After 50 years in the industry, Australian hairstylist Sharon Blain is still learning more and always refining her craft.
“I’m from a large family of seven children, so my siblings had no idea what I did for a living,” says Sharon Blain with a laugh. With her siblings in attendance, when she was was honoured with a presentation that included words from fellow hairstyling legend Vivienne Mackinder at the 2015 Hair Expo Australia, there was no mistaking the significant role their sister has had on the professional hair and beauty industry.
Salon Magazine: Why is that many people don’t see the industry as the creative one it is?
Sharon Blain: At the end of the day, many people don’t see hairdressers as anything more than hairdressers. I challenge myself to defy the odds and do something with hair that takes on a different medium. I look at the craft and am always thinking about what I can do with fabric or paper, and that often turns to hair.
SM: So how does this transformation that’s an art form happen for you with a collection?
SB: For the infinity collection, we started to create the looks with hair and used spray glue; then we cut and moulded the hair as we wanted it to be. I worked on it for six months before finally shooting it. It’s like an artist with a canvas and paints. It’s creating an image like an art form. It’s not to be worn but rather to be creative, and hopefully my students are excited.
SM: Who inspires your work these days?
SB: Vivienne Mackinder, for sure. Angelo Seminara does a lot of interesting pieces. And definitely Antoinette Beenders—I’ve always thought she does some incredible work. For me, the late Alexandre de Paris identified classic work in his purest form. If you went to his academy today, you would be learning the sleekest work.
SM: How do you begin planning a collection and where do you take your initial ideas?
SB: For me, Pinterest is a big thing. I spend 30 minutes each day and see what I like on different sides, especially when I’m about to work on a new project. Also, I take inspiration from fashion. I can’t create a collection until I know what they are wearing. And I always need Italian Vogue.
SM: How did you evolve from a hairstylist to an educator?
SB: In my early years, I was a competitive hairstylist, so I learned a lot. These classic skills really crossed over into everyday work in a salon. As the years went on, I thought, if I can train people in these skills, they can do anything. After 43 boot camps, we are constantly looking at how we can change each one to make it better.
SM: Why did you focus on upstyling?
SB: There was a gap in the market for hairdressing. I could always relate to those skills of setting, teasing and blow-drying because that was what we did in the salon every day. I learned those skills very early on and I realized that I could take elements from that and show how to do things more simply. It’s really a no-brainer; it’s all about breaking down a style, one section at a time, and creating a plan. You can’t simply go on a prayer and a hope. I even see non-hairdressers coming to our classes—for instance, creative people or makeup artists who realize that it’s helpful to have these skills when you’re on set.
SM: How have celebrities helped to shape the industry?
SB: It has challenged hairstylists to learn different looks—I think that’s why our classes are so popular. Clients identify with certain people who have really rocked a look, like Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani. I think we’ve done the whole flat ironed look and there has been nothing really going on. I love how all people like Kelly Osbourne even. They have done a lot for our industry.