We spoke with Freddy Sim, who took home the British Columbia Hairstylist of the Year award at the 30th annual Contessa Awards.
Tell me about your collection. I know you mentioned it was very different from your past work. What was the concept behind it? How did you decide on which colours and techniques to use?
I wanted to do something different from what I usually do. My collection is soft-punk inspired. The whole concept of the photoshoot was futuristic, with a dominatrix kind of vibe. I still wanted things to look pretty, but a bit edgier, with lots of disconnection and lots of drama. If you look at the shape and the texture, it screams empowerment. I did the wardrobe [styling] myself, so I used PVC and stuff like that. For the colour, I used complementary colours—purple, yellow, blue and orange, which are four colours that sit opposite of each other on the colour wheel.
I kind of plan as I go. Every year, I always like [using] yellow and purple, but this year I wanted to try something different. I played with the colours and swatched them together, and I wondered how it was going to look. I swatched it on the hair and then [realized] that I really liked it. I wanted the whole collection to look cohesive, so I just used those four colours. While I was planning the photoshoot and creating the looks, the looks slowly evolved. But the day of the photoshoot, everything was perfect. But the braided look, I thought it was going to look super beautiful, but the night before the photoshoot when I tested it, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. So, I created one of the looks on the day of the photoshoot. That kind of made me feel stressed, but it turned out better than I expected.
What does winning this award mean to you?
I’m still very proud and thankful for the recognition. I really love to create, and not just cut hair behind the chair. Every time I look at Salon Magazine and I look at all the other hairstylists’ collections, it really inspires me. So, I hope my work can inspire others. This is my third time winning Contessas, and it just keeps pushes me forward.
I really like the day of the photoshoot. It can get very stressful and chaotic, but I like when all the talented people—hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, makeup artists and photographer—are under one roof to create magic. When you capture the shot, it’s so satisfying. I like to see everyone do their magic. It’s a good atmosphere and good energy.
Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Chad Taylor, my co-worker at Moods Hair Salon. When I graduated from school, I really wanted to learn from him, so that’s why I started working at Moods Hair Salon. He trained me for a year and a half. He’s been in the industry for over 25 years, but he’s still very humble. I like how humble and talented he is. Working with him every day, he has so much passion and I like to surround myself with people who are passionate about what they do. [He’s taught me about] precision, because I’m not really a precise guy—but I kind of combine my style with his style. He’s very precise about everything so he’s helped train my eye a bit better.
I follow Laurence Philippon, Angelo Seminara and Mark Leeson on Instagram. I love their work— they are strong, powerful hairstylists.
How would you describe your style when it comes to photoshoots? Any special rituals/how do you stay on track/what’s in your kit?
Having a good assistant is very important, to keep you sane and organized.
Try to keep as calm as possible. When I’m done with [styling] each look, I like to work with the photographer behind the camera and direct each model for each look. I can make sure we’re on the same page, so the model understands what I’m trying to capture, what kind of mood I’m going for and what kind of vision I have in mind. I think it’s very important.
Feed the team! Nobody functions well with an empty stomach (laughs). Make sure everyone is happy and enjoying themselves. Keeping a good energy on set.
I’m a last-minute kind of person, but it works well for me. I like when I’m running out of time. I find that the more last-minute I am, the more inspired I am.
The tradition of wearing suits [to the Contessa gala] started when I first won B.C. Hairstylist in 2016. I wore a blue and red checkered plaid suit. The next year I wore a green plaid suit and then this year I thought I would wear a floral pattern. It’s the same concept with some design going on. I feel like every year I need to step up my game. I kind of look everywhere for my suits that I wear. I shop at Top Man, or Asos, an online shop from the U.K. that has really unique style but isn’t breaking the bank. Every year, I try to go for a loud colour or pattern that isn’t over-the-top, but still stands out. I don’t wear a suit all the time, especially not in the salon, so when I get a chance, I like to invest in a beautiful suit that people remember.
If you weren’t a hairstylist, what do you think you would be doing?
I’m lucky enough to have found my passion when I was four years old. In my home country, Brunei, I wanted to be a hairstylist, so I would always follow my mom to salons. I was a kid that loved sitting in the salon for hours. I was fascinated by how people would use colour brushes and curling irons. I could sit there for hours while my mom was getting her hair done. Since then, I don’t think I ever thought about being something else.
I grew up with two older sisters, so I would do their hair. In high school, I started to dance in talent shows, but I was doing all of my classmates’ hair for their performances. That was how I got into it and I just stuck with it.
What’s next for you after your win? Anything you’re working on or any goals you have that you are hoping to achieve?
Nothing is going to stop me from creating more. I really like to create. Every time I see stuff online, it just makes me want to create more. Eventually, I would like to go for the Canadian Hairstylist of the Year category. Not yet, but maybe in a couple of years. But I think I’m ready to move on to other categories.
I like to travel to New York and London for education. Maybe one day I can collaborate with international talent. We’ll see.
Name/Nom: Freddy Sim
Category/Catégorie: British Columbia Hairstylist | Styliste Colombie-Britannique
Salon: Moods Hair Salon, Vancouver
Makeup/Maquillage: Isabelle Pan
Wardrobe/Styliste Mode: Freddy Sim
Photos: Lillian Liu