Get an inside look at one of our favorite haircare brands in this exclusive interview with Mordechai Alvow, founder of Yarok.
Ever wondered about the brilliant minds behind some of your favorite beauty brands? How did they discover the gorgeous world of natural beauty? What do their routines look like? Enter ‘Meet the Founders’, our brand new series that captures the essence of a brand by diving into the essence of its founder; who they are, what they love, what inspired them. Today we’re talking natural haircare with the founder of FP fave Yarok, aka Mordechai Alvow. Born and raised in Israel, Alvow now resides in “…the best city in the world, New York.” While he may be based in NYC, he explains, “I feel lucky to have traveled the world with my work as an editorial hairstylist and have had the chance to see the best of nature has to offer.” Rooted in natural, non-GMO ingredients, being kind to our planet is close to Alvow’s heart. “I constantly wish to be a part of the change to improve our universe. I’m inspired from all the beauty around us, I now know that it’s the simple things in life that make you happy.” Learn more about the inspiring soul behind Yarok, below.
Tell us about your path to becoming a hairdresser; from what I understand, you started doing hair at a very young age? What was it about hairstyling that captivated you?
As a kid, I was artistic and enjoyed visual art and different forms of crafting, like ceramics and painting. I was also a music lover and fell in love with dance, especially ballet. I believe that, when I started doing hair, all of these qualities came together in one profession. I was also mesmerized seeing how people reacted to the way they felt after their hair was done.
How did you land on the idea for Yarok? Why should we all be rushing to add the line to our haircare routines?
Compared to past decades, we’re a lot smarter about our health now; instead of dealing with the effect we now are dealing with cause… which means that preventative actions make more sense and are adapted easily onto our lifestyle. Much easier to “do things the right way” before they end up going wrong. We now know that all we use goes into our system and affects the bloodstream.
The fast and immediate lifestyle of the digital revolution has made us understand that to be able to keep up with our work and achieve more, it’s worthwhile to care for our health, exercise, eat healthy and care for the environment.
Also, we now have faster and increased access to education, which through the digital world helps us access solutions for a better life. I also think that we’ve been hit with so many natural disasters that humans now understand that, if we don’t keep the environment clean, we’re in trouble. Yarok represent all that and using hair products is part of our daily regime.
Can you tell us about the meaning of ‘Yarok’ and why you chose that word to represent your brand? Why is it meaningful to you?
Yarok means “Green” in Hebrew. Trust me, the name raised a lot of eyebrows, with a lot of people suggesting it’s a hard one to pronounce. But like any new brand, it’s hard at the start, and then you get used to it. I chose this name because I wanted to place nature front and center… It was my way of communicating that all we have comes from nature and it’s mostly green, lush, fresh and found outdoors. Green is also the only color that is mentioned in the bible (which I learned later on) and, in Asian culture, green represents balance and that is key for everything we do in life.
You’re a salon industry veteran – tell us about life before you began experimenting with healthy ingredients. Have you always been a proponent of natural, non-GMO ingredients?
When I started out, I was drawn to the craft of hairstyling, cutting techniques and coloring. It was natural as a hair stylist to use chemical-based ingredients because that’s what you learned in school, that some products could change the hair structure. Later on I experienced terrible rashes on my hands that led to numerous doctors’ visits (some for cortisone shoots) to relieve the pain.
About that time I started to look into products that are less harsh, and the only brands accommodating that need were from Europe, offering herbal formulas with some synthetics in them. Then I discovered Aveda, which offered truly clean ingredients. That inspired me to start this journey. At that time I also started to change my own lifestyle — I began practicing yoga, eating healthier and wanting to find more of a calm way of living. I think that desire was in the air for many people, lots of models and fashion people stopped smoking (including me) and it was almost a movement of getting back to nature. I then realized that it was my calling to help this industry and introduce better solutions and ingredients to style hair and get healthy results without compromising the outcome.
How did your experience growing up in Israel, specifically Tel Aviv and Jaffa, shape your approach to beauty? What did you learn from those around you?
Today I appreciate Jaffa more, besides the history and the ancientness of the city; I grew up across from an orange grove (the few that were left), and smelling the scent of oranges stayed in my memories. Both Tel Aviv and Jaffa are situated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which was a major source of activity for us; we would spend lots of time outdoors next to this beautiful sea. I believe my inspiration came from three woman: my grandma, who used herbs to heal and maintain our health using plants from her little garden (originally from Turkey); my mom, who was all about beauty and fashion (and was a stylist herself)… I loved hanging out with her and going to perfume shops (that was the equivalent of my candy store) and experiencing the scents and packaging; and my cousin, who was always ahead of the times, using healthy ingredients for food and beauty.
Israel, in general, was a melting pot, influenced by the elegance of Europe and the exotics of the Middle East — not only visually beautiful in nature but an interesting culture and mix of people.
Tell us about your own daily haircare and skincare routines — any favorite products or rituals?
I use jojoba oil when I take a bath with a few drops of essential oil of orange. I use tea tree oil on my toothbrush to help purify. For my skin, I use One Love Organics and Kahina Beauty. I use a 4-minute vitamin C treatment to help the elasticity of my skin, made by my friend, make-up artist Nicole Bryl. For my bodywash I use Dr. Bronner’s, and Yarok for my hair.
How does the Yarok range fit in to your own regimen? Do you have a favorite product from the assortment?
Yes, I use six Yarok products, for shampoo I use Feed Your Moisture (great for thick wavy hair), Feed Your Volume conditioner, Feed Your Moisture masque (twice a week). For Styling I use Feed Your Curls (the best curling cream on earth) and to finish on dry hair I cocktail Feed Your Do and Feed Your Shine, both for texture, shine and mood-elevating!
What’s next for Yarok?
Continue to introduce more fantastic products and perhaps open Yarok retail locations.
We often think of beauty as a surface quality – how do you nurture inner beauty in your daily life?
I make daily visits to my pure air salon, Yarok Beauty Kitchen, here in New York City, where I wanted to bring back the kitchen/nature environment that has inspired me since I was a kid. I designed the first and only organic treatment bar, where we custom blend formulas to give each client’s hair a “meal” using fresh organic avocados, coconut cream and almond butter, and over 50 nut oils, like black cumin oil, chia seed oil and a variety of essential oils to choose from. I became a certified aromatherapist and added therapeutic scents so that treatment can take you away for 30 minutes while it treats scalp conditions, adds moisture and maintains overall health for hair and scalp… plus, there is massage involved… who doesn’t like that? Today I’m at the center of all the Yarok company operations, including art direction, photoshoots with Yarok products, training new retailers, doing hair and giving back to the environment. The brand donates a percentage of our profit to the Pachamama Alliance that empowers the indigenous people of the Amazonian rainforest to preserve their land and culture and, by doing so, helps preserve Mother Earth. Through my brand, I continue my personal mission to affect green change in the beauty industry without sacrificing results or luxury. Hairstylists and salon owners truly understand now that it is possible to achieve superior results using natural and organic products.
Besides practicing Kabbalah, working out and paying attention to others, I believe that all my practices should be involved in perfecting the world we live in.
Thank you Mordechai!