By  on July 20, 2007

LAS VEGAS — Vidal Sassoon refuses to let the victims of Hurricane Katrina be forgotten.

Sassoon, royalty to those in the salon industry, is using his star factor to raise awareness for a new charity he cofounded that is dedicated to generating money for building homes in New Orleans, where just two years ago a force of nature nearly leveled the city, killed 1,836 people and wiped out approximately 275,000 homes.

To gain widespread attention from the salon and professional community, Sassoon reached out to Mary Rector-Gable, the founder and operator of behindthechair.com, a Web site dedicated to stylists that receives up to 600,000 unique hits each month from hairdressers around the world. Together the two have formed Hairdressers Unlocking Hope, a charitable campaign benefitting Habitat for Humanity, to raise funds to build homes. Sassoon himself has donated private funds to build two homes, at a cost of $85,000 per home, sparking the charity collaboration.

Rector-Gable spoke at length about the charity to captivated audiences several times during her visit to Cosmoprof. Already, she said, Sassoon and she have garnered the help of 43 stylists, including Ken Paves, Sally Hershberger and Garren, who have lent their images for the charity's campaign. The images will be used on everything from bags to signage to appointment cards to promote the charity in salons.

The images of the stylists will be turned into a coffee table book to be published in time for the holidays, while limited edition T-shirts featuring Vidal Sassoon as a young stylist, as well as several of his famous coifs, aim to help raise money, too. Many of the stylists have already posed for their photo shoot, which features each volunteer painted with a slogan that represents the plight of a particular Katrina victim. In each photo, the stylist holds a key to a home that no longer exists.

In reaching out to the community, Sassoon and Rector-Gable have secured donations from 22 professional companies, each of which will shell out at least enough funds to build one home, including TIGI Worldwide, Farouk Systems, Kenra, Mizani, PureOlogy, Paul Mitchell Schools, Intercoiffure and Hair Cuttery. Bumble and bumble has committed to building at least two homes, Rector-Gable said.But the charity, while interested in tapping deep pockets, is also aimed at raising money from hairdressers — and their customers — worldwide who are eager to donate whatever they can for the cause. During the week of Aug. 22 to 29, salons globally will donate funds from sales and donations to raise money for the new homes. Consumers can log onto whodoesyourhair.com to make donations, purchase products, and find a salon nearby that is participating in Hairdressers Unlocking Hope week.

Sassoon, in New York for several days to speak with beauty editors about the charity, admits that the industry he has been a part of for 66 years doesn't immediately conjure images of philanthropy from the mainstream.

"We're really not known for this," Sassoon said. "But as an industry we can change that and build a new paradigm."

Already, the professional beauty industry has donated funds to build 22 homes.

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