By  on June 20, 2008

Vidal Sassoon is not turning his back on Hurricane Katrina victims.

The 80-year-old salon industry icon is returning to Louisiana this weekend with Hairdressers Unlocking Hope, a charitable campaign benefiting Habitat for Humanity, which he formed last year with Mary Rector-Gable, creator of the hairstylist Web site behind thechair.com. The charity raises funds to build homes for those left homeless by the devastating 2005 hurricane. Together with 100-plus hairdressers, Sassoon on Saturday will help with the building — yes, building ­— of nine houses for families who lost their homes as a result of the hurricane three years ago. Each house costs approximately $80,000 to build.

In total, the charity has raised more than $2 million since its inception with the help from individual stylists and major salon players, including Paul Mitchell Schools and Tigi, to construct some 20 homes. "The hairdressers — [even] apprentices, kids — send $10, $20, whatever they can afford. I think it's magnificent," said Sassoon. "It means there is a social conscience."

Sassoon's dedication to reviving the hurricane-stricken region stems from his own experience after World War II, when the government offered new homes to his family and fellow battle-scarred London residents to replace those damaged during bombings. He saw no such swell of public assistance in the wake of Katrina, which destroyed 275,000 homes, and was compelled to fill the void.

"We as a country do not have the social awareness to look after our infrastructure," he said. "If the government can't lead the people, the people have to lead the government."

So that a broader public can learn of Sassoon's past and present activities, he's working on a documentary with Bumble and bumble founder and former president Michael Gordon. Filming has already taken place in New York, London and Los Angeles, where Sassoon currently lives, and the documentary should be released in roughly nine months. Sassoon is also in the early stages of a publishing deal for a book about his life and work.

"I am pretty busy," he sighed.

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