A Benicia stylist with a worldwide reputation originally wanted to design fashions. But Omar Gonzalez, known professionally as Omar Antonio, found fashion design school too expensive for a young father of four children.
“So I decided hair school sounded cool,” the Vallejo native said.
Antonio grew up in a family of artists, dancers and musicians. He found his own art through Marty’s School of Cosmetology in San Francisco, started what he called “this amazing journey I’ve been on. Every day is art class for me as a hairstylist.”
At a hair trade show in Las Vegas, he connected with the Sebastian company. “It was more than just another beauty product line. The platform artists on stage had a message. They were about edge. They were about contrast. Perfectly imperfect. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an educator, a part of their tribe.” He’s been based in Benicia for 12 years, now working at First Impressions Salon and Spa, 832 First Street, firstimpressionsbenicia.com, where he’s both master stylist and salon educator.
“Balancing my schedule can be overwhelming at times,” he said shortly before traveling to India, where he participated in the launch of Sebastian’s newest collection of haircuts, products, and techniques. He also taught cutting and styling techniques in Sebastian’s advanced academies. “It’s exciting,” he said, adding that he takes his inspiration from his children. “They have such a unique sense of fashion and are quite clever when it comes to repurposing old leather jackets and accessories.” He’s often awed by how they combine punk elements with a sense of class. “My children are artists, dancers, comedians. They are activists, designers and skateboarders,” he said. “Their amazing little free-spirited minds continuously fill my heart with imagination.”
A few years ago, Antonio’s own imagination led him to blend the artistry of fashion design combined with hair styling. “In 2010 I created a headpiece for a hair show in Las Vegas, all made out of crocheted strands of long black hair,” he said. “I love this headpiece so much that I added on a majestic collar. And then I added shoulders and then before you knew it, I had a whole dress. It was a real showstopper!” He realized it had become one of his favorite art pieces.
The artist created another dress last year. “This dress was made out of thousands of little tiny braids,” he said. “I try to find different ways of manipulating hair into fabric. My style is very Gothic. All of my dresses are designed using black hair. My dresses are regal, elegant and a bit creepy, I’ve been told.”
But he’s continuing creating dresses, now working on his fifth. He hopes to display all five on manikins in a Benicia art gallery, where local admirers can see them. Those in Japan, Paris, Montreal, Madrid, Puerto Rico and the Canary Islands already have seen his hair dresses, and the newest dress was displayed March 31 in India as his finale to his Sebastian showcase.
Antonio said he’s spent 18 years perfecting his craft through education and seminars, from learning cutting in Japan to color techniques in Europe. “I am blessed,” he said. “My world on the road is high fashion. Avant-garde.”
He said he brings that spirit daily to First Impressions, where his clients get more than a haircut or color, but also experience, inspiration, reinvention and a celebration of confidence.” My job is art,” he said.
If world trips are invigorating, the return trips to Benicia are his most pleasurable moment. “Benicia brings a sense of calm into my life. It centers me. I feel safe. I feel creative. Being with my children and my friends—it grounds me. The sense of community. The celebration of art and diversity,” he said. “It’s my home.”