For their Contessa 2022 presentation, D&J Ambrose created a stunning range of ’90s-inspired, street-style looks featuring modern, textured cuts and bold colour placement. The hairstyles were complemented by the team’s signature wardrobe styling that truly elevated the looks to the next level.
We caught up with team lead and Wella Professionals global creative artist ambassador, Darren Ambrose, to chat more about how he and his team worked on the looks, what inspires them and what it was like being part of the Contessa Awards for the third year in a row.
Tell us about your team and how you worked together on the concept for this year’s presentation.
The team is one of the most important things in putting together any brand creative direction. They are your extra hands and brains to produce the magic. Jackie Ambrose is my wife and partner in crime, passionately involved with fashion and styling for the D&J Ambrose brand; we work very closely together creating characters from head to toe! I quite often sketch the story and personas, using Pantones and shapes so that Jackie can begin to piece together the garments for each look. When this has been marked off, we then present this to the team. Clayde Baumann, our head creative colourist, along with Alex Lord, colourist, and Michael Francos, hairstylist, then help to bring all of this to life. We’re a family that work and feel the same vibe, and working with these guys for so long makes a difference! Warts and all, we’re always open to one another and listen and respect each other. Then, going forward on a project, we have fun creating and pushing to do something different, that’s current and outside of the box.
Where was the presentation shot?
The location was in central London; we prepped in the Wella London Studio and then filmed on the Millennium Bridge and the South Bank near the Thames. These locations are iconic and full of character, helping us to have that moving backdrop with attitude. London is a cool historic city that still surprises us and what you find around every corner.
What inspired your presentation this year? What was the key message behind it?
Our inspiration came from global climate and movements; seeing an increase in sustainability, recycling, make do and mend, etc. This had an influence on the clothes we used—we used all sustainable clothing and recycled pieces, using designers such as: Vivienne Westwood, Celine, By Walid, McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, and recycled vintage garments. For the hair, we worked with hair colour history and livable, easy-wear, consumer hair, creating texture and shape that complemented the Pantone palettes.
You titled the presentation, Nadsat. Why is that and what does it mean?
The guys and girls we used were a cult group of non-conformists, tapping into their own inner persona; not being influenced and following, but being true to themselves. Nadsat was inspired from the film Clockwork Orange and portraying a language and image used by this teenage gang. The funny thing while filming this was that as a collective model pack, the general public was constantly taking pictures of the guys and asking if this is a new band in the music industry and where can they see them. We laughed because it just shows you what we do in the industry—we all help to create that individual image to help you stand out.
What are you hoping that people will take away from your presentation?
Hopefully the creatives can take something from the film; texture and shape, Pantone colours, and styling in a self-expressive way. Everything we look at and take in is personal so it could be the bigger picture and total look, down to a texturizing technique or colour application.
Tell us about the haircuts and hair colour you created for this presentation, and the techniques you used.
We touched on precision cutting, texturizing, razor cutting, colour melts, block pallets and roll ‘n dye pigmentation. I used classic retro razor techniques for the shag type haircuts within the film, with a nod to Stevie Nicks, creating shattered internal layering with that iconic waiflike outer edge, along with a precision Parisian bob, micro length with point-cut shattered edge, short, self-cut-looking textured fringe and long soft-edged layering, giving more strength with a block solid Pantone. Super long hair slicked on a low side parting , touching on fashion week styling then, lengths twisted to form a dreadlock like texture , mid length lob with blunt perimeter edge, soft layering and blunt fringe came to life with the roll ‘n dye pigmentation. This was achieved by firstly pre-lightening random pockets of colour throughout the hair then after rinsed and dry off you go back in with creative mixes of Colour Fresh Create spread on foil and then roll over the head until all bleached areas are covered with an eclectic mix of colour , like how you paint on one side of a piece of paper then fold it over and smudge them together creating a paper butterfly. All of the cuts and colour had a point of individual personality and was created for the model’s character.
This is your third consecutive year presenting at the Contessa Awards, which has never been done before. How do you feel about that?
I have to say, with hand on heart, we are so humbly honoured to be asked for a third year in a row. We have so much respect for you guys over the waters in Canada; always so welcoming, and a respect also for your creative industry and what you produce as a movement. Wella Canada have been like family to us, working on some huge shows and events, and we always have so much love for Fay Linksman and the Wella Canada team with their constant support for the D&J brand.
What was it like shooting this collection this year compared to last year?
Last year, we were in a lockdown like so many of us around the world, so the challenge was to find a space without restrictions to produce a film, but sometimes it’s amazing what you can produce when you’re under super restrictions! This year, we were free and open on the streets with locations that looked completely different with its consumer movement, and for us it was important to be in the moment and produce something different and have some fun.
What is your advice for creating a presentation or stage show? Any tips?
Find your direction, inspiration and passion first. Build that mood board, model choices, clothes, styling, hair direction, Pantone colours, etc. Sketch the story and the characters, and choose the music to bring it all to life. Everything has its place and this is what creates believability. Create your vibe and then have fun creating those characters!
What are the top three things you must have in your styling kit?
I have so much in my styling kit, always placing things in there for every event, but to choose three things is actually very hard! I would probably go with my cutting kit, my Mason Pearson brush and dry shampoo.
What has this past year been like for you and your salon?
This year has been full of highs and lows. We’ve been so grateful and blessed to have been able to open our doors to business after lockdown and to see our very loyal clientele again. We think there’s definitely been a shift in the consumer movement, expenditure, etc. Some people have lost a lot in the process, but going forward we feel it’s looking positive and consumers are coming around to doing more in their lives than being locked in, which, without saying, will benefit the creative worlds and our industry. A massive part of running a business is to believe in the brand ethos and what you do and how you run it, but, more importantly, is recognizing the family you have around you (i.e. staff)! These are your family, friends, and extension of hands and brain that will help create with you. We love our team like family; we have so much respect and love for them, always.
What’s next for you? Any new projects or goals you’re working towards that you can share?
Not so long ago, we did our first live event for Wella U.K., TrendVision, at the Round House in London! It was bloody awesome! So good to be back in the room with a live performance! We’ve also been working on some cool editorial shoots and music videos. Going forward, we hope the world will become connected again without restrictions so we can once again see our friends around the world and do what we love: Create! Our ethos now is: Live in the moment, create like there’s no tomorrow, laugh a lot and have fun.