A Very Personal Interview with Emiliano & Lisa Muscat-Vitale

This is more than just an interview; it’s a very personal view into two people’s very private life. I was given carte blanche to poke around and explore the inner workings of their relationships. Consider this less of an interview and more of an in-depth look into the inner workings of an effective collaboration in business, creativity, and the most personal of them all…marriage and parenting.

You see, Emiliano and Lisa Muscat-Vitale are more than just a married couple. They are partners in collaboration, partners in business, and partners in marriage raising an infant. Sounds like a lot, but they make it work and oh boy, do they make it work. I think they can both teach us some lessons on how to effectively communicate and collaborate not just with the people we work with, but also the people we go home to interact in our private lives.

Before I go any further, I’d like to just give some quick backstory on both Emiliano and Lisa:

Emiliano when he isn’t creating collections, he is the Creative Director for é SALON, located in Sydney, Australia (Wahroonga to be more exact). He has won a slew of awards for his collections and was the first Australian ever to present Alternative Hair Show in London. As of recently, he’s been actively appearing in NOISE with Benni Tognini as Team Ssh! and created the Global.Synergy competition. Here’s a look at some of his work:

Now, where do I even begin with Lisa? If you couldn’t tell in the “Virtuality” article, I’m a Lisa Muscat-Vitale fangirl. I quote (myself), “She is a force to be reckoned with. An unstoppable, creatively enigmatic being that pushes boundaries and continuously raises the bar on collection standards.” Her collections are breathtaking, and I’m sure her trophy room is almost full by now. When she’s not creating, she’s é SALON’s Salon Director. Here’s a look at some of her work:

And when they’re not creating collections, presenting on stage, winning awards, and collaborating and inspiring others, they are parents to this little muffin. Meet Arianna.

When I asked them how they would describe each other’s personality, Emiliano said, “Lisa is determined, kind, and honest. She is also fiercely loyal to those she loves.” “Emiliano is black and white,” shared Lisa. “He either hates something or LOVES it! There is no gray. He is either 100% committed or not interested.” The common thread here between them is a tenacious pledge and promise to what they do, whether that be working or caring for individuals or bringing a concept to reality, and you’ll see that throughout this interview.

To be effective in communication, whether you’re collaborating in the salon, on a creative project, or in the privacy of your home, you have to know what type of communicator you are and be able to recognize what your partner is. What type of communicator are you? Are you “The Relator,” “The Socializer,” “The Thinker,” or “The Director?”

Emiliano: I believe I can be all four. It all depends on who I’m communicating with, what is being communicated and the situation.
Lisa: I’m The Socializer.

I think it’s best we start with finding out how you two collaborate as business partners in the salon. Tell me about that.

Lisa: At the moment we only work together one day a week. But we have always worked well in the salon together as we do bounce off each other a lot!
Emiliano: Lisa is the person I trust most in this world. Professionally, she is the only one who will always be honest with me and in the salon we just bounce off one another’s energy. When we work together, it’s a great day.

So if you’re only in the salon with each other at the same time one day out of a week, which one of you usually takes the lead/project management on things related to the business?

Lisa: Definitely Emiliano.

What makes you efficient business collaborators?

Emiliano: We are both committed to the cause. Our goal is to have an environment where our clients feel welcomed, cared for, and receive world-class quality hairdressing services. Creatively we give each other responsibilities. I have the final say on all things production and Lisa has the final say on the total look. This is also how we work on all of our shows and photo shoots. We have the same goal in everything we do. Irrelevant of who is taking the lead, we do everything possible to make the project something truly special. We may sometimes disagree about the process. However, we are always focused on the outcome, which is always something that we both feel passionate about.

You mentioned disagreeing, how often does this happen? Is there a conflict and compromise?

Lisa: We are polar opposites when it comes to the process, and there is always more that we disagree on than we agree on! But ultimately we have the vision, and that makes us push each other until we find common ground. This also helps us to bring out the best in each other and not settle for anything less.
Emiliano: We have a unified vision, and we only want what is best for our business, the project, or our family. Sometimes the process is hard, yes, but mainly because we have different ways of approaching it, however, the vision is always unified.

Lisa, what are his strengths and weaknesses during professional/business collaboration and how do you balance and counter them?

He is very good at what he does, and he knows what works. I would say his weakness is that he is disorganized.

Emiliano, what about Lisa? What do you think are her strengths and weaknesses and how do you balance and counter them?

Her strengths are that she has determination, commitment and the desire to bring her vision to life like no one I’ve ever met. Her weakness though is that she can stubborn.

I think this is a nice segue into talking about collaborating as creatives so let’s shift gears and talk about you two collaborating on a creative level, especially in terms of creating collections. Walk me through this creative collaboration process, from start to finish, mood boards, scheduling, the creative process as a whole.
Where and how does it all begin and how does it all end?

Lisa: We start with our inspiration, what is currently influencing us, what has captured our attention, and in many ways, what we want to communicate through the medium of hair and the photo shoot. This is then followed by working out what we want to achieve from creating the collection; essentially what our goals and objectives are, and how these fit with our inspiration/influences.
We mood board all of this. Everything from inspiration, photography, makeup, hair, etc. so everyone is on the same track and working towards the same outcome.
Then it’s a matter of booking and scheduling all the key people for the shoot and timing it so that we are ready to enter competitions.

Which one of you usually comes to the table with “the big idea” and vision?

Emiliano: We both do at different times. Sometimes it’s Lisa, and sometimes it’s me, but really when we collaborate it’s always something that revolves around something one of us has said.

Who usually takes the lead or is it often a joint effort?

Emiliano: Depends on the project or where we are. Creatively often it is Lisa, business and production-wise it is me.

How often do you two conflict and have to compromise during this type of collaboration or is it mostly an effortless process?

Lisa: Collaboration is a compromise, but I don’t even think that’s the right word. It’s more. There is something alive and living but is covered. Our job is to uncover it. If we are in conflict we are not able to bring this idea to life; it’s only when we get to a harmonious place together that the magic happens.

I asked you in the beginning to describe each other’s personality type. Do you feel like the other person has the same personality outside the salon, during creative collaboration?

Lisa/Emiliano: Yes, definitely.

Do you both feel like the communication type you chose for yourself is the same for when you’re both collaborating on collections?

Emiliano: It’s about being adaptable. So whether it’s business or creative, we have learned to adapt to every situation.

How often are conflict, compromise, and resolution happening during this type of collaboration?

Lisa: It’s all about the vision; whatever it takes. Every project is different.

What are some conflict resolution strategies being used while creating collection between the two of you when needed?

Emiliano/Lisa: Respect and love. That’s all that’s needed, and without it you’re losing and are adrift from the very start.

Now, here’s where things are going to get a bit…personal, and I’ll be honest, I’ve never gone down this path and asked award-winning hairdressers about their marriage and parenting skills and what their lives are behind closed doors!
So when it comes to collaborating in the home and as parents, what are some tactics you’re both implementing from your professional/business and creative lives into your personal life?

Lisa: Emiliano really has taken care of a lot of the business side of things and allowed me to just concentrate on being there to look after our daughter. On the flip side, it has been difficult to step back and not be able to do much to help him when he has needed it.
Emiliano: I just do what I am told!

Who usually takes the lead on all things related to the home?

Emiliano: Without a doubt, Lisa.

Who usually takes the lead on all things related to the parenting?

Emiliano: Mainly Lisa, however, I do as much as I can, but Lisa is amazing.

Okay then Lisa, what time management strategies are you using to get it all done?

Lisa: Emiliano starts later in the day on Tuesday-Friday, and this has probably been the biggest change in terms of time commitments and constraints. We get to spend the mornings together as a family, and this is really lovely and special!
Emiliano: As soon as I get home now, there is no more work. It is HOME and FAMILY time. That has been hard. However, seeing my daughter smile beats everything, and there is nothing in life that compares to that. The LOVE makes everything else insignificant.

So then how are you two dividing and conquering everything that needs to be done? What are some of your communication and organization strategies?

Lisa: We are so blessed to have such an incredible team that is so understanding and supportive, along with a salon manager who looks after the business when we aren’t there!
Emiliano: I am working less at the moment. I start at 10.45am Tuesday thru Friday and this way I spend time with my family. Wow! I love the sound of that! Soon I will no longer work Wednesdays. This idea is courtesy of Matthew Clements. He takes Wednesdays off to look after his daughter, and I see how rich his relationship is with her, so I will be doing the same while Lisa works Wednesdays. In regards to everything else, I have an incredible wife who controls my life and allows me to be the erratic human that I am!

Not to get too personal, but how often do you two conflict and compromise during this type of collaboration or is it mostly an effortless process?

Emiliano: I do whatever Lisa says. It’s a no-brainer.

Would you be open to sharing how you resolve any disagreements or squabbles in your home?

Emiliano/Lisa: Again, it’s all about respect and love. Sometimes it’s a few minutes of space, but we always come together and see the bigger picture.

I appreciate you two being so open with your answers. Okay, I have one last one for you both. Lisa, how would you describe Emiliano as a collaborator using only three words? And Emiliano, how would you describe Lisa as a collaborator using only three words?

Lisa: Emiliano is a dreamer, a visionary, and he’s disorganized.
Emiliano: Lisa is a genius, uncompromising, and a visionary.

To be given an opportunity to get this personal and ask both Emiliano and Lisa questions outside the usual “What inspires you” and “Who is your hair idol,” questions they have been asked more than too often was a bit moving I must say. Maybe it’s because we don’t see much of these types of interviews happening in the beauty industry. That’s something I’m planning on changing, one interview at a time.

Who will be next?