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NEW YORK — Celebrity hairstylist and salon owner John Sahag, 52, lost a three-year battle with cancer on Wednesday.
Born Jean Sahag Jamgotchian in Beirut, the legendary hairstylist spent most of his childhood in Australia, where his couturier father, Atum, had moved his family after civil war broke out in 1958.
Sahag got his start in hairstyling at the age of 14 when his work was recognized in a major editorial feature in The Sydney Morning Herald. At 18, Sahag moved to Paris to learn his trade and began to build a career as a celebrated editorial stylist, immediately scoring an editorial credit in Italian Vogue and working with top fashion photographers including Richard Avedon, Patrick Demarchelier, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Albert Watson.
Next, Sahag took on New York, opening his signature salon, The John Sahag Workshop, in 1985. It was there where he developed his signature “dry-cut” method of haircutting, a meticulous strand-by-strand shaping technique. “I didn’t create the technique to be different, but because that’s how I got the best results,” he told WWD in 1998. The technique, he said, allowed him to see exactly how hair fell, yielding more precise cuts.
In 1998, Sahag launched a eponymous product line consisting of shampoos, conditioners, frizz-taming styling shapers, hairsprays and glosses distributed in more than 50,000 U.S. salons. As he said at the time, “I always found myself mixing or diluting products. So I decided to find that mad professor, and create a line where we didn’t make any compromises.” In 2000, he successfully expanded the line to the U.K.
While keeping busy with his products and salon, Sahag continued to do numerous editorial shoots, ready-to-wear shows and commercial campaigns. Over the years, he styled a number of celebrities as well, a list that included Liv Tyler, Jennifer Aniston, Melanie Griffith, Gwyneth Paltrow and Isabella Rossellini.
He won numerous accolades from the professional and consumer beauty industries, including the 1999 Beauty Editors’ Choice Award from Cosmetics Executive Women. Annemarie Iverson, then beauty and fashion news director at Harper’s Bazaar, called Sahag “a beauty icon and heartthrob hairdresser. He’s the Mick Jagger of hair — one of the world’s greatest cutters.”
This story first appeared in the June 16, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sarah Ferguson, then the Duchess of York and a guest at that event, was later overheard asking, “John, what can you do with my hair?”
Sahag is survived by his parents, Atum and Hatum Jamgotchian; a sister, Mary Jamgotchian, and three brothers, Hoveness, Andre and Jack Jamgotchian. Private funeral services will be held on Saturday.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Cancer Society.