How did you get your start in the industry?
Since I was a little boy, I’ve always been in a salon. My parents owned one, so I’ve been in them since the age of three. When I was a teenager and wanted to buy new trainers or football boots, my dad told me if I wanted money to buy these things, I needed to work in the salon. So I started folding towels and making coffee and then I caught the salon “bug.” I enjoyed the atmosphere and the social aspect of it; it just felt like home. The colour, the smell—it’s all I’ve ever known.
Then, when I was 15 or 16 years old and about to leave school, my dad took me to watch Trevor Sorbie on stage. I was blown away! I never knew that side of the hair industry existed. I thought, “I’m going to give this hairdressing thing a go and when I do, I want to work for that guy and I want to do what he does.”
Wow, that’s quite a story, especially since you went on to work with Trevor Sorbie. Tell us about that.
I worked with Trevor for 11 years and became his art director after six years of working there. The first thing you realize when arriving there is how little you know—they have a very intensive training program and it’s great in the long run. Whatever creative ideas you come up with, you have the abilities and skills to create them [because of what you’ve learned there] and there
are many opportunities available to you. They have a very big artistic team and do a lot of shows and shoots.
So, I began assisting Trevor and the artistic team, and I eventually became the art director. I know for a fact that I couldn’t do anything I do now if it weren’t for the skills that I learned there.
You’re now the hair art director for Davines, a brand known for sustainability. Has eco-consciousness always been important to you?
I think you get to a stage in your career and your life—and for me that’s been since I had a child—that you become much more aware of your effect on other people and the environment. Yes, you’re creating some pretty hair pictures, some nice techniques and shows, but there has to be something more than that. You can’t just take all of these opportunities without putting something back, or at least having an eye on the effect you have by living in the world.
Tell us about your latest collection, Light, Time & Colour, and why you decided to create it on film.
I wanted the images to almost be like paintings rather than a digital image that is going to have a time limit on it. I always think that if you use a lot of digital elements in your work, there’s a time limit and time stamp on it because technology obviously moves on. In five years you may look back and can tell what it’s done with and what year it was created in. But if you remove that, go back to analog and take a real stripped-back film portrait, that could have been taken 30 years ago or it could have been taken yesterday— it’s more timeless. It really puts the focus on the colour, cut and the person at the centre of the work. There has to be that point when you take the photograph and it makes you feel something, because I think that’s the only chance you have to make other people feel something as well.
How do you begin your creative process and manage to always stay inspired?
If you’re fortunate enough to have a creative job, the worst thing you can do is sit down to work on something because then you’re forcing it. You never want to get ready—you kind of just want to stay ready all the time. The way you do that is by always having a little antenna up. If something makes you look twice, look at it a third time.
If anything catches my eye—a hair picture, a fashion picture, a texture, a colour, a movie—I just document it and it goes into a file, and I don’t think about it or look at it again once it’s in there. But about once a month,
I try to go through the file and try to understand why these things made me notice them in the first place. Your mind is triggered by similar things, so as I look at the file there’s kind of a red thread that goes through everything.
It might be a colour palette that starts to develop. With this collection, it was green; greens were catching my attention, so I thought I might need to look at this a bit more. It’s important to start to figure out why that’s happening and why you’re drawn to these things so it can start to click together. That’s the basis of how I go about building a show because I noticed those things without any pressure or time limitations. It’s genuine inspiration and not inspired just because I’ve got a deadline.
If you’re going to create a hair collection and you use all your interests outside of hairdressing to inform that collection, then there’s a huge chance that it’s going to be original because you’re not looking inside your industry for inspiration. If you look inside too much, it could lead to replication rather than innovation.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the hair industry today?
First of all, it’s been said a million times but it’s the truth: You should get the best education you possibly can in your area and if you can’t get it in your area, then you should travel for it if you can. Beyond that, if you want to move on with your career and do some stage work, creative or photographic work—or even if you want to stay in the salon predominantly—I think the best advice is that you need to figure out and decide what hairdresser you want to be. Are you someone who wants to be very technical, or someone who wants to be quite free, someone who wants to go down the colour aspect or become an expert in dressing hair? What type of work do you want to be known for? When you develop your skills and your own identity, your career will take off in whichever avenue you want to go down. When you get good training and then figure out what type of work you want to be known for, you can make it happen.