From Vigo to the world. Jorge Rubín, CEO and founder of I.C.O.N., manages from Galicia one of the most important cosmetic companies in the whole planet.
GQ interviews Jorge Rubín
It’s possible that Jorge Rubín has become a very important business man that lives between USA and Europe, but he hasn’t lost his Galician accent.
It’s the consequence, we think, of maintaining a multinational company with two HQ’s: in L.A., his partner Chiara leads the investigation, development and manufacture of new products, as well as the American and Australian markets; and in Vigo, where Jorge himself leads the hairdressers business development, marketing, and the education, apart from the areas of Europe and Asia.
“I could live in Madrid, but I don’t want to”, says this business man in a suite of the Puerta America Hotel in Madrid, just before starting a conference. “I have the HQ in Vigo because it is a beautiful city, my city. And because in Vigo we have the port and our products arrive by ocean. Also, because I want to grow my land, my people, I’m Galician” he says proudly.
Jorge likes to say he arrived by accident to the hairdresser industry. “My father had a hair salon and the people working with him left him alone” So he told me “Jorge, you have to leave your studies or continue while working because you have to help”. In a family business you are always involved in a way. If your parents have a cafe, you end up serving coffee. When I started, I realised that there was a way, then I started traveling, opening salons… Then, I met an American company from this sector, I started with them, I travelled to USA and saw there were many business opportunities.»
Finally, Rubín decided to sell his company and, in 2002, together with his partner Chiara, started the I.C.O.N. business adventure.“ We found the name, because we wanted to be an icon, and then the acronym. International Company Oriented to Network. Because the idea of the company was to work through distributors, as independent partners that could develop the business in different countries”.
The idea of the company was to work through distributors, as independent partners that could develop the business in different countries.
‘EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION’ I.C.O.N. philosophy is based on two pillars. On the one hand, ecologic treatment and styling products that incorporate technologically advanced ingredients. On the other, the continuous training of the hair salon professionals that we work with, which is always done exclusively for them. “Our strength is Education”, admits Rubín.
“The hairdresser needs products, because these are liquid tools. But what they really need is training. You are born a hairdresser, but if you’re good you need staff, you need people, and then you need other things: how to lead a team, how to manage your staff, how to organise the salon… That is, how to move from having a salon that generates services to have a hairdressing business.”
“Before, hairdressing was just cutting hair, like dentists pull teeth” says Rubín “but today, the beauty salons are where people go to take care of their hair. This is where we come into play”. And then there is the retail business: “In fact, today hairdressers are in the client’s bathroom. We create products for clients that are sold in hair salons, and we have to educate well and choose well the hair salons so that they can recommend our products”.
We create products for clients that are sold in hair salons, and we have to educate well and choose well the hair salons so that they can recommend our products.
Between the different I.C.O.N. Products lines there is a masculine one, Mr. A, tribute to Mister Alfredo, Rubín’s father. “My father was a barber. He started in a barbershop, and it became a salon, then in a mixed hair salon, he separated men from women and men left. Those who wanted to have their style done, didn’t go to the barbershop, because it was a barber cut” says Jorge, he mentions education as a tool for not making the same mistakes as his father. “For example, I think that the majority of barbershops haven’t taken advantage of the last boom. Instead of giving value to their work, they keep charging 8 euros for it. The world is giving them another opportunity and most of them have stayed as they are, just cutting hair”. In the end, we have to professionalize our craft. “It’s my job, my company, my life».
“Before hairdressing was just cutting hair, like dentists pull teeth” says Rubín “but today these are beauty salons where people go to take care of their hair».
In the end, we have to professionalize our craft. “It’s my job, my company, my life».