Tributes paid to Glasgow hairdressing pioneer after her death at 75
Tributes have been paid to Glasgow hairdressing pioneer Rita Rusk following her death at the age of 75.
She died yesterday after battling a long-term kidney disease.
From humble beginnings in Castlemilk, one of ten children, she soared to the pinnacle of the industry, taking on 'the big boys of London when nobody was doing that' and attracting celebrity clients including the Duchess of Kent and actress Greta Scacchi.
Once dubbed 'Scotland's First Lady of Hairdressing' she was the first Scot - and woman - to be named British Hairdresser of the Year, alongside her former husband Irvine in 1987.
She came from a family of hairdressers and the couple opened their first salon in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire before expanding with three others in Glasgow.
Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri worked as a trainee in the West Nile Street business.
Their empire serviced 2,000 clients a week and had an annual turnover of £1.5m and the couple pioneered the caterpillar and the butterfly, styles in which orange, red and copper were applied to the hair then outlined in black.
The brand became internationally renowned and the Rusks were invited to present shows and seminars throughout Europe, America and Japan.
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The couple split in the late 1980s and Irvine Rusk moved to the States while Rita continued to build up the business in Scotland and married again to Brian Dorman, a corporate lawyer, who died around ten years ago.
She had a passion for product development and is credited with the development of the flat-iron hair straightener. She sold the device to Babyliss for £40,000 because she couldn't get a patent for the design.
She said at the time: "It made sense. Growing up in a family of ten in Castlemilk and somebody who takes the last slice of Hovis teaches you to deal with disappointment."
Her son, James, 47, who owns two Glasgow restaurants, The Butchershop Bar & Grill and The Spanish Butcher said his mother passed away peacefully surrounded by family.
He said: "It's still very raw but she was surrounded by love.
"I thought I was super ready for it but you never are.
"Her words to me about her passing were 'I want an appropriate amount of crying and I want an innapropriate amount of laugher' and that kind of sums her up.
"She really loved her team, she had a really loyal team for many years that worked with her and travelled with her. She went everywhere and I was amazed at where she went.
"We've been getting messages from American, Australia, Italy.
"She was a great inventor and I'm not sure many people know that she invented the small, flat irons that everybody uses.
"Her latter invention was The Wire which was this incredible brush tool, but she had a bit of bad timing with that.
He added: "She never ever stopped having ideas and with mum it was always 'Just do it and see what happens'.
He said his mother had been a huge influence in his own restaurant business, which he shares with wife Louise. The couple live in Helensburgh with daughter Savannah, 11 and son, James Jnr, 7.
He said: "For her to move forward, it was always up to her.
"She always said to me 'I've given you all the tools, you've had a very priviledge upbringing and education - which I did - but it's up to you pal!
"We had some good arguments as well, it was always fun. She always photographed stern but all she did was laugh.
"She had the wickedest sense of humour. She had failures and said it was part of the same coin of being successful and I take that on board.
"Being so successful at a young age gave her a lot of clarity in later life."
He said his mother had been in the process of writing a book about her prolific career and said her distintive, glamorous style had continued up until her death.
He last years were spent livinging in Glasgow's West End and her son said the family had been to The Butchershop for lunch only last week.
He said: "She was very independent, right up until the end."
Glasgow hairdresser Alan Edwards was among those paying tribute to Ms Rusk, who was four times named Best Hairdresser in the World by the French fashion magazine Metamorphose.
He said: "We are so sorry to hear the passing of one of the greatest female hairdressers in our industry.
"Rita Rusk was a hairdressing pioneer in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s.
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"Rita was the first female, and the only Scot, to be crowned British Hairdresser of the Year alongside Irvine Rusk. Together they challenged the status quo in hair! Innovating, designing, creating and inventing were only a few of the gifts Rita gave to our industry.
"I (Alan) had the great pleasure of working with the Rusks for 10 years and will be forever grateful for the opportunity and skills I learnt from them.
"So many great hairdressers have come out of the fantastic Rusk stable and have passed on so much creativity and knowledge to many other hairdressers.
"Our industry was very blessed to have had such an incredible hairdresser leave her mark.
"Rita lived a life and left a legacy."
Glasgow's Taylor Ferguson added: "We were friendly and respectful rivals in a tough market.
"Rita was always 100% focussed and a highly motivated stylist.
"The last time we met Rita was at a PR gathering in Glasgow and we all chatted about the hairdressing world and shared our views.
"Our sympathy goes to her son James and his family."
Interviewed in 2010, she said: "We were futuristic and creative. And personally, I've always been progressive.
"We wanted to take on the big boys from London and nobody else in Glasgow did."