolving. Vincent’s friend Peter Beeby, owner of Beeby Advertising in Sydney, was pivotal in ushering on the innovations for the brand. The television beauty spots were still going and were now being watched on Channel 10. The brand perception around Delva was that it was a big multi – national company, not a family owned and run business. Vincent had successfully achieved this through a range of marketing techniques, constant evolving advertising of the brand, constantly updating and progressing the range with new innovations. Vincent always remained true to the brand’s core values. Despite extensive market research and the advice from colleagues and friends, Delva remained a salon only brand. He marketed this aggressively and succeeded.

Despite the success of Delva to date, Peter and Vincent knew they had to come up with something new to lift the brand to a new level of a success. As part of this marketing Vincent and Peter agreed that a new series of television commercials should be developed. Peter came up with the idea that a well-known Australian face should be aligned with the brand. The face should be someone who Australians knew and loved and who had the right brand fit at the time to help advocate the brand. This was celebrity endorsement at its best. After some market research, they decided the best person for the job would be Australian singer Julie Andrews.

They arranged for Julie to come onboard with this project and the concept was simple, Julie would be inside a salon discussing the importance of healthy hair and scalp with Delva. She sang the jingle “when you’re using Delva, you’re beautiful”. She was a face that Australian women trusted and this immediately established trust between consumers and the Delva brand. Once again this lifted the companies turn over – almost immediately and started to attract a renewed overseas interest in the brand and it became the top selling haircare brand in Australia.

“With Delva we developed a new concept for ‘salon only’ and you have to image while today that is quite common, back then it was unusual, we created a stir around the world. Competitors from overseas came down to Australia to see what the fuss was about.”

Eventually this interest paid its dividend and Vincent and Anton had four overseas offers to buy them out.

Selling Delva was something the brothers were thinking about for some time now. Their sons, Vinnie, Chris and Anthony were young adults and were to begin studying architecture and engineering at university. Vincent and Anton encouraged this and felt that perhaps a developing country like Australia held more promise for successful architects and structural engineers than hairdressing manufacturers. They didn’t want their sons to follow in their footsteps. It was hard work.

After many painstaking family discussions, and offers made by companies wanting to buy the business, Vincent and Anton decided that they would sell Delva and pave the way for a new direction for the de Lorenzo family – in construction. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. They were saying goodbye to decades of blood, sweat and tears but Vincent understood that to achieve success on an international scale, the company had to go beyond being a family owned business. It needed more financial resources to grow. Their dedication, sacrifices and hard work had brought them to this point but they felt it was best for their future.

“I remember the day my father announced that he had sold Delva, he cried like a baby. This was his greatest passion, his life’s work. But he felt that the future held more promise in other endeavours”. Says Vinnie.

And it was a good business decision – Vincent and Anton struck while the iron was hot. They sold the company when it was in a fantastic financial position and so they were able to negotiate a profitable sum for their business.

Vincent and Anton chose a company that would continue the tradition of Delva. This was very important. That the efficacy of the brand would not be diluted and that it would be sold to someone who was not going to erode the decades of hard work that went into making it the success that it was. Eventually, for this reason they decided to sell to Recket and Coleman. Ian Powell, Managing Director of Recket and Coleman says “ We were interested in Delva for a long time because we saw Delva going gangbusters, and it still is. There weren’t any other brands around that were hairdresser only and also, Delva had Vincent.”

When Vincent and Anton started to market Delva as a brand, ‘hairdresser only’ was a half percent of the haircare market, by the time they sold Delva, Vincent and Anton were able to help grow this share to approximately 11 percent and of this market share, Delva owned around 65 percent. Something Vincent was very proud of.

In 1979 the sale was finalised and as part of the contract, Vincent agreed to remain as a consultant to the brand for six years. He worked only part time in this role while he came to terms with his new life. He and Pat now had more time to relax together but while most people would have filled up their spare time with hobbies and life interests, Vincent struggled with this concept…His work was his hobby. His whole identity was wrapped up in his career and his achievements and now that this was to be no longer. He had to endure a process of finding himself once again and grieve the loss of everything he has ever known.

In his role as a consultant, things weren’t going as smoothly as he had hoped. Recket and Coleman didn’t always agree with Vincent’s views and Vincent was helpless when he could see decisions being made that affected the quality of his brand. This frustrated Vincent but he was powerless to prevent it. The final decision lay with someone else. Someone disconnected from the brand’s core values and without a genuine passion for this ‘craft’ as Vincent saw it. Vincent believed and lived by the old adage that only when you combined skill and dedication with passion could you create a masterpiece.

Never the less Vincent had earned and won the respect of Australians everywhere. He himself had become and Australian identity through his beauty spot segments and also through a new series of commercials which appeared showing Vincent walking his dog along the beach talking about the importance of a healthy life as well as the importance of healthy hair and scalp. He was widely recognised for his contributions to the industry.

In 1981, something incredible happened. The producers of the show This is your Life discussed the idea of dedicating an episode to Vincent with Vincent’s well connected Advertising friend Peter Beeby. They contacted Pat and began to make arrangements to round up the many friends and colleagues of Vincent’s throughout his long career. This took some months to arrange and all the while everyone who knew Vincent had to keep this a secret from him.

To get Vincent to the recording, an evening to honour Mr Vincent was arranged and held at the Sebel in Sydney. All of the industry elite were invited, friends, colleagues, business associates and family.

Just as Vincent was introduced and walked onto the stage to greet the audience, This is your Life Host, Roger Climpson approached a confused looking Vincent and presented him with the famous This is your Life greeting.(Go back to dvd & include quote from Peter Beeby)

Moved and genuinely surprised by this great honour, Vincent begins to cry and takes a seat, ready to enjoy the presentation ahead. Friends and colleagues whom had all played a role in his long and wonderful career, from his wife and children and other immediate family members including his brother Anton and sister Marie to members of the Australian Coiffures, Theo Raymond, Sam Raficci, Graham Roberts, Frederick Muller and Herbert Fry, greeted him. There were video messages from world famous journalist Andrea and his very first employer Jack Di Mazzo to the man who bought the De Lorenzo salon in Sydney, Robert Whitton who said “there is no one as willing to share his knowledge with hairdressers as Vincent is”. Even Sister Elizabeth from kincoppal convent was able to appear and thank Vincent for his training.

Of all the guests who appeared on the show, Vincent was most moved by the appearance of his family. His wife Pat, his brother Anton and his wife Yvonne, his children Vincent Jnr, Chris and Joanne all honoured Vincent with humorous and affectionate anecdotes about him.

Little to his knowledge his son Chris was nursing a dislocated shoulder from a martial arts injury he incurred that day.
His wife Pat reveals that it was quite a task to keep the organisation from Vincent successfully. (Go back and Include quote from Pat about the oil spill and the accident.)

Genuinely astonished by the clandestine mission of his wife Pat to keep this from him so successfully Vincent recalls, “she could have had a boyfriend all that time and I would never have known, that’s how good she is at keeping secrets!”.

When the show aired it was a top rater and a culminating point in Vincent’s long and rewarding career and one of the highest honours an Australian could receive – A thank you from his beloved industry.

The sale of Delva afforded Vincent the fulfilment of another long time goal, to purchase a home in Point Piper. Vincent purchased land on a block, which enjoyed sweeping harbour views. His sons had the task of designing the home which would be built on the land and construction began.

Eventually, the family moved from their house in Randwick which had become a tourist attraction at the time with tour buses coming along to point it out and moved to this beautiful new home in Wollesly Avenue, one of Sydney’s most prestigious addresses. His neighbours included the Lowry (Westfield) family and the Murdoch’s.

Meanwhile, his daughter Jo-anne was chasing her own dreams of a career in the fashion industry and with all of the work ethics which she had inadvertently adopted from her family’s hard working example she eventually grabbed her prize. With the support of Vincent she set up her own fashion design label called …(Check notes on the spelling of this)

Vincent created a design studio and office space in the carpark of the De Lorenzo building in Leichardt. He also provided some financial backing in the form of guarantor for her business loan and helped guide her in business decisions and accounting matters. Jo-anne recalls “I remember dad taking me to the bank for the loan and signing all the papers for it. I was so excited that this was all happening. On the way out of the bank dad looked at me and in his cheeky humour said “this better bloody work or I’ll kill you” From here Jo-Ann ran her successful business and her designs were highly sought after. And of course it did work. I worked really hard with the design studio. Eventually I was juggling all the roles of being a wife, mum to be and a business owner and it wasn’t easy – the hours were long and it became stressful at times but I had to do it or who else would? I was working right up until the birth of my first child Dominic. I remember being in contractions and taking phone calls for orders in between!” In these times, women weren’t pressured by societal expectations to ‘have it all’. Most households were still single income and traditional roles still held true. Eventually, Jo-Anne retired her business to look after her family full time.

After Delva was sold Vincent became a bit of a recluse, where once his days were filled with appointments, chemistry experiments, manufacturing meetings and brainstorming, now his days were virtually barren.

While his daughter Joanne was enjoying carving her career path as a fashion designer, the boys, especially his eldest son Vinnie were openly disappointed with the sale of Delva. What Vincent didn’t realise was that his sons enjoyed working in the factory and being part of the family business. They had inadvertently been groomed for this industry and knew nothing other than working with family. When Vinnie and Chris graduated from University with architecture and engineering degrees, they felt as though they were living someone else’s dream. They both worked in government positions but as Vinnie put it “it was like trying to put a round peg into a square hole”.

Vincent too was beginning to miss the industry and miss giving to his passion. “One day I found myself walking through the supermarket in the middle of the day pushing a grocery trolley, fighting for a space in the que along with all these housewives and I just thought ‘ what the hell am I doing”.

Anton was also beginning to suffer the boredom of early retirement. He tried to take up various hobbies including pottery and joining a lawn bowls team, which he soon gave up because he found it too depressing. Instead of cheering him up and taking his mind off his boredom, he complained that the flag above the club was always flying at half-mast due to another member passing because of old age! His son Anthony said that his father thought it was ironic that retirement was supposed to be something to look forward to and instead he was being constantly reminded of his old age and mortality. In the end, the brothers couldn’t ignore it any longer. They both missed working in the industry.

It seemed with everyone missing the old life, an unspoken calling was being felt by each of the De Lorenzo men. A calling that would draw them to a new and exiting venture drawing Vincent and Anton from early retirement and conceiving a new generation and a new expressway for reviving his vision.

– ends chapter 9-

Vincent De Lorenzo – A household name: Chapter 8

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Chapter 8
A household name

“If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful.”
Johann Sebastian Bach

In 1964, before his mother died, Vincent began to wonder about other ways to reach his audience.

“When you have a product or service you want to sell, it’s not enough just to say, ’I have this and it works’. People need to be told about it! What other way to do this than through television!”

Vincent had come up with an idea that would see his name and brand reach a level of celebrity not yet achieved in the industry. He conceived the first ever ‘information commercial’, one that would educate women on the latest looks and hairstyles from overseas, how to look after their hair and find styles to best suit them, and which products they could use to achieve those styles at home. It was a brilliant idea, and it lifted the brand to new levels of fame, eventually capturing the attention of major multi-national companies overseas.

Firstly, Vincent had to translate this concept from an idea into reality. He made an appointment with the Channel 9 chief of staff in Sydney to discuss his idea, armed with just the concept and steely determination.

The chief of staff liked the idea, but thought immediately about production details that would need to be considered. “Who will produce it?” he asked Vincent.

“I will.”

“Who will direct it?”

“I will.”

Growing increasingly bothered, he asked, “And who will star in it?”

“I will.”

Finally he asked, “Well, who is going to light it?”

Vincent shrugged his shoulders, looked up, and said, “Well, you’ve got the lights up there. Just turn ’em on!”

Flabbergasted by Vincent’s lack of knowledge in television production matters, the chief of staff was speechless, but there was something in the simplicity of Vincent’s ideas that urged him to think ‘Why not?’ To Vincent these were just unimportant details. He had this idea, he had the determination, and he knew it would work. Once again that De Lorenzo tool of persuasion managed to sell the idea and Channel 9, along with Vincent, began to produce the envisaged short programs.

Vincent was right. The programs were a huge success. They were listed in television guides and even got a rating, and they catapulted Vincent to the level of an Australian icon. His name, his brand, was as Australian as vegemite! They were aired on prime time television nationwide, and each week Vincent used his mother, or Pat, or other staff members, as models on the show. For a total of ten years these television spots ensured that both the De Lorenzo name and the Delva brand remained at the top of the industry.

By now the Delva factory had become Vincent’s number one priority. He and Anton now had many staff members. There was someone to take care of each component of the manufacturing process, from the receptionist, to the chemists in the research and development department, to the packaging and freighting of the finished products. The hiccups they had experienced at the beginning of the Delva journey, were, through trial and error, becoming fewer and fewer. Production was well and truly on the go, and demand for the product on the market was increasing all the time.

“I went into Delva without any experience in factory working. It was a different ball game, and to keep costs down I had to learn how to do everything myself – how to manage a budget and run a factory – and I did it reasonably well. I loved to work. It was a challenge. Eventually, the business grew, and I just couldn’t keep doing everything myself. We ended up with a staff of 50.”

Testing and developing products was a full time job for their small team of researchers and developers, and Vincent and Anton were both still a very vocal part of that. But there were other challenges ahead. Delva was the first professional hair care range in Australia. This was a totally new idea, and asking a hairdresser to understand the concept of prescribing products for their clients’ hair types wasn’t easy. They also had to grasp the concept of learning to retail. Vincent needed to teach them.

He created workshops and learning sessions so hairdressers could come along and learn a little about the science involved in hair product consultation. As a qualified trichologist, Vincent had much knowledge to share with the industry and so he set about converting the mindset of hairdressers, a few at a time, until eventually the concept took hold nationally and the average hairdresser understood the benefits this afforded their salons. It was a long, slow, and steady process, but it worked.

Now lecturing and producing television programs, Vincent, together with Anton, was somehow juggling the salon with its staff of 40, their own growing families, a manufacturing company, and the distribution of the Delva product range to the Australian market. Vincent was also busy with the presidency of the M.L.H.A and, with that, all of its responsibilities. However, he always made time for Sunday lunch with his family. It was a long held tradition that Sundays were spent with the family, and he kept that tradition very much alive after his parents passed.

After lunch, Vincent and his sons would hop into the car and drive to Sydney’s scenic and wealthy harbourside suburbs. Point Piper was always their first destination, and as Vincent drove the tree lined streets, boasting magnificent, luxurious homes with imposing harbourside views, he began to stir and dream of the day when he too would be able to afford such an opulent address. It would, one day, be his reward for a lifetime of sacrifice, dedication and hard work. But for the moment, he had to be content with the dream. He had to take life one-step at a time.

As president of the M.L.H.A it was part of Vincent’s role to organise annual functions and conferences. His functions were always an opportunity for the members of the organisation and industry peers to let their hair down and have fun while they networked and mingled.

“At the end of 1965, we [the M.L.H.A] decided to hold a conference for the industry and our members. We hired space on a ship, The British Monarch, which was to have its last voyage, and we held a floating convention on board. Everyone attended, from the secretary to the P.H.A, the committee, and other manufacturers. I remember the captain on board the ship kept saying to the P.H.A secretary that he was having trouble with his hair, he needed it cut. What better time to raise it than when on board a ship full of hairdressers, I guess! The secretary told him to come and see me about it. So anyway, the captain came down to my room to ask me to fix his hair. I looked at him and said, ‘You have very soft hair. You need a light foundation wave to give it some volume and help with the texture. The captain was a sea man, you know, a burly masculine type. He felt very uneasy about all this hair business, so he agreed but asked me not to tell anyone. So we set it up with a guard outside the door of the room to stop anyone walking in. It was a pretty hot day, so there I was in the cabin wearing only a pair of shorts, no shirt, working with the captain’s hair. Anyway, that night we were having a fancy dress party on the ship and one of the hairdressers, Norman, who was dressed and ready for the party, came downstairs to show me his outfit. He was dressed as the most colourful drag queen you have ever seen – what a sight! Anyway, he made it past the guard at the door and came into the room in drag, bursting in on me, half naked, pinning the captain’s hair. We couldn’t stop laughing. The poor captain! I thought he was going to pass out from the shock! We had a great night that night. Pat went dressed as a showgirl and I was an Arabian prince.”

Around 1967, the De Lorenzo family started to socialise increasingly with friends outside hairdressing circles, perhaps because Vincent felt the need to focus more of his attention on his growing family.

On their first trip, the De Lorenzos, together with the Lo Blanco and Pannucci families, gathered their children, packed their cars, and embarked on the long journey north to Sahara Court on the esplanade of Surfers Paradise.

Surfers Paradise in the late 60s and early 70s was considered an upscale and very swish holiday destination for Sydney’s wealthier classes. For the De Lorenzo children, Vinnie, Chris, and Joanne, it was an incredibly exciting time. They were able to spend time with their parents in the company of the LoBlanco and Panucci children who were all around the same age.

During this particular trip, Vincent was driving across the harbour bridge when his patience was already beginning to wear thin. Vincent was a man with a need to control every aspect of his surroundings, but children weren’t staff members, and they weren’t predictable or even obedient. Vincent’s son, Vinnie, recalls the trip with humour:
“Chris, Joanne and I were in the back seat of dad’s Holden, his pride and joy, and Jo started to feel carsick. Then, before anyone could do anything, she spewed all over the back seat. Dad was furious! It was the kind of stuff movies are made of. My dad was cross with the kids, my mum was cross with my dad, and Jo was upset because she spewed. We pulled over and cleaned up the mess, but dad kept on threatening to turn the car around and go home if we didn’t all settle down. He got so angry with us all that, somewhere along the way, he was distracted and turned off the highway where he shouldn’t have. We ended up getting lost 30 miles out of Taree. As we continued to drive, the landscape became more and more desolate, and the road veered into the bush, until there was virtually no road left! Eventually we ended up in a tiny little unknown place called Taylor’s Arm. It took us hours to get back on track, and by the time we made it back to the Pacific Highway we were running out of petrol. We thought we were going to die on some lonely outback road! Finally we caught up with the Pannuccis and the LoBlancos – a day later!”

During these years, as the children grew, the De Lorenzo family began to spend more and more time together, and the children began to spend more time at the factory on weekends and school holidays, helping their parents with the family business, as Joanne recalled:

“Growing up, our parents, especially dad, always strived to teach us to appreciate the value of money. If we wanted something, it wasn’t handed to us. We had to work for it. It was an important lesson that eventually we learned to appreciate.”

Vincent’s younger son, Chris, agreed. According to Chris, Vincent always strived to set an example to his children. “He had a well-rounded, ethical approach to business, and always taught us the value of working hard and striving for your goals.”

Vincent was as authoritarian in his approach to his family as he was to his business, and his relationship with each of his children differed in many ways.

His daughter was the apple of his eye. Joanne exhibits her father’s cheeky humour and positive outlook on life, and always adhered to her father’s strict rules, mostly without question. Vincent administered many Italian traditions in rearing his daughter, and was stricter with her freedom than he was with the boys, but throughout her teens they shared a close and mutually supportive father-daughter relationship.

His oldest son, Vinnie, exhibits many of his father’s strong-minded and extroverted attributes – charm, warmth, and a down to earth demeanour. Vinnie calls it like it is, and, like his father, demonstrates a predilection for testing the waters and pushing the boundaries.

Chris is perhaps more like his mother, Patricia. Thoughtful, and slightly more reserved, every word he speaks carries the careful consideration of a great diplomat.

Growing up, Chris preferred to tow the line and keep the peace rather than ignite his father’s fury. This was much too tempting an invitation for his older brother, Vinnie, to step in and rock the boat ever so slightly, and on many occasions the two found themselves in hot water with their father. But there was always respect for their parents, who had instilled in their three children strong values and appreciation for life, art, music and religion.

Overall, growing up in the De Lorenzo household was a cultural blend of traditional Italian values meshed with unpretentious Australian ideals. There were family squabbles as well as lots of laughs, and always love and support for one another through thick and thin.

– Ends chapter 8 –

Vincent De Lorenzo – Chapter 7

Posted on Updated on

Chapter 7

“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”
John F. Kennedy

By the mid 1960s fashions were changing. Revolution was in the air and the world was reeling from the tragic assassination of John F Kennedy. Women were becoming more liberated in their choice of dress, choosing an eclectic mesh of colours, styles and designs. Emerging French designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin were the toast of the fashion world, and Australia closely followed UK fashion trends with the mod Chelsea look becoming a hit. Locally, Jean Shrimpton caused a commotion in 1965, at Melbourne’s Derby Day, when she wore a dress with a hemline raised high enough to reveal her slender legs and knees.

Musical artist Elvis Presley was now not only a chart success but had made the transformation into big screen actor, and the Beatles would soon emerge to steal his reign in popular music.

Politically, Australian prime minister, Liberal Leader Harold Hold had finally put an end to the Labour Government’s long standing ‘White Australia’ policy and a largely multi-cultural Australia was emerging. By the end of the 60’s up to 6,000 Asian migrants a year where arriving in Australia and a second wave of post war migrants were arriving by the thousands from Europe. Australia was also once again in the throws of war, this time on the battlefields of Vietnam. The war was met with a mix of support and revolt from Australian population.
The population was learning to have a voice and street protests and rallies were held all over the country to protest for peace and other social issues of the time. The more formal social protocols of earlier decades were waning.

For hair too this was a time of rebellion against the stiffer, coiffed, backcombed, beehive hairstyles of the decade past. Women opted for softer flicks and curled up styles. The bob was a fashion hit in London, and more and more women were following the trend. From an industry point of view, a young Vidal Sassoon was making his impact felt on an international scale.

“We had four haircutters at the salon who were booked every 15 minutes with a new client. Sassoon brought about change when he began to adopt cutting techniques which took an hour, where previously cuts could take as little as 15 mins. It meant hairdressers could charge more for the service but I was furious. I went to a seminar in New York and I wanted to see this method in practice and hear the theory behind it. Sassoon went over and over the haircut. They called it geometric cutting. After an hour, I left. The style turned out so different to the style he was discussing. Today a good style cut takes half an hour and it’s a little more technical than it used to be. We have developed our techniques, but I do prefer the techniques we used in the old days.”

In 1964 the M.L.H.A decided they wanted Australia to have more of a presence on the overseas market. They wanted a team assembled to compete in the world hairdressing championships being held in Europe. Vincent had been all over the world and he knew that Australia had talent of world class standard at a fair level to compete, but he struggled with this idea. He knew that a newcomer had no chance of winning the competition. There was a certain level of politics involved in the overseas market in which Australia had no part. At the insistence of the committee, however, Vincent selected his team. He gathered some of Australia’s most talented up and coming stylists, and prepared them for competition.

“What a nightmare that was! There were three divorces during that trip! One night, at two in the morning, one of the contestants came in to announce that the leader of the team, Franco Kramer, had walked out on the team and travelled to some remote town to gamble. He was their leader and they had to be in Brussels in a couple of days to compete!

“I couldn’t believe it. So I got up and, with a few of the other men, I hired a car and at 3am I went out to this place about 30k away in Frankfurt to look for him. When we arrived there were security men everywhere and here I was pulling up in this black limo with these men in suits getting out and starting to look around. They thought we were the Italian Mafia! What a sight! Well, to get into this place, we had to become members and pay a fee, so I went in alone. Sure enough, there he was gambling. He was a little shocked to see me, and we brought him home. I could’ve killed him!”

The team lacked the level of dedication and preparedness Vincent championed and, at times during the trip, this angered and frustrated him. He managed to persuade Franco to rejoin the team but the other members were still very angry that he had left in the first place, and the situation was very volatile. Vincent had to speak personally with each team member and mediate an agreement. By the end of the following day the team was back together and the situation had been resolved, but their morale had already been damaged.

“We didn’t win. We didn’t have a chance. When I got there I understood very quickly that when money is involved you’ve got no chance. It was very political. The teams with the funds did the best. They had the top ten and everyone else came in 11th. It took four hours to announce the winning teams. First, second and third were taken out by Germany, Austria and France. I was disappointed, but in no way surprised. I made a recommendation on the way home to the team in the US that there was no point in going to the competition again. They still went, though we never won it.”

Through the success of their business Vincent enjoyed many more trips abroad. Each trip was meticulously documented in an exercise book, from departure to arrival. Pages and pages of thorough detail accounting for every dollar spent, every impression made, and every task to action. Vincent applied this methodical approach to every aspect of his life. He took the word perfection quite literally, and always strived for it.

During his world trips he continued to meet influential and even famous people while tending to their tresses, including the award winning American sitcom Broadway star, and much loved comedian, Ruth Buzzi, who was a regular those days on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-in show. Ruth became a good friend of the De Lorenzos.

Vincent also filled his daily schedule with business appointments. He met with important industry figures including the heads of big companies such as Redken. He met with chemists, packaging companies, marketing consultants and journalists. Every trip was an opportunity to evaluate new technologies and seek to adapt these for Delva. By this stage, Vincent had become an accomplished chemist with an understanding of chemicals and formulae and how to arrange compositions to create treatments and address hair concerns.

In 1972, while in the US, Vincent documented coming across a computer room in one of the manufacturer’s factories he visited.

“They say they feed information into the machine and, in the future, after about seven years, they will be able to ask it questions and get an instant answer.”

The other important task to action for each trip was to first find the nearest Catholic church. Attending mass was always part of Vincent’s routine, and remained so throughout his life.

Back home Vincent’s responsibilities as well as his celebrity were at their peak. The hard work he was applying to his career was paying off, and there was no room for distractions or disruptions.

But disruption arrived abruptly, regardless.

In May 1965, Anna De Lorenzo suddenly passed away, leaving the family heartbroken, shattered and inconsolable.

Some months earlier, Anna had discovered a strange lump in her breast. In those times breast cancer wasn’t a widely understood disease. There were no expensive advertising campaigns to educate women about early detection.

Anna was concerned, but didn’t act on her discovery right away. In fact, it’s likely she kept this to herself for some time not wanting to burden the family with something she probably thought was insignificant. Anton’s wife, Yvonne, recalls, “I remember Anna asking me about this lump she had found in her breast. She asked if I might know anything about such things, and what it could be. I wasn’t sure, but I knew that she should have a doctor look at it right away. We all encouraged her to see a doctor and she did.”

The doctor knew the lump was potentially cancerous and urged Anna to have surgery to remove it. There was, of course, a risk that she would also lose her breast, and there were always the standard risks that go with any major bout of surgery. For the De Lorenzo family this was a grave situation, but they felt positive that the lump would be removed and Anna would recover in due course.

On Monday the 13th of May, at 9am, Anna went in for surgery. The family gathered at the Scottish Hospital at Sydney’s White City, hoping, waiting, and praying that the outcome would be a positive one and that recovery would be swift.

After many hours, Anna emerged from surgery in a serious but stable condition. The family was told she would need much rest. She was not out of the woods just yet.

They were uneasy, but relieved that she had come out of surgery and assumed she would simply recover. This was not to be. Anna never recovered from the surgery and, later that day, died in her recovery room.

The loss was both devastating and shocking for the whole family, and especially for Vincent. The operation was to have been a fairly straightforward procedure. At worst, she was to have had a breast removed. No one had expected this.

Vincent’s deep love and bond with his mother, his greatest supporter and friend, was inimitable, and Anna’s death had a profound effect on him. He took a long time to grieve the death of his beloved mother, and bore the cross of his heavy grief mostly in silence as he struggled to come to grips with the loss.

Anton’s wife, Yvonne, later recalled Anna as quite a proud woman. Losing a breast, for Anna, would have symbolised the loss of her very womanhood, part of her identity, her strength. Some feel the shock alone together with the loss of her husband some years earlier would have been enough to shock and diminish her spirit and conviction to live.

Anna’s death left a void in the family, which would never, ever, be filled.

At the time of her death, the family believed she was 65 years old. Anna had always proudly professed her age. On Vincent’s next trip to Naples, in 1974, he met with a relative who also happened to keep records and archives of the family tree. This included details of who was born, to whom, and in what year. Vincent was bemused and a little humoured to learn that, in fact, at the time she died, Anna was 75 years old.

“No wonder she looked so beautiful for her age.”

– Ends chapter 7 –

Vincent De Lorenzo – Chapter 7

Posted on Updated on

Chapter 7
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”
John F. Kennedy

By the mid 1960s fashions were changing. Revolution was in the air and the world was reeling from the tragic assassination of John F Kennedy. Women were becoming more liberated in their choice of dress, choosing an eclectic mesh of colours, styles and designs. Emerging French designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin were the toast of the fashion world, and Australia closely followed UK fashion trends with the mod Chelsea look becoming a hit. Locally, Jean Shrimpton caused a commotion in 1965, at Melbourne’s Derby Day, when she wore a dress with a hemline raised high enough to reveal her slender legs and knees.

Musical artist Elvis Presley was now not only a chart success but had made the transformation into big screen actor, and the Beatles would soon emerge to steal his reign in popular music.

Politically, Australian prime minister, Liberal Leader Harold Hold had finally put an end to the Labour Government’s long standing ‘White Australia’ policy and a largely multi-cultural Australia was emerging. By the end of the 60’s up to 6,000 Asian migrants a year where arriving in Australia and a second wave of post war migrants were arriving by the thousands from Europe. Australia was also once again in the throws of war, this time on the battlefields of Vietnam. The war was met with a mix of support and revolt from Australian population.
The population was learning to have a voice and street protests and rallies were held all over the country to protest for peace and other social issues of the time. The more formal social protocols of earlier decades were waning.

For hair too this was a time of rebellion against the stiffer, coiffed, backcombed, beehive hairstyles of the decade past. Women opted for softer flicks and curled up styles. The bob was a fashion hit in London, and more and more women were following the trend. From an industry point of view, a young Vidal Sassoon was making his impact felt on an international scale.

“We had four haircutters at the salon who were booked every 15 minutes with a new client. Sassoon brought about change when he began to adopt cutting techniques which took an hour, where previously cuts could take as little as 15 mins. It meant hairdressers could charge more for the service but I was furious. I went to a seminar in New York and I wanted to see this method in practice and hear the theory behind it. Sassoon went over and over the haircut. They called it geometric cutting. After an hour, I left. The style turned out so different to the style he was discussing. Today a good style cut takes half an hour and it’s a little more technical than it used to be. We have developed our techniques, but I do prefer the techniques we used in the old days.”

In 1964 the M.L.H.A decided they wanted Australia to have more of a presence on the overseas market. They wanted a team assembled to compete in the world hairdressing championships being held in Europe. Vincent had been all over the world and he knew that Australia had talent of world class standard at a fair level to compete, but he struggled with this idea. He knew that a newcomer had no chance of winning the competition. There was a certain level of politics involved in the overseas market in which Australia had no part. At the insistence of the committee, however, Vincent selected his team. He gathered some of Australia’s most talented up and coming stylists, and prepared them for competition.

“What a nightmare that was! There were three divorces during that trip! One night, at two in the morning, one of the contestants came in to announce that the leader of the team, Franco Kramer, had walked out on the team and travelled to some remote town to gamble. He was their leader and they had to be in Brussels in a couple of days to compete!

“I couldn’t believe it. So I got up and, with a few of the other men, I hired a car and at 3am I went out to this place about 30k away in Frankfurt to look for him. When we arrived there were security men everywhere and here I was pulling up in this black limo with these men in suits getting out and starting to look around. They thought we were the Italian Mafia! What a sight! Well, to get into this place, we had to become members and pay a fee, so I went in alone. Sure enough, there he was gambling. He was a little shocked to see me, and we brought him home. I could’ve killed him!”

The team lacked the level of dedication and preparedness Vincent championed and, at times during the trip, this angered and frustrated him. He managed to persuade Franco to rejoin the team but the other members were still very angry that he had left in the first place, and the situation was very volatile. Vincent had to speak personally with each team member and mediate an agreement. By the end of the following day the team was back together and the situation had been resolved, but their morale had already been damaged.

“We didn’t win. We didn’t have a chance. When I got there I understood very quickly that when money is involved you’ve got no chance. It was very political. The teams with the funds did the best. They had the top ten and everyone else came in 11th. It took four hours to announce the winning teams. First, second and third were taken out by Germany, Austria and France. I was disappointed, but in no way surprised. I made a recommendation on the way home to the team in the US that there was no point in going to the competition again. They still went, though we never won it.”

Through the success of their business Vincent enjoyed many more trips abroad. Each trip was meticulously documented in an exercise book, from departure to arrival. Pages and pages of thorough detail accounting for every dollar spent, every impression made, and every task to action. Vincent applied this methodical approach to every aspect of his life. He took the word perfection quite literally, and always strived for it.

During his world trips he continued to meet influential and even famous people while tending to their tresses, including the award winning American sitcom Broadway star, and much loved comedian, Ruth Buzzi, who was a regular those days on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-in show. Ruth became a good friend of the De Lorenzos.

Vincent also filled his daily schedule with business appointments. He met with important industry figures including the heads of big companies such as Redken. He met with chemists, packaging companies, marketing consultants and journalists. Every trip was an opportunity to evaluate new technologies and seek to adapt these for Delva. By this stage, Vincent had become an accomplished chemist with an understanding of chemicals and formulae and how to arrange compositions to create treatments and address hair concerns.

In 1972, while in the US, Vincent documented coming across a computer room in one of the manufacturer’s factories he visited.

“They say they feed information into the machine and, in the future, after about seven years, they will be able to ask it questions and get an instant answer.”

The other important task to action for each trip was to first find the nearest Catholic church. Attending mass was always part of Vincent’s routine, and remained so throughout his life.

Back home Vincent’s responsibilities as well as his celebrity were at their peak. The hard work he was applying to his career was paying off, and there was no room for distractions or disruptions.

But disruption arrived abruptly, regardless.

In May 1965, Anna De Lorenzo suddenly passed away, leaving the family heartbroken, shattered and inconsolable.

Some months earlier, Anna had discovered a strange lump in her breast. In those times breast cancer wasn’t a widely understood disease. There were no expensive advertising campaigns to educate women about early detection.

Anna was concerned, but didn’t act on her discovery right away. In fact, it’s likely she kept this to herself for some time not wanting to burden the family with something she probably thought was insignificant. Anton’s wife, Yvonne, recalls, “I remember Anna asking me about this lump she had found in her breast. She asked if I might know anything about such things, and what it could be. I wasn’t sure, but I knew that she should have a doctor look at it right away. We all encouraged her to see a doctor and she did.”

The doctor knew the lump was potentially cancerous and urged Anna to have surgery to remove it. There was, of course, a risk that she would also lose her breast, and there were always the standard risks that go with any major bout of surgery. For the De Lorenzo family this was a grave situation, but they felt positive that the lump would be removed and Anna would recover in due course.

On Monday the 13th of May, at 9am, Anna went in for surgery. The family gathered at the Scottish Hospital at Sydney’s White City, hoping, waiting, and praying that the outcome would be a positive one and that recovery would be swift.

After many hours, Anna emerged from surgery in a serious but stable condition. The family was told she would need much rest. She was not out of the woods just yet.

They were uneasy, but relieved that she had come out of surgery and assumed she would simply recover. This was not to be. Anna never recovered from the surgery and, later that day, died in her recovery room.

The loss was both devastating and shocking for the whole family, and especially for Vincent. The operation was to have been a fairly straightforward procedure. At worst, she was to have had a breast removed. No one had expected this.

Vincent’s deep love and bond with his mother, his greatest supporter and friend, was inimitable, and Anna’s death had a profound effect on him. He took a long time to grieve the death of his beloved mother, and bore the cross of his heavy grief mostly in silence as he struggled to come to grips with the loss.

Anton’s wife, Yvonne, later recalled Anna as quite a proud woman. Losing a breast, for Anna, would have symbolised the loss of her very womanhood, part of her identity, her strength. Some feel the shock alone together with the loss of her husband some years earlier would have been enough to shock and diminish her spirit and conviction to live.

Anna’s death left a void in the family, which would never, ever, be filled.

At the time of her death, the family believed she was 65 years old. Anna had always proudly professed her age. On Vincent’s next trip to Naples, in 1974, he met with a relative who also happened to keep records and archives of the family tree. This included details of who was born, to whom, and in what year. Vincent was bemused and a little humoured to learn that, in fact, at the time she died, Anna was 75 years old.

“No wonder she looked so beautiful for her age.”

– Ends chapter 7 –

Vincent De Lorenzo – Onwards and Upwards: Chapter 6

Posted on Updated on

Chapter Six
Onwards and upwards

“What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile.”
Gary Ryan Blair

While his career continued to flourish, Vincent De Lorenzo the hairdresser had to make time for Vincent De Lorenzo the husband when, in 1955, his wife Patricia learned that she was expecting the couple’s first child.

Vincent was elated by the news and continued to work hard and prepare for this new arrival. Right away they decided that if a son was born he would be given Vincent’s name. The couple began to prepare the nursery and make adjustments to their lives to accommodate the baby. Patricia took a step back from supporting Vincent in his work as her new priority was to take care of herself and the baby. It was an adjustment they were only too happy to make.

In (month) that year, Pat went into labour. As Vincent joked:

“Pat was always very considerate when she gave birth to our children. She always went into labour either on the way to work or on the way home so she didn’t disrupt my day. I could drop her off on the way to work and, by the time I was finished for the day, she had given birth.”

After several hours in labour, Patricia gave birth to their firstborn child, a son, and he was given the name Vincent De Lorenzo Junior. It was a very proud occasion and, for the new parents, the beginning of a new phase in their life. They now had a son to carry on the family name.

As the 60’s drew near, advanced technologies of the developing world were beginning to touch Australia’s shores. In 1956, Chanel TCN-9 in Sydney launched Australia’s first regular television broadcast service, and Australians were exposed to, and greatly influenced by, American westerns, comedy and variety shows. To recapture the audience they were losing, radio stations stopped broadcasting plays and serials and started to play popular music, news and weather information.

In the political arena, the country was being led by Liberal Party Prime Minister Robert Menzies who had effectively stopped rationing and other restrictions brought about by the Labour government during the war. Free enterprise was once again supported, encouraged and, by the late 50s, flourishing.

The booming Australian manufacturing industry had created over 200,000 new jobs, and most of these positions were filled by migrants. Australians were manufacturing everything from petrol, cars, chemicals and building materials to clothing, furniture and electrical appliances, and its migrant population were vital in this growth. Australia was a fast developing nation.

Ladies hairdressing was well and truly in full swing, and women could easily keep up with the trends and styles of the day just by watching television. In this field, Vincent and Anton were leading the way. Through their achievements and initiatives in the salon, in education, and in competition, Vincent built strong networks within the Masters Ladies Hairdressing Association (M.L.H.A) in Australia.

In 1957, Vincent’s hard work, progressive nature, and dedication to the industry paid off and he was appointed president of the M.L.H.A. When he took over, the association was not faring well. Along with his team, his golden touch and business nous, Vincent turned the situation around and created a very profitable and successful M.L.H.A. enterprise.

For the next seven years, Vincent, and the committee he chaired, improved and essentially revolutionised the standards and structure of the Australian hairdressing industry. Vincent’s influence is still evident today. His approach to hairdressing, and indeed life, always focused on education. To Vincent, knowledge was the key!

In his role as president, Vincent and other members of the committee launched many exciting, never-before-tried initiatives.

They created the Hair Fashion Council, a committee of hairdressers selected to help uphold the standards of the industry on a national scale. The task at hand was a big one, and Vincent needed a strong team behind him.

His first idea was to create an event showcasing the talents and fashions of top stylists to inspire women of the day to embrace new styles. The aim was to help the hairdressing industry by driving women back to salons for their styling needs. The event was christened Beauty Week, and the first one was held at the Sydney Town Hall. Daily shows ran from 12pm through to 2pm each day, and hair stylists were invited to get involved by bringing their own models and showcasing their hair forecasts and styles. The events were a huge success, and hundreds of ladies and even some men attended and enjoyed the shows. Beauty Week nurtured and fostered women’s desires to be fashion forward, feminine, and beautiful – just like their Hollywood idols.

The same year, Vincent and Anton decided they needed to commercialise their hair care range and increase manufacturing to ensure growth and development of the business they had worked hard to establish.

Late one evening, after a long day at work in the salon, Vincent and Anton sat down together to figure out a brand name. For many hours the two played with acronyms and hyphenations of their names. Vincent always believed that the integrity of any brand should start with the name.

Eventually they came up with a funny little word – Delva. Delva was a clever acronym of their names. ‘Del’ came from the first part of their surname and ‘VA’ came from Vincent and Anton. Little did they know that this new word would soon become a national household name.

Vincent’s schedule continued to fill with family demands as well as career pressures.

In 1957, just two years after the birth of their first son, Patricia gave birth to their second child, Chris. Chris, while close in age to Vinnie, was a very different child. He was quiet, shy and gentle natured. Vincent Junior was pleased to have a play friend, and Vincent and Patricia were immediately enamoured with their new bundle.

Despite his growing responsibilities, Vincent showed no signs of slowing down, believing he could have it all. And, somehow, he managed to. He balanced the delicate roles of father, husband, manufacturer, hairdresser, salon owner, educator and president of an industry committee with his trademark dedication and passion. Thankfully Patricia had the support of her mother, Anne, to help with the children when Vincent was busy with his M.L.H.A duties and salon responsibilities.

In 1959, Vincent decided to make the annual hairdressers’ ball a fancy dress event with a competition for the most elaborate costume. He stirred and stirred over a theme before settling on a Marie Antoinette style, and Pat, of course, would be his model. He wanted to create a tower of tresses.

“There was a leading stylist in Melbourne who boasted he would do a two metre tall hairstyle and would have the best hairstyle at the event. Well, mine was only going to be a metre and a half! I was the president! I didn’t want to be outdone! When I was in the US I learned to do an upstyle so secure it wouldn’t move, so I made a wire frame which the hairpiece was carefully pinned and stacked to. It still had to look beautiful and effortless. Then I had to make this stick to her head and stay on all night. Well, guess what? The Melbourne stylist’s two-metre style hairdo had to be held up by two pageboys holding sticks up to it! And the poor girl had to take it off after she paraded it for the headache she got! Mine stayed on all night without any help.”

Of course, Vincent won the competition that evening.

Later that year, Vincent once again had the opportunity to expand his salon when five more rooms became available for purchase on the same floor. Again he enlisted the help of his good friend, Enrico Colagiuri, and the salon was remodelled. It now boasted an impressive ten rooms with 40 basins, becoming the largest privately owned salon in Australia. Vincent’s incredible list of achievements continued to grow and grow. Quite simply, he never rested easy on his laurels.

In 1961, Vincent once again played the role of the proud father with the exciting arrival of his last-born child and first daughter, Joanne. Joanne was named after Vincent’s father, Joseph, and also Patricia’s mother, Anne. Being the first girl, Joanne was the apple of her father’s eye, and a precious addition to the family.

Vincent and Patricia now had three beautiful children and a family to take care of, as well as a salon, products to develop, and associations to chair.

While everything in his professional and personal life was soaring, Vincent suffered his first great loss. His father, Joseph, died aged 86 of seemingly natural causes. The family was devastated.

Although Joseph was a quiet and gentle man, and perhaps a softer character in the journey of Vincent’s career, the loss was sorely felt. Vincent, Anton and Marie had lost their father, but Anna had lost her soul mate. She felt the grief of this loss deeply. Joseph’s absence changed the dynamics of the family forever, and, for some time, the mood in the De Lorenzo house was somewhat sober. Marie and the boys did their best to keep their mother busy and to keep her mind on other things to help her work through her grief, but, from the day Joseph died, Anna lost some of her vivacious spark.

Anton felt a sense of gratitude that he had been able to take his parents on a world tour of Europe and the US before Joseph died. It was the first time they had returned to their home country since migrating to Australia in the early 1900s. The trip was filled with nostalgia at seeing relatives left behind, melancholy at the thought of how their birthplace had changed since they’d left, and excitement about discovering it all over again.

When they arrived in the US, Joseph was able to catch up with the brothers he had not seen since they parted ways in search of a better life. It was a wonderful gift for Joseph and Anna, and, in many ways, represented the culmination of life coming full circle.

For Anton the trip was a blend of business and pleasure. He was able to network with the US hairdressing elite and was asked to be a guest judge at the Coiffure Guild of LA hairdressing championships. He also met many Hollywood celebrities, and mingled with the crème of the hairdressing and entertainment industries.

Back home, Anton’s wife, Yvonne, was nursing their first-born child, Antony. Needless to say, the care of the children sometimes fell to the grandparents and in-laws, and the majority of day to day parenting was left to the wives, but the family unit always remained Vincent and Anton’s priority. They now had more motivation than ever. They were building this success for their family’s future.

In 1962, Vincent and Anton had well and truly outgrown the laboratory underneath the house where they had developed their products over the years. The brand was growing. The demands were becoming greater and they needed to upgrade their facilities to cope with the growth. They decided they needed a dedicated factory with enough room to house the right manufacturing equipment, a packaging area, boardroom and reception. They wanted to take Delva to the next level.

They looked for the right property for quite some time until Vincent came across a run down old place in the beachside suburb of Maroubra, ten minutes from their Randwick home. Vincent saw enormous potential in the property. To Anton and everyone else, it was a dump!

“I was leaving to go overseas on a business trip the next day and I said to Anton and my brother-in-law, Tom, ‘Go and make an offer on this property while I’m away. This is the place for the factory we need’. Well, they took one look at it and thought I was crazy! When I came home, two weeks later, and they told me they didn’t make an offer on it, I couldn’t understand why. Luckily the place was still on the market, so I went ahead and bought it. It wasn’t picture perfect, and it needed work, but we could do it.”

And Vincent proved to be right. They set about renovations straight away. This took quite some time to complete. Apart from renovating the old site, machinery needed to be purchased and installed, and systems needed to be put in place. The work began to swallow up what little spare time Vincent and Anton had, so the grandparents became major caretakers for the children while the wives helped to get the operation up and running. Everyone pitched in. Eventually, after over a year of renovations, the new Delva factory was born.

Without any real prior knowledge about manufacturing on this scale, Vincent and Anton equipped the factory with the most advanced machinery and fit-outs they could find. As far as manufacturing hair products went, no one in Australia had yet ventured into this territory. There were no set procedures or manuals to guide them. They had to do it all by trying and failing or, on a good day, trying and succeeding! What they built was a manufacturing factory on a world-class scale.

Next they had to find the right staff to work in the factory to help them with every step of the manufacturing process from administration right through to packing and freighting. For many years, as they grew, the children came along to the factory on school holidays or weekends to help Vincent and Patricia, and Anton and Yvonne, with packaging the products and putting lids on bottles. They began at a very grass roots level of manufacturing but they quickly grew. This was ‘free’ enterprise at its best!

– Ends chapter 6 –

Vincent De Lorenzo – Reinvention: Chapter 5

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Chapter five

 Reinvention

“Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture.”
Vaclav Havel

In 1950 the hair industry in Australia was booming and Vincent had successfully commercialised his De Lorenzo products, which, in 1957, would undergo a name change to Delva.

By now Vincent had developed a strong network of friends and colleagues in the hairdressing industry. He and his interstate friends often got together to discuss the industry, swap ideas and inspire each other, and soon thought they should make this club official. The idea was to establish a creative board to help set new standards in the hairdressing industry which would, in turn, benefit their respective clients. The result was the Australian Coiffures, a board made up of one member from each state.

“There were seven of us altogether, seven of Australia’s top stylists. We got together and talked about business and the industry. During these meetings we agreed that we could make this an official panel or committee, and we could support each other’s business with interstate referrals as well. We created business cards and used these for referrals when our clients travelled interstate. It worked really well.”

The men got together three times a year and, over time, their committee garnered industry respect far beyond their initial intentions.

In the early 1950s, hair was heavily styled and modelled largely on catwalk trends in Italy and France and, of course, on Hollywood. Pageboys, pincurls, fingerwaves, French twists and ducktails were all popular looks. Women wore make-up during the day and wanted to emulate their favourite Hollywood screen sirens. Lauren Bacal, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman epitomised glamour and were incredibly influential in setting style trends for women all over the world, including Australia.

It was a time when women were ladies and chivalry reigned supreme. In contrast to today’s casual approach to grooming, women in the 1950s were expected to look a certain way – presentable for their neighbours. Weekly visits to the hairdresser were the norm. Ladies went for colour, roll and dry, and the up-do.

The role of homemaker was the accepted path for married women, and culture dictated that they should maintain a certain standard for their husbands when they returned home from work. The dinner would be cooking, the house would be spotless, the ironing would be done and the women would look perfectly groomed and coiffed. Many women wore a turban scarf over their rollers during the day so their hair would be set for the evening.

Crisp, conservative blouses and tailored day dresses with gathered shoulder sleeves were stylish, and gloves and hats were worn even for a day shopping. Pincurls were set at night and left in while they slept.

Australia was not only keeping up with trends from abroad, following information in magazines, newspaper spreads and movies, but also developing her own identity in the fashion and beauty industries.

Vincent’s business had afforded him the opportunity to travel to exciting places abroad, and he wanted to infuse some of the style and innovation he saw overseas into his work at home. He introduced many new concepts into his salon practice.

It was Vincent who introduced the concept of a salon washing machine to wash the towels. Other hairdressers thought he was crazy, but this innovation helped cut costs and time. Soon the concept took off everywhere.

Another widely known practice introduced by Vincent was the use of beer to help give hair body. A short film had been made showing Vincent placing a thermometer in beer and then using it on one of his models in the salon, and, when Vincent was in London with Joe Lo Blanco, he was amazed and astounded when he saw this clip on the screen during a movie commercial. His innovations were reaching all corners of the world, and this was the first time he had realised the full extent!

Using beer on hair caused a slight commotion among beer lovers at the time, especially since, after the war, beer was still not so readily available and Vincent was using it on women’s hair rather than drinking it!

Vincent’s was also the first known salon in Australia to use rollers for hair. While he was in Chicago on his honeymoon, his long-time friends Julian and Francois, who were working there, decided to play a joke on him. They booked up a whole day’s worth of appointments with clients, billing him as a top English stylist. All the appointments were styling with rollers, a technique Vincent had not yet learned. His appointments were booked back to back from 8am to 6pm that night.

“I sweated blood that day! They thought it was funny and here I was trying to style hair with rollers, which I hadn’t learned how to do yet. Well, somehow I got through it, and at the end of the day they said, ‘Well, you worked hard and earned lots of money today. Now let’s go spend it!’ So off we went to some famous nightclub to spend my hard earned cash. I was relieved when that day was over!”

Vincent also introduced the idea of bleaching the tips of the hair, an idea he adopted from Paris and tweaked to match the Australian lifestyle. The technique then developed into ‘meshes’, as they were known in the industry.

Comfort and hygiene were also of upmost importance for Vincent’s clientele. The salon was always air-conditioned, and current music of the day created a relaxing environment. Vincent’s was the first Australian salon to accommodate clients in this way, and it became a haven away from the grind of the busy streets. He also introduced new hygiene standards in the industry whereby all tools and brushes were sterilised between appointments. The Australian Department of Health later used Vincent’s hygiene standards to set the bar across the industry.

Naturally the press began to sit up and take notice of the De Lorenzo brand, and Vincent’s mother, Anna, relished the opportunity to manage and further promote this attention for her son.

Throughout Vincent’s career, Anna was always present. She was incredibly proud of his achievements, and became his very own unofficial public relations advocate. And she did a fine job.

“Mum used to call up journalists and tell them about me and what I was doing all the time. Sometimes she would make stuff up, or just embellish ideas I mentioned in passing. The phone would ring and it would be one of the Sydney newspaper journalists or a radio journalist wanting to speak to me. They would say, ‘Your mother has been here and she tells me you are planning to do a hairstyle with seven colours’. My mouth would drop! Often I wouldn’t even know about what she was up to, so I would just go along with them, agree, and tell them I couldn’t say too much just yet, as the idea was still being developed. When she told them about the style with seven colours, I had to somehow come up with seven colours. In the end, one of the colours was created with lipstick!”

Anna certainly had the makings of a top publicist, even with her thick Italian accent and limited English.

“My mother, with her half English, half Italian language, won the world. She had that much hide! If she had been a man she would have been leading the country. She was just that type of person. Nothing was insurmountable. She did her best to get the business along, and she got into areas no one else could.”

One noteworthy breakthrough Anna achieved was infiltrating the often intimidating parameter of highly respected journalists. With no fear, all the confidence she could muster, and relying only on that De Lorenzo charm, she would tread where only the brave and hungry dare tread. And she succeeded.

She approached Andrea, the highly respected journalist of that time at the Sydney Morning Herald, and began to nurture a relationship with her. Soon Andrea became a regular client of Vincent’s, and a long time friend of the De Lorenzo family. She would be called upon to give a message to Vincent many decades later for the filming of ‘This is Your Life’.

Vincent became the darling of the Australian media. He held the largest share of influence in industry related articles in newspapers and magazines. Now firmly established as the industry leader, his name and face was splashed over newspaper and magazine headlines all over the country. There seemed no end to his rise to the top of the industry.

– Ends chapter 5 –

Vincent De Lorenzo – Along came Patricia…: Chapter 4

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Chapter Four

 Along came Patricia…

“The greatest possession we have costs nothing. It’s known as love.”
Brian Jett

Thanks to the attention of the press, Vincent was considered Sydney’s top stylist. He was also considered one of Sydney’s most eligible bachelors. Handsomely dressed to perfection, he always worked in a suit. He was a complete perfectionist.

Naturally, he attracted the interests of many women and had the opportunity to tend to the tresses of some of Australia’s most beautiful, but Vincent was too fixed on his career to allow distractions.

In the 1940s, Anne McAdam, a regular client of Vincent’s at Borrowman’s, was pivotal in changing that. Anne visited the salon regularly to have her hair attended to by Vincent, and moved with him when he opened his salon. She was very fond of him, and the two struck up a lovely client friendship. During these visits, she often chatted about her daughter, a young girl named Patricia.

Patricia attended school at St Brigid’s convent for girls in Coogee, coincidentally the same school that Vincent’s sister, Marie, attended. Mrs McAdam learned from Vincent that he was looking for a new apprentice, and didn’t miss the occasion to suggest he meet her daughter. Pat was interested in hairdressing, and was about to finish school and begin looking for an apprenticeship.

Patricia knew of Vincent. She had seen him at St Brigid’s church in Coogee, their local parish, on Sundays and always noticed how impeccably dressed he was. So when her mother told her of this opportunity she excitedly dressed up and went to the salon to be interviewed by him.

As a young girl Patricia was beautiful. Her looks were reminiscent of a young Norma Jean Baker before the creation of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. She had shoulder-length brown hair, crystal blue eyes radiating approachable warmth, a striking smile, and a lovely petite figure.

On the day of the interview, Pat tucked her long hair under in a pageboy style to appear more sophisticated, and took herself off to the salon to meet Vincent.

Vincent and Patricia discussed the apprenticeship and Patricia was offered the role. No doubt Vincent, impressed with her appearance, was already somewhat partial to Patricia’s charms, but this remained undisclosed for some years. Vincent’s personal feelings never got in the way of his professionalism, and certainly not while he was still building his empire.

Patricia was not immediately enamoured by Vincent.

“I didn’t like him at first,” she laughed many years later. “And, actually, I liked Anton a lot more than I liked Vincent. Anton was very gentle and always smiling. Vincent was very strict as a boss. In fact I can recall a few occasions where I had called my mother to tell her that I wanted to quit!”

Another of Vincent’s young staff members, Nell Paino, who worked in the office for Vincent, also remembered the dust checks with a smile:

“I can recall an occasion when Mr Vincent came into my office while I was doing some bookkeeping and he ran his hand along my desk to check for dust. He was meticulous. He made sure that there was no wastage of product at the basin, and all the girls had to wear a clean, crisp, white uniform, but we all had a great respect for him.”

Vincent had a very authoritarian approach to his business. He conducted these dust checks on a daily basis. With a white handkerchief he ran his fingers along surface edges to ensure that dusting was being managed and his salon was clean. His staff stood by nervously and watched, hoping that the cleaning standards would meet his approval. As Patricia explained:

“Later, I realised that Vincent just wanted his salon to be the best. He was a perfectionist, and he had reached these levels of success exactly because of this, so I came to respect him.”

Patricia’s respect would soon grow into something deeper when, almost by accident, the two had their first date.

In 1948, the Hairdressers Ball was to be held at Paddington Town Hall. Vincent and his close friend, Joseph LoBlanco, had tickets to attend, but neither had a date. Vincent thought he would ask a couple of staff members from the salon to accompany them. He intended Joe LoBlanco to take Patricia.

Vincent and Joe had already discussed this, and to make sure Joe was happy with his potential companion for the ball, Vincent asked Patricia to run an errand for him, to take a bus to Joe LoBlanco’s shop in Kings Cross to get some tobacco for his father. Joe would get the opportunity to assess his date and let Vincent know what he thought.

Patricia hopped on the bus and headed over to Kings Cross, never having been there before. She walked into Joe LoBlanco’s shop where she approached him and introduced herself. Joe was naturally struck by her beauty and immediately called Vincent at the salon and said eagerly, “That’ll do Vince! I’d love to take her to the ball!”

On the day of the ball, Vincent, for some fateful reason, had a change of heart. He decided he didn’t want Joe to take Patricia so at the last minute he swapped dates and took Patricia to the ball himself.

That night Patricia saw a side to Vincent she really enjoyed. Socially, outside the professional boundaries of the workplace, he was charming, relaxed and, much to her surprise, had a wonderful and wicked sense of humour.

A love affair swiftly began. Pat and Vincent naturally had a common interest in hairdressing, and Patricia came to admire Vincent’s talent and business acumen as the two shared a new and growing bond. Patricia stood by Vincent in his career aspirations, and it seemed a perfect match. The two dated for many years while Vincent dallied around the idea of marriage, feeling there was still so much to do first.

Vincent still had ambitions to continue his studies in trichology by correspondence, but knew he couldn’t afford the time. He came up with a suitable solution. He found a young university student who agreed to do all the research and groundwork, leaving him free to continue to run the salon and lab. The student then tutored him personally two or three evenings a week at convenient times. Vincent paid him nicely for his trouble, and was able to continue to learn without too much disruption to his day-to- day life, but he knew that to complete his studies he would need to travel abroad.

Australia was no longer an isolated country thousands of miles away from the rest of the thriving world. Developing international transit meant that shipping lines developed faster routes to popular overseas holiday destinations like America, and so trips to these places had become more accessible.

Australia was keeping up with trends, and had indeed developed her own identity in the fashion and beauty industries. Information about trends abroad was communicated in magazines, newspaper spreads and movies. This served to wet the appetite of a fashion forward stylist like Vincent. He wanted to visit the fashion capitals of the world and see for himself what the rest of the world was doing in fashion and beauty.

Vincent’s business success had afforded him the opportunity to visit these places, and he made the decision to go. He and Joe LoBlanco began a nine-month tour across Europe. Patricia was never one to hinder Vincent’s wishes, so he went on his trip and she stayed behind. Nine months was a long time, a test of the couple’s commitment to one another.

The trip was one of the most exciting adventures of these two young men’s lives. First up the boys travelled from Sydney to the United States of America where they visited Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, New York and Boston.

“I went with Joe LoBlanco to the US. We met with a hairdressing team there in L.A. They were the Coiffure Guild of LA and Hollywood, and 80% of them were Italians! We got on well from the start, and did some conventions with them. They invited me to come along to shows and offered me a membership.

“Before I said yes, I wanted to see what it was all about. Joe and I went to see this particular convention in Dallas with some of the members of the L.A Coiffure Guild. As soon as we arrived, these members would go to the finest stores en masse and summon a fashion show. Then, they would all buy gifts for their wives and husbands and they paid up like hell! These were expensive stores.

“But I wasn’t there to muck around. I wanted to get straight to business, so I planned out all the lectures and demonstrations I wanted to attend. I got up early on Sunday morning and made my way to the first lecture, and when I arrived I came across this very agitated elderly man. He stopped me and said, ‘You go in there and run the lecture. The other fellow hasn’t shown up’. He seemed pretty excited, but I was shocked. I poked my head in and I said, ‘Do the lecture? What do you mean? What’s the subject?’ Well, he told me it was on cutting techniques and I went out and did it. Just like that! No run throughs!

Well, I got through it, and by the end of it they wouldn’t let me go. They loved my Australian accent. I think the accent got them!”

Their tour around America coincided with what was then thought to be a true miracle of technology, the introduction of the television set.

“We arrived in Boston where Joe and I both had family to visit. It was Easter Sunday, and Joe and I were mesmerised by this television set in the foyer of our hotel. Well, of course while we were there, we had to visit my family. My uncle insisted that I went with him to visit the rest of relatives. I was a young guy, you know, so that was last thing I wanted to do. But my uncle couldn’t have me sitting in a hotel on Easter Sunday. Well, he took me around to see every bloody Salinese in that city! To see this cousin and that cousin, introducing me as Joseph and Anna’s son, I felt like a bloody cow being dragged around all day and I didn’t get home until 11pm that night. Back at the hotel Joe was still relaxing and having a ball watching the TV set!”

Following the excitement of the US, the boys headed for Europe.

“We bought a car from Sydney in London, a Vauxall Holden. We picked it up when we arrived and drove our way around Europe. All up, we drove ten thousand miles.

“We were always getting ripped off in Italy. We thought we knew better, and every time we only fooled ourselves again. When Joe and I were in Naples a fellow came up to us with Parker pens. ‘I’m not interested,’ I said, and the fellow kept doing his best to sell them. He was relentless. Eventually I gave in. These guys had a tried and tested routine: plan A, and then plan B if the first plan failed.

“Parker pens in those days were worth quite a lot, 20 or 30 pounds, and he was selling them for a couple of pounds. I was eventually sold on the idea of buying them as gifts. I bought 12. Do you know, several years later, while I was in New York, one of the pens, the one that I kept, needed to be repaired. I took it to the Parker Pen flagship store, its headquarters, and it was such a good copy that even they didn’t know the difference.”

Despite the fact that Vincent and Joe had fallen prey to dozens of scams involving everything from train tickets to buying scarves and souvenirs, they knew they weren’t the first to be had, and they didn’t let it ruin their fun.

One of the stops on the trip was Siena, a walled city in the Tuscan region of Italy. In the days before unification, each town was built high on a hill with a wall around it to protect it from enemies. Vincent and Joe arrived on a Saturday night, and while trekking through the town Vincent noticed it was very crowded, but since they were tired they decided to pay it no mind.

The next day they woke early, eager to get to Rome. They left after breakfast. As they exited the city and drove closer to their next destination, they noticed signs announcing it was the weekend of Palio di Siena, a world famous Calvary race and festa steeped in tradition, dating back to the 14th century. The horse race, set inside the city’s main square, the Piazza Del Campo, is characterised by the many colours of the contrade or city districts. All the inhabitants of Siena prepare for many months each year before the race which attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world, as well as a big festival.

“Here we were for the first time in Siena, in a rush to move on, not realising that we left before getting to see one of the most famous events in Italian history. This is what Siena is most famous for! Talk about stupidity!”

They weren’t about to turn back though. On the way to Rome there were notices announcing that world famous tenor Beniamino Gigli was performing his last world concert in Rome. Gigli was one of Vincent’s favourite performers at the time who made his debut playing Enzo in Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda in Rovigo. Opera aficionados considered Gigli the successor of the late Enrico Caruso. Vincent was overjoyed and jumping out of his seat with anticipation. So they sped up to get to Rome and booked into a hotel. When they arrived at the opera house, Vincent was dismayed to realise the concert was sold out. Not only had they missed out on Palio Di Siena, they were now also going to miss out on Beniamino Gigli.

Disappointed, the boys went for a coffee and decided that as consolation they would go back and wait near the performers’ exit to see Gigli in person.

“There were many performers who came through the back exit. All of them bypassed waiting fans and went straight to their waiting cars. The last performer out was Beniamino, and, do you know, he stayed for an hour and a half, signing autographs and chatting with his fans before leaving!”

Vincent’s admiration for him was now greater than ever before.

“Back in 1947, prior to our trip, the Italian Opera Company visited Sydney. At the time, being high profile and Italian, they decided to call on me to look after the singers’ hair. So I copped the lot! One of the sopranos, Maria Huder, said to me before she left, ‘If you are ever in Rome, call on me and I will show you around’. So, in 1950 when we were there, we called her and she was delighted.

“We had dinner with her and during the conversation, I mentioned Gigli. Maria was surprised. She said, ‘He’s a great friend of mine! Do you want to meet him?’ So she got on the phone and called him! I couldn’t believe my luck! Beniamino was home and he said that tonight was his card night and he and his mates were all sitting around the kitchen in casual clothes playing cards. So long as we didn’t mind sitting in the kitchen, we would be welcomed.

“We hopped in the car and drove over to his home and you can’t imagine the palazzo that confronted us when we arrived. We drove up to these beautiful wrought iron gates surrounding an enormous estate positioned behind palatial green gardens and grand water features. It was a magnificent and opulent home, the kind of palazzo fit for a king. Inside there were marble floors and finishes, and the finest artwork hung on its high walls. His daughter had a home there as well. His was traditional, and hers was super modern.

“Beniamino was the most generous natured man you could ever meet. He opened his home to complete strangers, and treated us like friends. His kind, big-hearted nature was renowned. This is why he was known the world over as the Singer of the People.

“So we ended up in the kitchen with Gigli and his close friends. I told him how much I admired his music. Beniamino actually sang me a couple of numbers softly. He sang ‘Dicitencello Vuje’, which means ‘You tell her for me’. My father used to laugh at the name of that song because he said a Neapolitan would never send someone to pass on a message as they had enough hide to do it themselves! And he sang ‘Su dato n’amorato’ (‘Soldiers in love’), another famous Neapolitan love song about a soldier on the frontline thinking of his love. It moved me to tears. His voice was even more beautiful and resonant in real life than on recordings, and his heart was in every note he sang, even when he sang it to me casually in his kitchen.

“Before we left that night, he insisted we have a tour of his home, and he signed a photograph for me. That was the highlight of the trip for me. I will never forget that evening in Beniamino Gigli’s kitchen in Rome.”

While his visit with the world famous tenor was the high point of his time in Italy, an adventure on the beautiful island of Capri, Vincent’s favourite part of Italy, a place he refers to as paradise on earth, provided a humorous tale of near calamity.

“Joe Lo Blanco and I went to Capri and stayed in a hotel called The Quisisana. Qui si Sana means, ‘Who comes, becomes healthy’ in Italian. The hotel was originally a sanatorium and hospital but had been transformed into one of the best hotels in Italy. It offered an unbeatable combination of excellent service, food and ambience, in a magnificent location.

“Every night there was a dance, and Joe took a fancy to this blonde girl with a big pet dog. This girl was beautiful. She sat alone most of the time, so Joe thought she might not have a boyfriend or husband. He approached her and struck up a conversation. The two chatted happily and even shared a dance together. Joe was quite pleased with himself. He began to notice something very peculiar though. The waiters were looking at him very strangely. Almost as if they were trying to warn him about something with strange, foreboding looks and discrete shakes of the head. But Joe just thought they were being stupid. He didn’t take heed.

“He had several dances with her, and it was a lovely evening, but the next day her boyfriend, who she hadn’t mentioned, arrived. He was none other than Lucky Luciano, an infamous crime boss who had been kicked out of the US and exiled to Italy after being released from jail!

“Needless to say, he was a man to be feared, and Joe had flirted with his territory! But, luckily for Joe, the heavens were looking down on him that day. Mr. Luciano didn’t catch on, and no one wanted to tell him either. Ever heard of the saying ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’? Quite literally, that’s what everyone feared, so, fortunately for us, they let it slide and we went home with all our fingers and toes!”

Thankfully, after this near miss, they could laugh about it. The boys eventually left the beautiful isle of Capri and headed for the heartland of their heritage, the Aeolian Islands.

They arrived at the small and mountainous island of Filicudi and decided they would row a boat all the way to Salina, a little less than 20km away, as there were no larger boats between the two islands. A young local boy who eventually became the mayor of Filicudi would join them. They waited for two weeks for good weather until finally it was safe enough to row across.

From the port of Filicudi you could see Salina’s highest peak on the horizon, Monte Fossa delle Felci, at nearly 965m. It looked achievable enough so they boarded their small eight-foot fiberglass rowboat, complete with oars, and began to row. It took them eight hours! They left Filicudi at 11pm, and arrived in Salina at 6.30am, hungry and exhausted.

In Salina, they were greeted by Vincent’s relatives who insisted they stay the night and eat something. Vincent was politely refusing but quietly relieved that they were being typically persistent. The last thing he wanted to do that same day was row all the way back. They stayed the night, but Joe insisted on waking early to start the journey back to Filicudi. Vincent decided he’d had enough of the rowing and caught the ferry back, leaving later that morning. On the way back, Vincent looked for the rowboat so that they might stop and pick Joe up and arrive together, or at least give him a tow-in.

Using that persuasive De Lorenzo charm, Vincent managed to convince the captain of the ferry to change course slightly to find the boat. He did. Just before they reached Filicudi, they caught sight of Joe but he was too proud to allow them to tow him in. He’d come that far on his own and he wanted to finish the trip.

“I could’ve killed him. After I spent all that time convincing the captain to change course, he refused to let us help him!”

After Italy, the ‘cohorts in crime’ continued on through Europe, visiting Paris, Spain and England. Everywhere they went Vincent managed to find time for training, education, trade shows or some other type of trade research, soaking up as much of the local hair culture as he could.

Vincent and Joe also spared time for their religious beliefs, and spent time in the renowned town of Lourdes in the southern rural area of France near the border of Spain. Lourdes is best known to Catholics as a place of miracles, and is said to be where the Virgin Mary appeared to a young village girl in February 1858, and for many weeks thereafter, with messages of peace and repentance for mankind. Lourdes is now a place of pilgrimage, not only to Catholics, but to people of many faiths who visit in the hope of receiving miracles and cures in the Grotto springs where the apparitions took place.

As Joe Lo Blanco later recounted, “I never personally witnessed any miracles take place but Lourdes was certainly an incredibly memorable part of our adventure for both Vincent and I. I remember it as an incredibly peaceful and almost magical sanctuary, which to me was ironic because there were always crowds of people there.” He pondered for a moment, almost as if to search for words he couldn’t find, and settled with, “It was very special”.

That trip was one of the most memorable of their young lives, and the first of their many adventures abroad.

While Vincent was away, he and Patricia corresponded by letter. With all the fun and adventure being had, Vincent missed Patricia, and it became more and more apparent to him that she was ‘the one’.

During the trip, Patricia’s aunt from Canada invited her to visit. She was in two minds as to whether she should wait for Vincent or whether she should go abroad. She decided to visit her aunt.

When Vincent returned, he was a little dismayed to find that Patricia was not there, and perhaps this served to reinforce to him that she was indeed the one. A few months after she left, Patricia received a letter from Vincent with a marriage proposal.

Of course, Patricia was delighted by the proposal, but she didn’t want to act in haste. She decided it would be best to wait until she returned before replying. When she got back to Sydney, the pair picked up where they had left off and were officially engaged, but there was still much to do before the two were married.

At the salon business was booming, and all this success allowed Vincent the luxury of being able to renovate the premises. He had already travelled the world. He had seen the best of what the world had to offer, and he wanted to better that offering with this new salon. He had developed a few ideas of his own about how to refurbish, and the salon business had grown so much that maximising space became an essential motivator for the renovation. He wanted to design a platform of world-class standards, and fate would soon step in to help him.

One day in 1952, after Vincent’s return from overseas and while Patricia was still away in the US, Vincent received a knock on the door of his home. There stood Enrico Colagiuri, a man newly arrived from Calabria.

Enrico was a talented furniture maker, and he was looking for a job. Vincent, motivated by a sense of understanding for the man’s plight, decided to ask him in and see if there was indeed some kind of work he could give him. What many people may not have known about Vincent was that while he was a firm businessman, he was also a gentleman, and did many things in aid of his local community. He provided employment for many people who needed it, and never turned away anyone looking for help.

After talking with Enrico for some time, Vincent realised he might be the man to help him realise his visions for the refurbishment of the salon.

Enrico indeed proved to be pivotal to the new design of this salon. The two collaborated on the design to ensure that space was maximised without compromising aesthetics, something that was always extremely important to Vincent. Vincent dictated his needs and ideas, and Enrico, a gifted carpenter and tradesman, translated these into life.

In late 1952, Vincent purchased two more rooms on his floor and he and Enrico began to remodel and refurbish the salon. All the while, Pat and her mother were busy planning their wedding celebrations.

The result was a pioneering new salon, which arguably stood among the best and most elite in the world. Vincent had captured the essence of minimalism before its time, with brushed steel basins and open plan seating. Each of the other rooms had its own basin and plumbing, a concept that had never been tried before. These basins were hidden away behind a mirror, and there was plenty of storage space built into the cabinets.

The relaunch of the new look salon happened the night before their wedding day in 1954, and served as a wedding eve celebration as well. The launch party was attended by many of Vincent’s social set clientele, family and friends. He was swamped with telegrams of well wishes from family, colleagues and friends from all over the world.

“It was a special night, and my family was especially proud of how far we had come. We now had the biggest privately owned salon in Sydney and we still didn’t have room for all our clients. There were times when I would have to style hair outside in the corridor in front of the salon entrance at my clients’ insistence. They didn’t want to wait for a room to become available.”

The evening held more significance because it was the eve of the next new phase in his personal life. The following day, at 9am, Vincent and Patricia were married at St Brigid’s Church in Coogee.

Patricia later joked, “Vincent had to travel all over the world to see if he could find someone better. Then he came home to marry me!”

Their wedding was a romantic, traditional, nuptial ceremony followed by tea with the nuns at St Brigidine’s in Randwick where Patricia was schooled, and an intimate lunch time reception for family and close friends. They were even lucky enough to have a pontifical blessing for the union by the pope.

“When we got married we did the unheard of. I wanted to get Pat’s passport in her new married name. I didn’t want to go out of the country travelling with a mistress. I wanted to go out with a wife! So straight after the ceremony, we sent a courier to pick up the passport then we went to the reception at Ashfield. We left the reception at 12.30pm for the wharf at Woolloomooloo where, at 3.30pm, I had invited the staff to come down and have drinks before we left. It was a whirlwind of a day.”

Patricia recalled, “Our honeymoon was beautiful. We met lots of lovely people on the boat, toured Italy and, for me, it was the first time I met many of Vincent’s relatives.”

Vincent and Patricia spent some of their leisure time on the boat entertaining the rest of the guests with the band. They even dined with the captain. Vincent, having been to Italy before, warned the other guests to be mindful of the tricks the locals would try and pull in Naples:

“They are shrewd over there, and they’ve been perfecting the art of the rip-off for generations. Keep your eyes on your money at all times, and don’t do any deals on the streets. If you want to buy something, get it in a shop.”

As they travelled closer to their destination Vincent thought about exchanging his money for lire. He knew the exchange rate on the ship was 900 lire for the Australian pound, but he thought he could get more in Naples so he waited until they arrived.

As soon as they disembarked, a young boy Vincent referred to as a ‘scugnizzo’, a colloquial Neapolitan term for rascal, pounced on him and offered him 1,700 lire for the money he had.

“This little kid was so eager to help me, and I had this feeling that something was not quite right, so I said, ‘Let me have a look at the money’. I thought it looked pretty straightforward, so I said, ‘Look, I’ll change 15 pounds, and if I need it, I’ll come back tomorrow for more’.”

As they agreed, Vincent insisted that he and Patricia not take their eyes off the boy’s hands for a second.

“He went away for the lire and came back with a man to exchange the money.”

Once again they all agreed on the exchange rate and he Patricia both watched the man with the money.

“As he started to count out the lire, a pencil vendor came around trying to distract us. We still didn’t take our eyes off the money. We shuffled back and forth with the exchange until it was made and I closed my fist tight. I put the money straight in my pocket and started to walk away.”

“Watch those pencil vendors! They’re thieves,” the money exchange man said with a smirk.

Patricia and Vincent walked away, but Vincent felt uneasy about the transaction. They stopped so he could count the money. He pulled it out of his pocket and began to count. His heart sank as he realised that half the money they exchanged was paper cut to exact lire size.

“The slight of hand was so quick. I was so upset I said to Pat, ‘No one else in Naples will get a tip out of me today’.”
After lunch they went up to the Hill of Vomero to see the Castle of Sant ’Elmo and
the Charterhouse of San Martino, and to enjoy a wonderful panorama over the city and the whole bay of Naples.

“We got up there and that little ‘scugnizzo’ tagged onto us again! I couldn’t get rid of him. I kept saying, ‘Va via! Va via!’ He wouldn’t give it up.”

Eventually the little boy won Vincent over with his smile and cunning charm. The little boy also took a liking to Vincent, and told him of all the other scams that went on in Naples, and what to be wary of.

“We ended up giving that boy a tip, and I told Pat, ‘That little boy will make an excellent businessman one day!’”

Much of their honeymoon harmoniously blended business with pleasure and while they were in London, Vincent was able to further his studies in trichology. As he had done for his last overseas trip, he purchased a car from Sydney to drive in London as a surprise for Patricia. He arranged to pick it up from London when they arrived, and the keys were to be delivered to their hotel room. The car was parked on the street near the dealership, and Vincent suggested to Pat that they take a walk through the London streets, taking her right by the street where the car was parked.

Patricia, who had no inkling that Vincent had purchased this car from Sydney, was beside herself when Vincent spotted the car and pretended to break into it and cajole Pat into getting in.

“I said to Pat, ’Oh, that’s a nice car isn’t it?’ and Pat agreed. So I walked over and started poking my head through the window and said, ’I like this car a lot’, and I got in! Pat was absolutely shocked. She couldn’t believe what I was doing, and just kept ordering me to get out of the car right away! When she realised the car was ours, she didn’t know whether to hug me or hit me!”

The pair remained in London for the following month, and in that time Vincent was able to finish his trichology training and become fully accredited. This required that he spend one month in a clinic for practical experience. He managed to balance honeymoon with career beautifully, driving to and from their residence in London to the clinic to fulfil his practical hours each day.

When they visited the US, Vincent went to a convention in Chicago. While they were there, Patricia was approached by a well-known American hairdresser, Madam Buck. She asked Patricia to be her hair model on stage and, urged on by Vincent, Pat agreed.

“I was curious to see what she would do with Pat’s hair you see. Well, Madam Buck got so carried away with talking to her 400-strong audience that she wasn’t focusing on the task at hand. She cut Pat’s hair so short she couldn’t do anything with it! They ended up asking me to come up on stage and finish the cut! I couldn’t do a bloody thing with it. Luckily for Pat, she was good looking, so it didn’t matter so much!”

From Chicago the two travelled to LA for another convention. They stayed at the glamorous Ambassador Hotel, Beverly Hills, a hotel frequented by Hollywood stars of the day. While in LA, Vincent met Rocky Marciano, otherwise known as the Brockton Blockbuster. Rocky was the famous Italian boxer and heavyweight world champion who later died in a plane crash in 1969. Rocky was a guest at the convention and Vincent was able to congratulate him on his success.

Patricia and Vincent were afforded the opportunity to mingle with the US hairdressing elite, and it was as much fun for Patricia as it was for Vincent. From the onset of their marriage, his vision became their vision.

While the pair was away, Vincent’s mother, Anna, set about arranging a home for them to come back to. In those days, property was not so easily purchased, and even rental properties were hard to come by. Anna had managed to find a beautiful family home in the Sydney suburb of Randwick. Upon Vincent’s return from his honeymoon, the purchase was finalised, and their new life together was about to begin.
-Ends chapter 4 –

Vincent De Lorenzo – The war years and the birth of De Lorenzo vision: Chapter 3

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Chapter Three

 The war years and the birth of the De Lorenzo vision

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took the first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision.”
Ayn Rand

In 1939, when Vincent was 21 years old, World War II broke out in Europe. Nazi Germany threatened the liberties and lives of millions of people, and the allied countries were called to defend freedom.

In Australia, all unmarried men aged 21 were to be called up for three months’ Militia training. Military and industrial conscription was introduced and thousands of young capable men were called to defend their country in various roles. For the able, it was to fight in the trenches and frontlines. For others, it was as engineers or skilled labour forces to build weapons, ammunition parts and planes for battle.

Everyone was called upon to ‘fight or work’. Even women had their role. Vincent and Anton were among the men drafted into a skilled labour force.

The government needed able and diligent men to build parts for weapons and planes. In his military training for war, Vincent proved to be the most capable of his squadron, frequently winning the daily challenges and exercises. Though his friends were selected for officer training, Vincent was not, perhaps because of the origins of his surname, perhaps because they needed skilled men who were good with their hands in the factories building weapons.

Whatever the reason, when Italy joined Germany in war in 1940 as an ally, Italians all over Australia were looked upon with distrust and suspicion, not only by the Australian Government, but by neighbours and friends as well.

While Vincent was drafted to work on building parts for cannons in a factory, his family was being investigated by the Australian secret service. The government was looking for any leaks in security and aimed to sift out enemy spies who may have been nestled in the community, covertly acting on behalf of the enemy, the Italian government.

A fever of paranoia spread like a plague among the communities. Most Italians were considered fascists, and a national round-up of suspected sympathisers began. For many Italo-Australians life became incredibly difficult. Many demonstrated an innate sense of business acumen, proving to be quite entrepreneurial. They were also hard workers. The De Lorenzo Family was a great example. But the media vocalised the common opinion of its Anglo-Australia audience who were perhaps resentful and envious of their success. In Queensland, for example, Cummins and Campbell’s Monthly Magazine (March 1939) ridiculed Italian settlers and their foreign accents in a poem, part of which read:

Come filla da glass up, I tella da Tale
Of Giovani Da Carto from Innisfail.
He runna da banks, he lenda da cash,
He drinka da whiska, he getta da rash;
Supposa da Dago he wanta da mon,
Giovanni he say, we gotta none.

Of course these experiences frustrated Vincent and his family. They were peaceful, hardworking people who simply wanted to make a home for themselves. Vincent and Anton were Australian-born, after all, and this was the only home they knew and they cared deeply about it. They were horrified to be placed under a dark cloud of suspicion, to be viewed as sympathisers in a war that was taking place on the other side of the world, a war in which they had no part.

The De Lorenzo family were among many Italian immigrants adversely affected by the war. In 1949, Vincent’s sister, Marie, married Tom Giufre, a distinguished Italian immigrant. Tom had been given the rank of commandatore by the Italian government, and was honoured for bravery six times over. In 1928, Tom migrated to Australia and, during the war, was one of the many Italians rounded up, jailed and investigated for his links to the Italian government. He spent three months in Long Bay Gaol until his case was heard and he was eventually released. Tom was considered by friends and family as an honourable and kind man of integrity.

“He had so many strong ethics and ideals, all felt like a pack of thieves next to him.”

Many Italian migrants of the time did not want their children to endure the shame of being Italian that society had placed upon them, and even anglicised their names to hide the fact that they were Italian. Sadly, many families lost a sense of their heritage through this process.

Nevertheless, Vincent carried on. He worked in the factory for five years during the war. He was luckier than many who were drafted. While his working hours were long and laborious, he was able to go home at the end of every shift. Thousands more were not so lucky.

The war proved to be a major distraction in his career, keeping him away from full time hairdressing for five years, but Vincent never let his dedication to hairdressing stop. He took appointments in any spare time he had, on weekends or on the odd shift off. In this way, he managed to keep some sort of momentum up, his finger on the pulse, and his skills finely tuned.

“During the war there was a huge labour shortage in the market. The business was so busy it was at boiling point. I said to Mr Borrowman, ‘I’ll ring the desk in my spare time and they can book me in for appointments’. I needed to keep my foot in the door, you see.”

Mr Borrowman was grateful for Vincent’s dedication, and welcomed this agreement. He needed his skill in the salon. Vincent had a long list of loyal clientele, which brought in a lot of business for Mr Borrowman and enabled Vincent to continue in hairdressing despite the war.

On August 15, 1945, V-day (Victory over Japan Day) was celebrated. Finally the war was over, and celebrations took place all over the world. On George Street, in Sydney, a parade was held to honour the soldiers who had returned, as well as to remember those who did not.

“The day the war was over was a joyous one. We [my friends and I] were all ecstatic about it. We were free to go back to our lives. Our duty and assigned conscription was finally over. There was a deep sense of relief that we were all still accounted for.”

Incredibly lucky indeed when you consider that of the one million Australians who went off to war, over 30,000 lost their lives and over 23,000 came home wounded.

On a global scale, the end of the war equalled victory over Nazi Germany and her allies. On a more personal level it signified the end of an unwelcome cessation to Vincent’s career ambitions, but, despite being fortunate enough to have been spared the frontlines of battle, back in the real world Vincent was still a casualty of war.

“When the war was over, we were happy about that, but things were still tough on Italians for a long time afterwards. My two Swiss friends, who were politically neutral, ended up buying a salon, and for the next five years they did so well. I was envious. Here I was, a native of Australia from a poor family, working hard, dedicating all of my spare time and energy to my work, and it still wasn’t paying off for me. I had the skills, I had the talent, I even had the reputation, but I couldn’t make that translate into profit. Everyone in those days was making a fortune because, after the war, there were shortages of everything, and here I was still making pennies. And not for one day, but for five years! It was demoralizing for us. We’d worked so hard and given so much to our country and we were still disadvantaged because of our Italian background.

“So, in 1945, I decided that we needed to get our own salon right away, and the family agreed. In those days though, space was impossible to find. Funnily enough, out of the blue, Maroney’s, where François worked, came up for sale. It was considered the second best salon in Sydney at that time. I jumped a mile high when I read that in the Sydney Morning Herald. The problem was we had no money.

“Even though I was Australian born, and had a role supporting Australia in the war, my brother and I were still poor because we were Italian. It broke my heart.”

Eventually, with the help of Madam Costa, Vincent’s Aunt, and the permission of the owners of the property, Richard’s Building, they leased the salon.

Madam Costa, whose real name was Vincenza, was the sister of Vincent’s mother, Anna. She was a very well known fashion designer, and her elegant and fashionable designs were worn by the high- flying Sydney social set of the day.

Madam Costa often invited Vincent over to her home, only to have Sydney’s social elite waiting in the living room for him to tend to their tresses, usually unbeknownst to him. But this was a powerful circle of women, and word of mouth quickly spread through to the well-heeled social circles of the city’s east. Vincent was in high demand, and they knew the salon would be a success.

“The salon space was in the prestigious Richard’s Building in Sydney, next to the Australia Hotel on the corner of Market Street and Castlereagh Street. We were so excited that we were able to occupy the premises. It was a great start for us!”
But the glory was short-lived. After six months the landlord unexpectedly demanded the lease be terminated and they move out.

“We were too naïve in business to know our rights. The worry it caused us! We were deeply in debt, still trying to build our business, and now they wanted to kick us out because of our Italian background. We were devastated, but we got legal advice and learned that as tenants we were protected.”

So Vincent and Anton continued to trade while looking for other opportunities to relocate, all the while feeling incredible unease under the threat of being put out of business.

They needed to find a location that would match and further establish Vincent and Anton’s reputations as Sydney’s stylists de rigueur. After about a year of searching, their anxieties were finally put to rest when they stumbled across the perfect location on the 7th floor of Sydney’s esteemed 11 storey Trust Building, built in 1914, on the corner of King and Castlereagh Streets.

“We did well from the very first day we opened for business. We weren’t making a lot of money right away, but we had more than we did before.”

The salon was only small to begin with, with just three rooms and six operators as well as Vincent and Anton. They soon found themselves bursting at the seams of this undersized salon, and when the massage rooms next door came up for sale in 1947, they bought them, and, for the next 20 years, the salon business grew. As they continued to purchase more rooms, it eventually became one of the largest salons in Sydney, taking up almost the entire 7th floor.

Vincent was never content to rest on his laurels. He was always striving, and always looking for ways to grow his business, this surely being the reason his success was never stymied.

In 1949, with his salon now well established and running, he decided his next step would be to prove how good he and his team were as stylists. Vincent and Anton began to compete in local and state hairdressing competitions. He won all the major competitions he entered. Firstly Anton won the NSW Cutting and Permanent Waving title, and Vincent became the NSW State Hairdressing Champion for day, evening and historical categories. From there, each state finalist competed for the Australian title and Vincent travelled with his friend, Julian Simmonet, to Perth to compete with the rest of the state finalists.

The Australian Hair Championships were the most elite level competition at the time for hairdressers. To win this accolade would further a hairstylist’s future and add immeasurable recognition and distinction to their name and reputation. Again Vincent entered three categories: day, historical and fantasy.

Hairdressers planned for months for these events. Not unlike the competitions of today, entries would be jealously guarded secrets, and stylists spared no expense. They prepared costumes, models, hair accessories and make-up artists. Everything was choreographed weeks in advance and would be ready by the time each finalist travelled to Perth for the competition event.

At the time, Vincent was busy with salon and laboratory responsibilities, so he relied heavily on his ability to pull it together at the last minute.

“I didn’t realise the task I had ahead of me at the time. I knew the competition was high, and the finalists were highly competitive, but I was incredibly busy and time didn’t allow for much preparation.”

Vincent left for Perth without a model and, on arrival, decided he would scour the streets in search of a muse. Anxiously he perused Perth’s city streets, occasionally spotting a potential candidate only to have her run away, thinking she was being stalked. Things weren’t looking good.

Vincent approached the president of the Hairdressers’ Association and asked for her help, with no immediate result. Eventually Julian suggested they went to a town where there were plenty of young Estonian backpackers and tourists, young girls who might make suitable models. The two men, accompanied by the president, set off for the camp where they were met by a group of tall, very tanned young ladies. In the light of the day, and perhaps jaded by a slight sense of desperation, these girls looked perfect. Julian, who spoke five languages, explained why they needed models, and the girls were only too keen to volunteer. They all wanted to be pampered by hairdressers and make-up artists, and get rid of some of that outback dust under their fingernails. Vincent chose his models, and brought them back to Perth to start working on their hair.

He decided he needed to bleach their hair for the style he wanted to achieve but hair colour was still a relatively undeveloped technique in the 1940s. Peroxide was ammonia, and Ivory soap flakes were mixed together to make a paste. This harsh method of bleaching often meant that hair fell out or broke off.

“Firstly I cut their hair short, and then, as I bleached it, they began to look harder and harder. The more I bleached, the uglier they got. I just couldn’t use these girls for the competition.”

By now Vincent was in a fluster! He ushered Julian over and explained the situation, asking him to deliver the news in their native German.

“I don’t know exactly what was said, but there was definitely an animated exchange of words. I caused quite a commotion in Perth doing that! I’d bleached and cut all their hair short and then I couldn’t use them! These girls weren’t too happy at all. I was lucky I wasn’t sued.”

Despite the setback and the crucial time wasted, Vincent eventually found his models.

The style he created carried an Australian theme. He hadn’t time to look for an outfit, so he wrapped his model in the Australian flag. He coiffed and pinned her tresses up to perfection, and nestled Australian figurines into the curls.

The finished product was impressive, and Vincent managed to wow the judges. For his trouble, he was awarded the Australian Championship for all three categories: day, historical and fantasy. There seemed no end to the success he was able to achieve.

Vincent did not compete again. He had indeed proved himself and, instead, he focused on supporting and encouraging his staff to compete. They were very successful, winning awards and accolades at each competition.

For himself, Vincent now had other ambitions. He began to wonder about, and question, the commonly accepted practice of sending clients in need of products for their hair and scalp to a chemist. He felt the hairdresser should transmit this information.

“When realising my visions I had to identify what I wanted to achieve. I wanted a quality product that no one else had. You see, during the war no top products were allowed to be imported into Australia. The war created shortages, and the war created opportunities to fill these shortages.

“My second objective was also clear. I kept asking ‘Why aren’t hairdressers advising customers on what to use for their hair and scalp needs? Why is this being left to the pharmacist? We are the experts when it comes to hair and scalp. It seems logical to me that we should be the ones providing the client with product and information.

“My brand was developed exclusively for use in salons by the hairdresser. I was the first man in Australia to introduce this concept, and I was right about it. People grasped this concept very quickly. Demand grew and grew, and the salon-only concept became a success.”

These first inklings were about to revolutionise the Australian hairdressing industry, and write a new page in its history books. This was to be Vincent’s most significant career decision and the definitive turning point on his path to success.

Vincent knew that if he was going to make this next step happen he would have to educate himself further. There were gaps in his practical knowledge. He needed to know more about the science behind hairdressing, the science of scalp and hair health.

In 1948, Vincent began to study the science of trichology by correspondence from London. Trichology was a little known science in Australia in those days, and, to study it, you needed to look abroad.

Vincent absorbed this knowledge with an unquenchable thirst. Everything he learned only convinced him further that he should look at developing hair products not only to use in the salon but also for the client to take home for maintenance between visits. Thanks to his overwhelming workload, it would take many years for Vincent to complete his studies, but, of course, he excelled in all the exams and went on to researching, developing and manufacturing the first salon-only product range in Australia.

That same year, the De Lorenzo family grew out of their modest seaside home and purchased a new place in Arden Street, Coogee. Vincent’s mother, Anna, drove this new purchase, and the new family home even had room for a laboratory under the house.

Some time later that year, Vincent met Fred Langsam, a Polish Jew. Fred, a biochemist, helped Vincent realise his dream, researching and assembling the formulations.

“In those days, people didn’t really know about the health of hair and scalp. Today still, much of it remains a myth. People were, and to some extent still are, of the notion that healthy hair equals squeaky-clean hair. That’s just not the case at all. To the contrary, hair that squeaks usually means that the hair has been stripped of its natural oils and its pH balance has been upset. This results in all sorts of problems. I needed to make people aware that if you wanted beautiful hair, you needed a healthy scalp, and you had to use the right formulae.”

There was no time to waste, and the brothers and Langsam got to work. They built a makeshift laboratory under the new family home in Coogee where they blended, experimented and tested different formulae, meeting every Saturday for the next 17 years until Fred passed away in 1964. Some formulae failed, some worked, and some were hugely successful. With every failure they learned something new, leading to more advanced formulae.

Vincent and Anton worked nights and weekends perfecting all aspects of their products. Their family was always there to make sure they ate well and rested.

In the salon it was much the same. They worked very long hours, and their mother, Anna, made them dinners which Joseph would bring to the city by tram. These dinners weren’t sandwiches! Anna made pasta and other traditional dishes for her sons.

“Every morning dad would wake up early and go to the flower markets in Haymarket and buy the most beautiful flowers he could find for the salon. We always had the most beautiful flower displays. That’s called love I suppose.”

Vincent now began to realise the advantage of his continental name in the industry. As his mother had once hoped, he had indeed found a career path where his name was held in high esteem. The first products were finally complete and ready for use in the salon. Named De Lorenzo, they were a hit from the beginning.

Soon enough, word of mouth once again came into play. More and more people heard about the De Lorenzo products, and friends of Vincent’s, other hairdressers, began to request products to use in their salons.

“We were the first, to my knowledge, in the world to give the hairdresser professional quality products to use exclusively in the salon. And we still do that today. We produced a completely new market!”

Vincent had successfully created the professional salon retail concept in Australia, something that had never been done before.

“In those days, salons were service only. Women relied more on their hairdresser than they do today to create the hairstyles of the times. To introduce retail on top of service was previously unheard of. It increased the takings, and gave the salon an even bigger edge over competition. These days, salon retail has become such an accepted part of the hair industry, and a profitable one at that. They would certainly feel the pinch if they had to lose it now.”

Indeed today the success of the concept continues to grow and has become a billion dollar industry on a global scale.*

The concept swept through the industry like a lightning bolt. The demand became overwhelming and, soon, other brands abroad began to follow suit. This was the beginning of a new phase for Vincent, one that would lead to previously unfound success and firmly cement him as Australia’s leading authority in the hairdressing industry.

*www.scriptorium.lib.duke.edu