With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to lift across the country, in-person education is now being offered at academies, in salons and with distributors. Learn how some brands are paving the way and offering a wide range of educational options to make learning more accessible than ever.
It goes without saying that these past two years have taken their toll on the beauty industry. For salon owners and hairstylists alike, it’s forced a focus on rebuilding and growing business, which has, in many cases, resulted in education being put on hold.
“[Our industry] had one of the longest closures, so the focus was on business- building rather than education, which meant it took a little longer for owners and hairstylists to want to be apart from the salon, and also to send their staff to attend programs,” says Linda Lorenzoni, academy manager for Kao Salon Academy Toronto. “Canadians are a bit more cautious [about attending in-person education] but classes are filling up now because the need, passion and want is there.”
Open For Business
Though it was partially open throughout the pandemic, Kao Salon Academy Toronto, located near the city’s Distillery District and home to Goldwell, KMS and Oribe, officially reopened in April and has taken steps to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for all. In addition to implementing additional cleaning and sanitization protocols, Lorenzoni says they’ve cut back on the number of classes offered in a single day to reduce the amount of people in the academy. They’ve also committed to continuing to follow mask mandates, as needed.
And now that their schedules are filling again, Lorenzoni says she and her team have recommitted to building out their educational calendar. Not only are they continuing to offer their three-day Master Colourist classes, the Kao Salon Academy Toronto team has also introduced a series of new, one-day options that are ideal for those looking to learn something new and at a faster pace.
“Based on feedback, I know people are looking for more one-day programs, so we created some new options that are quick and at various levels to meet the needs of what people are asking for,” says Lorenzoni. “People can invest more than one day, but it’s exciting to have more to offer if they’re looking for something new or have been with us a long time and have attended all the other programs.”
At Wella Studio TO in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighbourhood (another one of the only manufacturer- based academies left in the province and country), studio manager Fay Linksman has also noticed an increased demand for one-day classes. “We’ve put a lot of focus on one-day seminars to grow colouring, cutting and styling skills with a strong focus on what the stylist needs most behind the chair right now,” she says. “Time has become a very precious commodity, so we want to ensure we’re delivering relevant and impactful education sessions in a bite-size format.”
Since reopening in February, the studio’s focus has been on new offerings and the return of guest artist seminars “for stylists looking to up their blonding and colour-placement game,” says Linksman. “[It’s also] for those wanting to learn how to decode Instagram-worthy colour placements and master how to maximize their use of light and depth.”
Wella is also continuing to offer its core seminars with a focus on developing the hairstylist’s colouring skills at every level, including Master Color Expert, a master 12-day program that’s split into two six-day phases. To prioritize the safety of all involved, they’re conducting temperature checks and contact tracing, along with providing complimentary rapid antigen tests and disposable (optional) masks, for attendees and models.
Education on Demand
Some manufacturers, including Matrix, never stopped offering education during the pandemic “as long as salons were comfortable and the restrictions allowed it,” says Joshua Balint, national education and events director for Matrix. “From the feedback we receive, we are one of the only brands actively on the road as much as we are.”
Case in point: This fall, Matrix is planning a Canada- wide caravan event with stops in a host of major cities. “We’re not doing it sooner because we know that with COVID restrictions lifting, we want people to be able to do what they want in the summer and then be pumped when September comes around and we have these events going on,” says Balint.
For manufacturers like Joico, they’re beginning to participate in more live events with distributor partners, including Capilex Beauté, which is hosting their Congrès Évolution show on May 1st in Quebec City.
According to Megan Nevins, national education manager for Henkel Beauty Care Professional Canada, which includes Joico, Zotos Professional, Authentic Beauty and STMNT, distributors are starting to hold more in-person classes and events in May and June, and into the fall.
“They’re slowly getting their foot back into it,” she says. “We’re focused on providing specific, beneficial classes, and doing all we can to make sure they fill up with the attendance we’re looking for. The number of people we can have in each class will depend on the distributor; while some distributors are going back to their full capacity, others have decided that they want to keep it at a certain level.”
“We’ve always really customized our education through our distributors, so either planning something to use their classrooms for bigger events or specific top accounts that we would bring to those distributor accounts, or we offer custom education in salons,” adds Nevins.
“For a lot of our top-level accounts—specifically for Joico—we go to them. We bring in all the mannequin stands, along with the artist and their entire set-up.”
“IN THESE CLASSES, INSPIRATION DOESN’T JUST COME FROM THE ARTIST; IT COMES FROM THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM. PARTICIPANTS ARE LEARNING AND CONNECTING WITH OTHER SALON OWNERS AND HAIRSTYLISTS, WHICH IS AN IRREPLACEABLE EXPERIENCE.”
— LINDA LORENZONI, ACADEMY MANAGER, KAO SALON ACADEMY TORONTO
Future of Virtual
During the height of the pandemic, many manufacturers pivoted to virtual education to offer more accessible options for people dealing with extended lockdowns or those located in more remote areas of the country.
Whether it was via social media, Zoom or their website, many manufacturers faced the same challenges of keeping their audience engaged.
“From the virtual perspective of our curriculum, we’ve definitely evolved from the beginning of the pandemic,” says Nevins. “With virtual, what we found very quickly is that you have a finite amount of time to capture someone’s attention.” “I think the production value has greatly improved overall,” adds Linksman.
“We’ve had a lot of time to become masters of Zoom and Instagram/Facebook Live, and have learned how to use some new apps to capture content. We’ve determined how to best position a ring light and tripod to capture the perfect angles and have become more comfortable with talking to our phones on a tripod while juggling questions and comments. Some creators have really upped their pre-recorded content, as well.”
In addition to increased free introductory digital offerings during the pandemic, Matrix has expanded its Mentor.Me program (that launched in Canada last year) to Mentor. Me for All, which features five of their top international artists who host a free two- hour class on Zoom and is open to anyone—regardless of their skill level or brand affiliation. “We’ve noticed that our digital education has gone through the roof,” says Balint. “You no longer have to sit in and watch the class live. If you register and you miss it, you can go back and watch the video, which is accessible for a month afterward, so you can watch it over and over until you grasp what’s needed, or watch it live so you can ask questions in the chat.”
Ahead of the Curve
While some people may feel hesitant about participating in education from a manufacturer—especially if it’s from a brand they aren’t affiliated with—it’s important to remember that education isn’t meant to be gatekept.
“It’s about the technique first and the brand second,” says Lorenzoni. “Anyone can learn by coming to the academy; it’s a place where there’s no ego and it’s just a safe place to be yourself and to express and learn.”
It’s also vital to remember that, while tips from influencers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube can be helpful, when matched against the insights and education offered by established manufacturers, there really is no comparison.
“There is a lot of awesome free education out there, but you have to sift through a lot of content, and within multiple platforms, to find it,” says Linksman. “It’s easy to get caught up in the process of scrolling through, and time is valuable.”
There’s also the concern about misinformation that can be detrimental. “It’s important to cross-check information regarding colouring product usage that’s not coming from a representative of the colour brand, and especially if the information seems a bit out of the ordinary,” says Linksman.
“I notice a lot of education out there is being taught by more junior stylists,” says Lorenzoni. “But at the academy, these are world- renowned artists teaching the programs, so it’s something special and unique.”
“THE INDUSTRY IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING, SO IF YOU DON’T BROADEN YOUR EDUCATION, UNFORTUNATELY, YOU WILL BE LEFT BEHIND.”
— JOSHUA BALINT, NATIONAL EDUCATION AND EVENTS DIRECTOR, MATRIX
Learn how some brands are offering a more inclusive learning experience.
While Goldwell’s current education programs on cutting, finishing and colour make reference to textured hair, they’re currently piloting a brand-new cutting and finishing program that will be more inclusive and cover all hair types, textures and trends. “These will be a journey similar to Master Colourist, in which there are a few days investment, and they’ll be offered at two or three various levels,” says Lorenzoni. “We’re excited for that. We’re going to pilot them this year, gather all the feedback and then launch next year.
Joico has teamed up with Elisha Gotha, texture expert and owner of The Curl Lounge in Toronto, for the brand’s new Curl Confidence launch. They recently collaborated on a photo shoot with all curl types and will be partnering to offer social education. “Before Elisha, we didn’t have someone on our education team who specifically works with and has a core business of curly hair,” says Nevins. “We’re also looking to partner with multiple different artists in the future to create more of a curly-haired curriculum, offering knowledge from a specialist will help ensure that everything we teach also keeps curly hair in mind.
With the goal of being the most inclusive and diverse brand in the industry, Matrix has made considerable investments in making sure their educational offerings reflect this mission. In addition to offering mannequins with a range of hair types for their classes, the company is also working closely with their global artistic director, Michelle O’Connor, to make sure they’re continuing to offer an inclusive education portfolio. “We make sure to speak the language of texture,” says Balint. “We go over the different types of curl patterns and explain the differences when using products so it’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Prior to the pandemic, Wella launched Cut Craft Texture, a haircutting seminar focused on cutting techniques for naturally curly and coily hair textures. The company is planning on offering this seminar again in the fall. “Hairstylists are visual and kinesthetic learners. While we’ve had access to amazing virtual education during the pandemic, hairstylists are dying to get their hands in hair again,” says Linksman. “There’s also something about the personal connection made with an educator that enables the learner. I believe that the two-way connection is vital for learning to be memorable, inspiring and actionable.”