James Hammett of MASAMI: Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair

Jilea Hemmings
Aug 24, 2020 · 11 min read

Be persistent. I am a survivor; I created my own path by pursuing the opportunities and people I wanted to work with. Be resourceful. Be stubborn, find the patients in yourself when you are at a loss and want to just pull your hair out and cry. Never ever stop believing in the potential of YOU and always ask questions, don’t shy away from a challenge. Rise! Surround yourself with great energy and learn from your own shortcomings. Surround yourself with a diversity of cultures and people so you can benefit from many perspectives.

a part of our series about “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”, I had the pleasure of interviewing James Hammett.

James, with his impressive 25+ years career, is a beauty maven (guru) who is obsessed by achieving absolute perfection. James oversaw several major launches as head of creative services producing and casting at Clairol; Natural Instincts, Nice & Easy, for L’Oreal brands; Matrix; Biolage, SoColor brands, Redken, Soft Sheen-Carson’s Dark & Lovely, Hi-Rez and Color Flash and REVLON. James decided to use his knowledge, experience and talent to help models frustrated by the damage continuously done to their hair with no real solutions in sight — and set off on a 10-year journey to create the clean, hydrating formulations that are now MASAMI.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

was raised in Rome, where Couture and Pret-a-Porte is at the heart of Italian fashion. I was immersed in beauty and fashion because my mother immersed herself in fashion and beauty her whole life and grandma had worked for Clinique. I guess Beauty is in my DNA. My career in fashion and beauty began at Harvey Nichols in London, prior to my move to NYC NY, where I worked in a small and super savvy PR/Press Office /Advertising team. The opportunity allowed to immerse myself in PR, creating look books, casting models for runway shows with Calvin Klein and Jean Paul Gaultier to sending the couture / pret-a-porte collections like LaCroix & Dolce Gabbana and Jasper Conran out to the press. I wanted to return to the USA, as I had been travelling since a child, alone or with my sister and brother, from Rome to Florida or Kiawah Island or London to Wisconsin to see family and vacation during summer school breaks. I would fly via NYC’s JFK Airport on TWA or PAN AM, back to the EU and I dreamed to evolve my career and build on my wealth of experience by moving to NYC. Thus, came an opportunity that I pursued for a creative services casting and producer assistant role at Clairol Worldwide. My career and tenure at Clairol building upon the existing portfolio of brands in Consumer and Professional divisions partnering with our creative directors to produce 30 day photo shoots with top beauty talent i.e.; casting the celebrities and models, beauty photographers, model/celebrity talent, hair/makeup agencies to start producing each hair color line’s restaging Nice n Easy packaging or the launch of new brands like Natural Instincts packaging. I became immersed in the world of hair care and hair color from R&D to marketing and global possibilities. I had also freelanced during this time…to produce and collaborate with a young fashion designer, Laura Whitcomb, LABEL, to bring ADIDAS back in 1995. Laura and I got the license to ADIDAS and she began creating ADIDAS zipper dresses, hot pants, tops and high heeled shoes for a massive re-launch fashion show with rappers on the runway! Amazing press we received as we produced incredible shows until ADIDAS saw their growth change with all the business and financial PR to celebrities like Madonna were wearing the dresses on the cover of TIME magazine.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was always a huge fan of Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs, early on in their careers in NYC. There was an opportunity to launch a new hair color line called “Brights” and “Glints” @ Clairol and I went to ask Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs if they would be interested in creating vignettes for us at a PR launch for the brands. They agreed. This was such a wonderful moment and a feeling of a genuine moment when “you never know what is going to happen unless you ask”. We brought the fashion and beauty press together in 1 space for the 1st time showing Clairol as a fashion and beauty brand that was hip to the times. Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs were at the event and received by all with rave reviews of the 2 new hair color brands.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

Nothing different, just grew up quickly, with a passion and drive that is part of my survival. When I decided to leave Clairol, I was asked by the Creative Director to join him at Matrix by L’Oreal to work on the relaunch of Matrix’s hair color/care brands. Opportunity knocks, if your aware and keep focused as I did, things happen. I was ambitious and had a mission to work on as many difficult and diverse fashion, beauty and entertainment accounts as I could to explore the different fields and kept doing what made me happy.

In your experience what were the most effective ways for your business to generate leads and sales? Can you share a story or give an example?

By setting the tone we created across our own MASAMI business which are the true stories about my 10 plus years of creating the formulas and how determined I was based on all the “lack of hydration” I saw/see daily in consumers hair where ever I am. The stories about Mekabu, “Masa and Me”; my husband who is my muse, my heritage in beauty, the MASAMI INSTITUTE, the Lynn Power and James story is key as well as Lynn’s own fascinating story and of course, the MASAMI product brand performance as reviewed by consumers and the press. We develop like-minded brand partnerships and monthly promotions, gift guides and podcasts to on line weekly brand videos in salons talking product and continue to share relentlessly all about clean vegan hair.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My boyfriend then husband, Masahiro Sasaki. Masa understood that I truly consciously was determined to create as clean a hair care brand as I could and his support since we met 13 + years ago. I had to achieve clean formulas or as close as I could get to them I was collaborating with a small indie-Beauty chemist in Chicago on the formulas when Masa took me to Japan and he shared with me Mekabu and Wakame when I visited his home town of Otsuchi, Iwate, a small fishing village on the Pacific ocean in NE Japan.. and how the Japanese culturally and traditionally have benefited from Mekabu health benefits for thousands of years. I found a way to bring some Mekabu back via ANA stewardesses and I shared it with my chemists and we began the process of creating a truly hydrating brand of 4 formulas.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting?

I tend to be naïve, and look at things with a huge open mind and heart and try not to assume. Casting models for hair color and hair care campaigns is a tough job when you have so many people involved in the decision making process and with one major model talent, I had assumed her hair was extensions, and I put my foot in my mouth when I asked her if we could take them out and see how long her natural hair was. The team enjoyed seeing me do that.

What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I learnt early on how to listen more, learn and observe and not to assume and I knew I really had tremendous passion and cared a lot about each talent and each person we worked with so I took extra time to create a list of questions I could follow when casting.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

Be persistent. I am a survivor; I created my own path by pursuing the opportunities and people I wanted to work with. Be resourceful. Be stubborn, find the patients in yourself when you are at a loss and want to just pull your hair out and cry. Never ever stop believing in the potential of YOU and always ask questions, don’t shy away from a challenge. Rise! Surround yourself with great energy and learn from your own shortcomings. Surround yourself with a diversity of cultures and people so you can benefit from many perspectives.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you please share “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”? Please share a story or an example, for each.

Instead of using a blow dryer, wash and condition your hair then use a hydrating cream like our styling cream and let your hair dry naturally or use a fan to get the moisture and hydration to slowly penetrate your cuticle. Many of our colleagues adhere to these especially current times.

Rather than using pins, clips and elasticated bands to keep your hair away from your face or up in a bun, buy a beautiful Italian or French square head scarf and wrap your Hair up in it and look fabulous and chic when out and about. In Italy my mother use to always use a chic square scarf to wrap her hair when she towel dried it instead of using a blow dryer and curlers when she wanted to be simply sophisticated with no hassle.

Try traditional Japanese long or short bamboo chopsticks “Kanzashi” to keep your hair in an “up-do” and away from your face and off your shoulders. They won’t tug on your hair or break the strands like elastic bands, scrunchies or metal clips. Lynn Power, my partner uses chopsticks daily since we met to keep her up do in place.

If you color your hair, and have roots, you can use the hair powder to cover them up and or eye shadow instead of coloring your hair out of a box which I don’t recommend because of the harshness of the formulas. My husband does this during quarantine and it works. Washing out the powder though has made the towels black so we use dark towels now.

Wash your hair only twice a week with a cleaner cruelty free and low foaming sulfate/paraben/phthalate free brand even if you have oily hair because it probably means you’ve over stripped your hair with shampoos and conditioners and the roots are screaming at you for love.

For split end and frizz and dry try fresh Mekabu powder mixed with Wakame in hot water and add a drop or 2 of Tsubaki oil and mix. The formula that slimy and gooey and just shake well and pour that on your scalp to soothe it and massage the mixture into your hair from root to tip and wash away any residue from other products to clean the roots and scalp soothing it adding shine to your hair and hydration.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

3 ideas that make me feel beautiful:

Meditate a few minutes every day…throughout the day to let yourself know how wonderful you are with positive reinforcement.

Laying in the “Onsen” Hot Natural Springs in the Region of NE Japan. The minerals/vitamins in these “onsens” or “hot springs” from the volcanic mountains provide hydration, moisture, invigorating energy that transforms and soothes you inside and out.

When you meet the right person and you can share your thoughts and they align…like Lynn Power and thus MASAMI

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I am an explorer, inspired by global cultures, a discoverer and a survivor so my passion and love are boundless and have been on a pursuit my entire life to share the benefits of “the wonders of ocean botanicals and how they can immediately improve your health and well-being.” We, in the USA, are slow to experience the true benefits of natural resources our oceans provide and I want to educate and share all about Mekabu and Fucoidan and why the Japanese culture is so conscious of their environment and how to harness it nutritional value plant and ocean vegetables.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be patient with yourself and others. Believe in yourself always and persevere. Continuously challenge your own self growth through contact with others and your own self-discovery. Have a few supportive friends or a mentor around you for support and guidance. Don’t be afraid to go to the top for answers. Don’t be so hard on yourself either…life happens. The way it’s meant to unfold.

This is how I persevered even in the most difficult of times, I also asked for help. I can share examples if needed.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)

Richard Branson-huge philanthropist, his philosophy and values are unusual, his passion for his employees and respect for them and their growth. He is man of substance, love of life, health and family, humbling beginnings, who created his own destiny, designing and inspiring millions with each 1 of his projects from Virgin Records, Virgin Galactic, to the launch of his cruise ship line and his rail connection in the USA. He is passionate, cares tremendously about being effective in his charitable causes and natural disaster relief programs because they are the basis for his brand successes. In my opinion, he is a man about cultural diversity and it is thrilling to see how many people genuinely love him and his family.

How can our readers follow you online?

FB, IG, Pinterest @lovemasamihair

LinkedIn: LoveMasami

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-hammett-0346887/

FB: James Hammett

bout the Interviewer: Jilea Hemmings is a staunch believer in the power of entrepreneurship. A successful career revamping Fortune 500 companies was not enough for her entrepreneurial spirit, so Jilea began focusing her passion in startups. She has successfully built 6 startups to date. Her passion for entrepreneurship continues to flourish with the development of Stretchy Hair Care, focusing on relieving the pain associated with detangling and styling natural black hair. For far too long, people with tender heads have suffered in pain. Until now.

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Pop Culture, Business, Tech, Wellness, & Social Impact

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Jilea Hemmings

Written by

Founder Nourish + Bloom Market | Stretchy Hair Care I Author I Speaker I Eshe Consulting I Advocate For Diversity In Beauty

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.