Session stylist Laura Chadwick shares her top tips for success when styling onset of a music video.

Laura Chadwick

Laura Chadwick

With a background in fashion, I never imagined myself working on music videos.  

However, fate had other plans, leading me on a journey filled with unexpected opportunities and thrilling experiences. 

 It all began during the Covid pandemic when I was brought in by a make-up artist to provide haircuts and styling for a music video shoot for Inhaler in Dublin. Despite the challenging circumstances, my skills as a qualified barber impressed the production team, opening doors to a world I had never considered. 

Working on that first music video was a turning point for me. It made me realise that there was so much more to my craft than just fashion. Music videos offered a whole new realm of creativity and expression. 

With my foot in the door, my journey in the music video industry continued to unfold. A contact in Sony recognised my talent and offered me opportunities to work with various music artists, ranging from emerging talents to established names. These experiences working with smaller artists gave me a solid foundation and understanding of the industry. I learned to adapt to different styles and visions, honing my skills along the way.  

Becky Hill’s music video for Outside of Love

It was a connection through a stylist named Kyle Devolle that would change the trajectory of my career. Through Kyle, I was introduced to Becky Hill, a chart-topping artist known for her powerhouse vocals and dynamic performances. Working with Becky was like stepping into a whole new world. The scale of the productions was immense, with elaborate sets and breath-taking locations. It was an exhilarating experience, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.  

Despite my initial focus on fashion, I have found a new passion in music videos. Each project brings its own challenges and rewards, but there’s something special about seeing your work come to life alongside the music. As I continue to make my mark in the music video industry, I remain grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. I never could have imagined this journey when I started out, but I’m grateful for every twist and turn that has led me here. My story serves as a testament to the power of following unexpected paths and embracing new opportunities. With passion and determination, there’s no telling where my journey will lead next. 

10 things you need to know when working on a video shoot 

  1. Creative collaboration: Working behind the scenes on a music video as a hairstylist involves collaborating closely with the creative director, stylist, make-up artist and artists to bring their vision to life through hair design. I usually receive a brief or a ‘feeling’ of what’s wanted, then I create a separate hair mood board to complement the theme. Ensuring we all know what the outcome is going to be reduces any changes or wasted time.
  2. Versatility is key: Be prepared to create diverse hairstyles that match the concept and theme of the music video, ranging from edgy and avant-garde to classic and elegant. This is where all my years assisting on fashion shows really helped as I’ve learnt so many techniques that’s you’d never use in the salon that I can put to good use.
  3. Time management: Music video shoots often have tight schedules, so being efficient with your time and able to work quickly under pressure is essential.
  4. Attention to detail: Every strand of hair matters, as even the smallest details can make a big difference in the final look on camera. I am always right there behind the scenes, ready to jump in at any moment to keep the hair looking perfect. Of course, on video you’re going to get a certain amount of movement so it’s important to take that into consideration when choosing your style, especially when shooting on location and being open to the elements.
Becky Hill


  1. Adaptability: Conditions on set can change rapidly, so you must be adaptable and able to adjust your hairstyling techniques accordingly. On my last video with Becky Hill there was a last-minute decision to shoot in the water next to some waterfalls, so I adapted the hairstyle by creating a wet look with some oil-based products, so it retained the texture and suited the environment.
  2. Communication skills: Clear communication with the director, artists, and other crew members is crucial to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the desired hairstyles.
  3. Product knowledge: Familiarise yourself with a wide range of hair products and tools to achieve different textures, volumes, and styles as needed for the shoot. Over the years I’ve collected a large collection of products to suit every hair type and environment.
  4. Continuity: Pay attention to continuity throughout the shoot to ensure that hairstyles remain consistent across different scenes and takes. I always take pictures of the screen to look back on so the styles can be matched down to the smallest detail.
  5. Problem solving: Be prepared to troubleshoot any hair-related issues that may arise during the shoot, such as frizz, flyways, or unexpected changes in weather conditions.
  6. Professionalism: Always maintain a professional demeanour, as working on a music video set requires teamwork, reliability, and a positive attitude to deliver the best results. They are usually very long days and keeping positive and upbeat always keeps the team and artist on a positive vibe.





Jay Birmingham brings us backstage at Fashion Week to share his advice for handling a packed calendar of clients.

Jay Birmingham at BRIT awards

Jay Birmingham backstage at the BRIT Awards with Maya Jama

“Fashion month is always a huge whirlwind. Going between London, Paris and Milan is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the buzzing atmosphere of each fashion capital.

As a hairstylist deeply entrenched in this world, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the magic that unfolds backstage, and now more regularly working with clients who are attending the shows. More than ever, all eyes are on those sitting front row, therefore it is so important to nail the look head to toe.

Managing your time effectively during Fashion Week, which is typically a fast-paced and hectic period, requires careful planning and organisation. I start by looking at the schedule well in advance and the timings of the bigger shows. This allows me to predict where the buzz will be. It’s also important to prioritise, as you can’t be in two places at once. This involves carefully planning my own schedule, as travel needs to be factored in, alongside extra ‘buffer’ time to account for unexpected delays or last minute changes. Doing so helps reduce stress and ensures that I arrive on time for each commitment.

Conversely, it’s vital to stay flexible for last minute bookings which can lead to great opportunities with new talent, some of which I might not have worked with if it wasn’t for Fashion Week. Behind all the glamour is a lot of prep and hours of travel, from prepping wigs to making sure my kit is stocked, so planning in advance is key.

This Fashion Week I worked with some incredible talent, including the wonderful Maya Jama for the Albert Ferretti show in Milan. Maya’s look featured a choppy cut with bangs and lots of movement throughout the hair.

I also had the privilege of styling Maya for the BRIT Awards, which fell during the Fashion Week craziness! Maya was one of the hosts for the night, and we decided on a style featuring the ‘butterfly effect’. This involved adding numerous layers to the hair to create a textured yet sleek look, which complimented her stunning black gown. I was on hand at the O2 Arena to help with final touch ups, both behind the scenes and on the red carpet.

Jay Birmingham backstage
Jay Birmingham's hair kit
Jay Birmingham doing wig prep

L-R: Jay with Blanca Soler and wig prep for Maya

London Fashion Week also saw me create one of my favourite looks for my client, Munroe Bergdorf. It was for the Self Portrait show and focused on crafting a playful style to showcase her new bold copper colour. I love to look at the client’s colour and shades and find ways to style the hair to complement the overall aesthetic. This season also saw me work with the amazing Blanca Soler for Burberry, Amina Muaddi for the Tiffany X British Vogue event, and Xenia Adonts for the Prada and Gucci shows. All were very different and contrasting looks to one another, but it’s great to experiment with different styles and get creative. After all, this is what Fashion Week is all about!

As a hairstylist, Fashion Week serves as both a showcase of our skills and a testament to the transformative power of hair in the world of fashion. Until next season, we’ll continue to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation, one hairstyle at a time.” 




Want to work with influencers? THIS is how you get the best out of them

Here’s the skinny on influencer etiquette so you don’t get burned, from Thomas Walters of influencer marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy.

Team Phillipart

George Pagan, Unsplash

Think local

You need to identify your objectives for an influencer marketing campaign. This will dictate the types of partnerships you should prioritise and how to execute them. Assuming it’s a campaign designed to grow awareness and drive consideration for SMEs working to a budget, you should explore collaborations with micro-influencers in a targeted, local campaign. This is cost-effective, generating on average $5.78 (£4.55) in earned media value (EMV) for every dollar (79p) spent. It can help to boost your content output, grow your audience, and increase credibility.

Focus on TikTok and Instagram

You’ll get best value for money on TikTok and Instagram, which are still the best-performing platforms when it comes to influencer partnerships because of the reach they can generate and the number of influencers available, especially in the beauty and personal care sectors. Knowing your core target audience will determine which platform is best suited for your influencer marketing campaign. For example, TikTok typically skews towards a younger demographic. Knowing the type of content you want to create – whether it’s long form or short form, or video or still imagery – is crucial. TikTok tends to generate better performance for short-form video content while Instagram is a more effective channel for still imagery.

Who are you targeting?

You need to identify your key target audience. Focus on demographic characteristics such as age, gender and location, which are key indicators of an individual’s interests and potential purchase motivations. This will help to whittle down the list of prospective influencer partners. You should also explore subcultures with an affinity to your brand and target audience. For example, participating with influencers active in the Hairtok conversation on TikTok in which consumers share hair related content.

Go micro

These subcultures are where you’re most likely to find ‘micro-influencers’, with smaller but often more loyal and more engaged audiences. It means that they often generate higher engagement rates, which means more impactful collaborations and better return-on- investment if you’re working to a budget.

To pay or to gift?

To further keep costs down, you might want to explore gifting instead of paid collaborations, offering free services and/or products in exchange for visibility on the influencer’s channel. This method may not work for influencers with large followings since their barrier to promotion can be much higher, but this approach can be highly effective for local micro- influencers who are effective in spreading positive word-of-mouth.

Take over a trend!

Consider ‘trend hijacking’ as an approach to influencer collaborations. TikTok has changed audience behaviours and the speed at which content is consumed, popularised and then dissipates. Businesses able to spot trends and react quickly to them can gain significant reach on a budget, using influencers to join the conversation more organically. Small businesses have the benefit of being agile, so can use this strategy to effect.

Trust is key

Effective influencer marketing relies on trust, which means authentic partnerships are crucial. This is built by creating genuine relationships with the influencer and the business and its services. You can do this through gifting so the influencer actually knows your offering well and genuinely endorses it as a user themselves. Longer-term partnerships, which are far more convincing than one-off collaborations, help too. Consider committing to more than one sponsored post with an influencer or within a niche community.

Team Phillipart

Thomas Walters

 Love their content?

It could be a match Choosing the right influencer can be a challenge. It’s important that the look and feel of their content is aligned to your aesthetic, especially if you plan to amplify the content beyond their audience. Ensuring alignment leads to improved performance and engagement. You’ll need to do your due diligence and thoroughly assess an influencer’s track record to ensure they align with your values and to ensure there aren’t any contentious historic posts.

Track it all – and track the right stuff

Careful monitoring of performance to gauge effectiveness can be hard. You’ll need to work with the influencer closely to secure their first party data insights. Be wary of assessing performance against the right metrics. Beyond vanity metrics, such as engagements, you should also consider comments, saves and shares. They show deeper consumer intent.





Are session stylists being bullied into working for free?

Apprenticeships don’t exist in session hairstyling. To get started, you do a lot of free work because you don’t have the experience to demand the wages. You build up your experience, you build up your portfolio and you build up your networking capacity until you can get the paying jobs… Or can you?

Joe Mills is no stranger to session work. He’s spent 20 years doing shoots and shows and has over 200 front covers and countless celebrity photoshoots to his name – about 90 per cent of which he reckons he did for free in the name of “relationship building”. But earlier this year he was requested for a front cover shoot where, yet again, he was told there was no budget for his skills on set – nope, not for a taxi across London to the studio, and not even a parking space if he chose to drive himself – only later to discover that the publication was being paid thousands of pounds by the fashion label client and possibly everyone else on set was getting paid, except him.

Enough was enough. Joe vented his feelings on Instagram and everything exploded.

Joe Mills

“That post got about 90,000 views, hundreds of comments and I was inundated in DMs from so many make-up artists, hair pros and groomers who had the same experience as me,” says Joe. “It’s endemic. You get told there’s no budget and to work for the credit, but you get told that time and time again – for years. You work on set and you don’t know who’s getting paid or not – nobody tells you anything. I’ve been in Paris for the shows and met hairdressers who have shelled out £3,000 of their own money to be there and they fully expect to have to work for free. It’s crazy.”

So why is this? Why do so many creatives work for free (happily or otherwise) on set and backstage? Of course, there are practical reasons: building up that portfolio in the early years, for example – an agency is unlikely to represent you if you don’t have enough editorial images in your book. And yet many already successful hairdressers, like Joe, who have a portfolio teeming with celebrity clients and illustrious credits, still get asked to work unpaid, even while others on set, such as the photographer or the fashion editor, very much don’t. Why is it always the hair pro who is compromised? Is it a necessary part of the process? Is it because hairdressers feel uncomfortable asking for money (ours being an industry of people pleasers)? Or is it simply that hair pros are being exploited?

“A lot of what we do creatively as hairdressers, we are not paid for and we never have been,” says Adam Reed. “But does our desire to be creative and to have that experience on our CV mean that we’ve devalued ourselves? When I started off in session back in the ’90s, nobody was allowed backstage at Fashion Week, so I was happy to do the shows for free because it really did give me some leverage. I remember going to [talent agent] Debbie Walters in the hope that I could pay her to represent me, and she said, You know you’re going to work the next two years for free. And she was right. And the thing is, not only would I do the show for free, but I would also bring a whole team of hairdressers with me, who also worked for free. And what I believe happened is that the designers started to realise the hairdresser came for free and that practice kind of bedded in.

Adam Reed

“Looking back at that time, I’ve asked myself whether I’m part of the reason for the problem that exists now, or whether in fact I opened up an opportunity for those other hairdressers that they would never otherwise have got? I do understand my value, but I also believe I devalued what I do by saying, ‘Okay, I’ll do it for free’. And actually, it’s a culture that’s been indoctrinated not just into hairdressing but also make-up artists and clothes stylists. It affects a lot of people.”

“I’ve met hairdressers who’ve shelled out £3,000 of their own money to be in Paris and fully expect to work for free, it’s crazy.”

Joe Mills

One thing is for sure: there is A LOT of money sloshing around from brands involved at Fashion Week and in magazines, but very little of it – if any – comes the hairdresser’s way. (Part of what Joe Mills is exploring is the net worth of the fashion and beauty brands who sponsor the shoots and shows where hairdressers work for free.) And working for free does not mean the favour will be returned – far from it.

“I’ve been working in session for a long time now, and this is definitely the worst it’s ever been,” says session legend Sam McKnight. “Magazines have become such commercial entities nowadays and we are just commodities. They say to brands, ‘Pay us to set up the shoot for you,’ and then they work on the basis that they’ll get the whole team for free. Well, did anyone tell that to the team? No, of course not, because that shoot is not editorial, it’s advertorial and that’s a whole different proposition and the team should be getting paid. It used to be you worked for free in exchange for a credit, but when they post the pictures online they’re not crediting hair and make-up, so the ‘contract’, such as it is, is broken.

Sam McKnight

According to Sam, things started to change – on set and backstage – once production companies got involved. “Back in the day, there were no production companies. It was the photographer’s assistant who booked hair and make-up, sorted out cars for everybody, took care of catering. It was very small. But now it’s on the scale of the film industry and these production companies are in charge of the budgets and they charge their 20 per cent at the outset and then there’s a pecking order as to who gets the rest. And, as with everything in life, the money stays at the top and doesn’t trickle down – and hair and make-up are the easiest victims.”

Sam believes the issue of pay is indicative of a wider lack of respect towards hairdressers that extends to working conditions, too. “At the shows, you’ll have someone with a clipboard who’s decided they can fit 30 hairdressers, 60 models, 30 make-up artists and some press photographers into a space the size of the bus shelter,” he says. “There was a shoot where [make-up artist] Val Garland and I were prepping models in 35-degree heat in the photographer’s office because that was where we’d been allocated. And while the two of us are eating our M&S crisps for lunch, the publisher calls in from his holiday in Mustique. That was a real lightbulb moment. I don’t begrudge anyone their holiday, that’s fine. But it’s only fine if you’re making sure everybody else is fine at the same time.”

British fashion is a £26 billion industry, according to the British Fashion Council, but it has become increasingly reliant – if not wholly dependent – on large corporations, who sponsor entire fashion weeks, emerging designer shows and even transport for attendees. You would imagine that the arrival of financial support would spell good news for cash-strapped creatives, but that is often far from the case.

“It’s tricky because who wants to put their head above the parapet when there’s such an obvious risk you’ll get blacklisted?”

Sam McKnight 

“In the fashion industry, collaborations are a big thing,” says Adam Reed. “When you’re a young hairdresser, you work a lot with young designers to create incredible imagery that you all control. But when brands get involved that control is taken away from you and that’s when it all starts to go wrong. I worked a lot with [fashion designer] Henry Holland in his early years and always for free, but as soon as he got corporate sponsorship from a beauty brand – which, ironically, I sourced – I got dropped because now it was the brand that got to decide who was on the team, not Henry.

“Sponsorship from beauty brands can also compromise your image-making because they want everything to sell to the consumer, because that’s how they’re going to make their money back. So, they don’t want what they would perceive as ridiculous hair and make-up – everything’s got to be natural-looking and achievable and sellable. And then the brand pays to bring all the beauty journalists backstage, and they are expected to write about the hair looks while name-checking the brand’s products. So, that’s advertorial. We, the creatives backstage, are being used to promote the sponsor brand – and we’re STILL not getting paid!”

So what’s the answer? Or, more to the point, is there an answer?

“Maybe we need a union?” says Adam. “I remember doing the Victoria’s Secret show in the US and everybody there was in a union – the staging people, the lighting people, the production team. They had a governing body issuing guidelines for what they should get paid, how many hours they could work, how many breaks they could have. We had to sign ourselves out of all that. I mean, it doesn’t happen so much anymore, but I’ve been on shoots where I’ve had to work until 3 o’clock in the morning knowing I’m not getting paid, while the model’s sitting there earning very lucrative overtime. If only I had this kind of support.”

“It’s a tricky situation because it’s dangerous to put your head above the parapet when there’s such an obvious risk you’ll get blacklisted,” says Sam. “It seems to me that the creatives need to get together and write some kind of charter of basic rights, such as working hours, being fed, minimum day rate, etc. If people were not having to work for free it would create a more level playing field and I believe we would be more valued. Since it was decided that models could no longer work for free at London Fashion Week, they command so much more respect.”

Joe has spoken to a solicitor who has suggested that being asked to work for free without having legal Voluntary Agreements in place may circumnavigate employment law, and he’s made it clear that his agency, Joe Mills Agency, has announced it will not be putting any of its artists out for unpaid jobs. In the meantime, he has written an open letter to publishing houses, published on his Instagram, outlining the extent of the problem and the damage it inflicts.

“The prevailing practice of requesting creatives to work for free in exchange for a mere credit poses a significant challenge,” it reads. “Frequently, there is no provision for essentials such as catering or travel allowances, and the hours spent on set can extend to an exhaustive 12-hour day. The expectation to accept unpaid work is further fuelled by the belief that refusal may hinder our progress in the industry. As creatives, it becomes difficult to decline, as we hold onto the hope that these projects will shape our careers positively.

“It is disheartening to learn that, while we contribute our skills and services without compensation, these projects often have corporate sponsors or are sold to advertisers, highlighting the exploitation of our talents by your esteemed publications.”

Joe insists that the letter is not an attack but the start of a wider conversation to address – and hopefully shift – the issue. “I’m asking people to be transparent and to understand how things can change,” he says. “If these collaborations were truly collaborative, with all team members agreeing to work without payment, it would be a different scenario,” he continues. “However, as a business, asking individuals to provide their expertise for free while generating revenue from their contributions is a systemic issue that warrants attention and rectification. Transparency from publishing houses to creatives would significantly alleviate this problem.”

But session stylist Gary Gill takes a different view. He believes that the current system – of working for free to build experience and contacts – is actually beneficial, so long as everybody is aware of the rules and understands the point at which they should start saying no.

Gary Gill

“I feel that if there is too much focus on money from the beginning, the money won’t come in the end,” he says. “It is possible to have creative and financial success in this industry, but it works in a certain way, and you need to understand the rules, the system, and how to navigate it.

“After not getting paid for editorial, you should be getting paid for everything else you do – some things at lower rates and some higher. It’s not all about creative, it does become about business and knowing your worth. For every 10 people who won’t do an editorial for free there are 20 who will; that will never change, and to be honest I don’t think it should. It’s not the responsibility of the magazines, it’s the responsibility of the artist to understand when to say no when not enough money is put on the table for paid work. In recent years so many more people are wanting to do session and fashion work and it’s created an unhealthy level of pay as people are desperate to get in.

“Hairdressing at its most creative is an art form and commerce doesn’t always come into it – it’s about passion and a desire to do something that makes you feel something. As soon as money is involved, that desire, feeling and passion go away, it becomes just another job. Young people need to be encouraged, mentored and guided on how things work and decide if it’s for them. Fashion takes no prisoners and can be brutal, like any highly competitive industry. There are only a few who make it and it’s our responsibility as older artists in the industry to spell these things out.”





Toby Dicker of the Salon Employers Association took the fight to Government. 

 Toby Dicker

As a salon owner employing 70-plus staff within his five-salon group, The Chapel, Toby Dicker understands full well the financial pressures of operating a hairdressing business on the British high street. Since launching 26 years ago, he calculates he’s seen Employers National Insurance go up by 37 per cent, Value Added Tax (VAT) rise by 33 per cent, and his business subsequently squeezed to almost zero margin.

According to Toby, the hair industry is taxed like no other business on the high street. He claims that around 35p in every £1 is paid in tax by salons employing their teams on PAYE, while other retailers on the high street pay as little as 12p*. With the current VAT rate of 20 per cent triggered once turnover reaches £85,000, some hairdressing businesses deliberately stay below the threshold, either by non-reporting or by stunting further growth. Avoiding the costs and inconveniences associated with VAT means those businesses have the potential to cut their prices by at least 20 per cent, compared to VAT-paying salons. 

And that, says Toby, has created an existential crisis that threatens the very future of the sector: “Budget-squeezed salons are reducing the number of apprentices they take on, while non-VAT registered salons, like ‘rent-a-chair’ models, home and mobile hairdressers, don’t take on apprentices at all,” he says. “Because only PAYE employed salons can run apprenticeship programmes, numbers have dropped to the lowest level ever, to 5,000 intakes per annum. PAYE salons taking on apprentices invest up to £50,000 in salary and training costs per apprentice over two years, yet they receive little Government support in return.” 

In 2020 Toby co-founded the Salon Employers Association (SEA) to campaign for reform on fiscal and tax matters directly affecting VAT-registered and PAYE salons. Almost 1,500 businesses signed up, including high-profile salons like Brooks & Brooks, Errol Douglas, Sally Montague, Daniel Galvin and Barrie Stephens. A survey conducted by the SEA received over 600 responses, revealing that more than 50 per cent of salon owners were considering closing their business. “That’s over 5,500 businesses and 44,000 jobs,” says Toby, “many of them occupying spaces on our struggling high streets, helping to drive millions of customers into cities, town centres and villages each week.” 

The figures are right in front of our eyes: in 2022 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were 11,170 VAT-registered hair and beauty businesses – the majority of those on high streets. Fast forward to today and the landscape looks very different. New ONS data shows that the number of businesses in our sector turning over more than £100,000 – and therefore definitively VAT-registered – has dropped by 17 per cent in the last year alone.  

Feisty stuff! Watch Toby and the NHBF’s Caroline Larissey discuss VAT in an Instagram Live hosted by Creative HEAD.

“The situation is dire and the Government and HMRC are forcing honest businesses to go bust,” says Toby. “Salons add almost all value through labour, rather than product, and we estimate that our business model is hit up to six times harder than other retail outlets because nearly all our costs are labour. We have more people working in salons versus other retailers, so any employment related costs hit us much harder.  

“The industry is close to breaking point,” he continues, “and there is one simple solution: a change in VAT law, which could level the playing field.” Tax breaks in our sector are not unknown: in Ireland, salons were temporarily allowed to pay 9 per cent on services and 23 per cent on retail sales. The Netherlands lowered VAT to 6 per cent in the 2000s for labour-intensive services, resulting in the creation of 4,000 jobs. 

Spearheaded by Toby, the SEA began campaigning for the Government to reduce VAT to 10 per cent for the hair and beauty industry, arguing that the reduction was necessary to ensure salons’ survival on the high street. “It would also align our industry with other essential services like hospitality, providing immediate relief and boosting competitiveness,” he says. “It is a proactive step that aligns with economic recovery goals and

Plenty rallied to the call, with The Hair & Barber Council, the Freelance Hairdressers Association, the Fellowship for British Hairdressing and the Men’s Hairdressing Federation all supporting the cause (together with the SEA they now operate together as the British Hairdressing Consortium) and salon owners up and down the country writing to their MPs using template letters available from the SEA’s Instagram channel. However, the Government’s Autumn Budget came and went without the hoped-for tax break. 

Undeterred, Toby carried on, and as the Government’s 2024 Spring Budget approached, campaigning took on a new sense of urgency. “This is a last chance saloon,” said Toby. “We have to call for something and this is the thing that will make the biggest difference right now. We could argue for the next 10 years about different taxes and whether they’re fair or not, on apprenticeship costs and training and a multitude of other things. We don’t think it’s the solution, we think it’s an emergency and they need to take this now, like they did in COVID with hospitality.” 

With financial support from salon software company Phorest (HQ’d in Ireland, chief executive Ronan Perceval was a big fan of the tax breaks that had been afforded to Irish salons), Toby approached a PR company specialising in business media, armed with his survey and a load of industry stats. A press release was written – and the story exploded. Toby appeared on over 20 TV and radio stations, including BBC Breakfast, GB News and a host of ITV regional stations, while the story was also picked up in high-profile newspapers including The Sun and The Times.  

But did it work? Unfortunately, it did not. On 6 March the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt raised the VAT threshold to £90,000 and cut the National Insurance Contributions (NIC) for the self-employed from 8 per cent to 6 per cent but did not cut NIC for employers. On 1 April the National Minimum Wage will rise again, putting additional pressure on employment costs.  

“It’s fantastic that individuals get more in their pay packet and that the National Minimum Wage has been increased,” says Toby, “but these measures are paid for by small businesses, not by Government, and with no support in the form of levelling the tax playing field many of these employers will be forced out of business.

“This budget just made the scales tip further away from level, by increasing the VAT threshold to £90,000, and we’ll now be thinking about perhaps changing our strategy and our businesses as things go forward as PAYE and VAT-paying salon owners clearly don’t matter to this Government.” 

Toby knows the Government wants industry representatives to speak with one voice, so that issues can be clearly identified and addressed. While the SEA were campaigning to reduce VAT to 10 per cent, the National Hair & Beauty Federation published a report suggesting sliding scales of VAT thresholds could be the answer to the industry’s troubles. Meanwhile, the British Beauty Council’s Value of Beauty 2023 report reported “positive growth” within the sector. According to Toby, these mixed messages undermined the SEA campaign and hampered its chances of success. 

“We are an angry and divided industry at the moment,” he says. “Not having unity clouds everything, and not having all industry bodies share our discussions has been unhelpful.” 

But Toby’s not giving up. He has further meetings planned with HMRC and next item on the agenda is compliance – and particularly around the subject of disguised employment, where a worker functions as an employee but is not classified as one.  

“Our industry is being destroyed by flouting of HMRC payments and tax avoidance,” says Toby.  “The fraud is largely hidden from the Government and HMRC radar but those caught breaking the law are facing severe legal and financial penalties…. Meanwhile, those following it are seeing their profession fall apart and are penalised for doing the right thing. 

We want to help spread the word to get salon owners and stylists to read up on the rules, comply and help us all turn the tide now. 

“A question we need to ask is whether we want this industry to survive,” he concludes. “And if you want sustainable growth in our sector, then we need to balance the playing field.” 

*Information available @salonemployersassociation





For decades, we’ve been taught to cover grey. Now we should help clients embrace it, says colourist Nancy Stripe – it could be the best thing you’ve done for your business in years.

Nancy Stripe

When it comes to grey hair, real change is afoot. In 2024, it’s a statement of confidence and intent. Whether on the red carpet (Emma Thompson, Lady Gaga, Andie McDowell); among the fashion crowd (British Vogue’s Sarah Harris, Erin O’Connor, Jan de Villeneuve); or even on the world stage (Christine Lagarde and Princess Caroline), women of all ages are embracing a hair colour that for many years was seen as a sign of “letting yourself go”.

Leading the charge here in the UK is colourist Nancy Stripe (owner of Stripe Studio in Handforth, near Manchester), whose interest in grey was piqued when several of her clients who worked in and around fashion (30-, 40- and 50-year-olds) said they’d had enough of their male counterparts being labelled Silver Foxes and decided to wear their Silver Vixen crown. Stripe’s decision actively to market to grey conversion clients has not only been lucrative for her business (clients have been known to spend £600+ in a single appointment), it’s also led to a new education course, Embrace the Grey, that’s rolling out this year in partnership with L’Oréal Professionnel Paris.

So, when is it time to have a conversation about going grey? “As early as possible,” says Nancy, “because if you start blending the grey earlier, the eye gets used to seeing the grey in the hair. When women wait until they have a more solid amount of grey, they go from looking like they’ve got solidly warm colour hair to maybe being fully grey, and that jump is too much. It makes them feel old.” Clues to look out for that a client might be ready and willing? “When they say they’re sick of coming to the salon every three to four weeks, or they’ve got a white band around the hairline. But lots of clients are still worried about what others might think, so you’ve got to be ready with the support and encouragement.”

Transitioning to grey is a long and winding road – you’re looking at around a year, with some challenging moments along the way – so that initial consultation is absolutely vital. Says Nancy: “Key questions to ask include, How much grey are they comfortable seeing? Do they want a more fashionable grey placement? Are they willing to consider a different – possibly edgier – haircut, or will they look to retain their youthfulness through sharper clothes and make-up? Grey hair is naturally coarser, so you will also need to assess the condition properly before going ahead with any lightening methods, and also how much lift the hair can take because that will determine how many sessions will be needed to achieve the finished result. It’s vital you give your client realistic expectations.”

Is it going to be expensive? Yes, it is. But as Stripe argues, it’s highly likely these clients are already investing in expertly applied Botox and fillers (subtle enhancements being the order of the day), so cost tends not to be a deterrent. “I am very strict with my clients. I let them know there will need to be treatment plans, specialist products and if you don’t think you can do it, we can always go back to full coverage.  But it’s usually three to four appointments down the line where they think, Okay, here we are. Bingo!”

Stripe has identified four distinct client types, each with a different attitude to embracing grey, and each, therefore, requiring a different approach in her chair.

• The Embracer (role model, the actress Andie MacDowell) is excited to explore their natural grey patterns and wants to keep as much of the natural as possible. She will be looking to get maximum longevity from the colour. You’ll mainly be using babylights and balayage with this client, with powerful lighteners (where the hair can take it) and glossing.

• The Blender (à la Jennifer Aniston) wants to work with her natural grey to create a new canvas of blonde and balayage through her hair. She wants to retain a definite coloured look and will be back in the salon every three months for top-ups. High-level lifting will be required, with lots of coverage but easy to grow out.

• The Illusionist (as illustrated by actress Sarah Jessica Parker) wants to look as close to her darker base as possible, but with a softer grow-out She’ll be back in the salon within eight weeks, like a global application would be, but with a gentler blend. She’ll mainly need coverage in foils, but perhaps also some lightening and glossing.

• And finally, there’s The Bold (think, model Erin O’Connor). She may want an edgier look, such as a solid piece of her natural grey in the hairline and the rest of her hair kept darker.

Potential problems to look out for? Clients will feel their hair is too light, as they are so used to being a brunette. In this case, darken only with low lights and leave grey placement. Highlights may go too warm so there is too much contrast against the grey. In this case, use the strongest lightener possible and in fine sections for maximum lift, alongside a treatment plan (Stripe swears by L’Oréal Professionnel Paris’s Absolut Repair Molecular). And if the tint used for coverage in lowlights is fading too warm against the natural, then it’s causing too much of a shift in the undercoat, so go with a cool reflect for a truer tone and a softer fade.

For decades, colourists have been conditioned to cover grey. Now, it turns out that helping your clients transition to grey is not only an impressive showcase of your technical skills, it may also provide you with incredible job satisfaction. Says Stripe: “I’m 40 next year and as you age, things change. You change, your clients change. My 20-year-old self would have thought having an older client base would be so boring. But now I know what great people these clients are to have in your life. The conversations we have are brilliant and quite exciting, actually!”



  1. The start of Michelle’s journey and her two-week dreaded regrowth that made her re-think her approach to coverage.
  2. After starting to go lighter, she still felt like the regrowth line was too severe and wanted a much more natural grow-out.
  3. Session 2 of grey blending and we can see the grey is starting to become part of the fabric of her hair. Object today was to lighten the face frame and melt the colour together to create more depth and dimension.
  4. The result from session 2.
  5. L’Oréal photo-shoot day. Now very established in the grey blending technique, Michelle is getting four months in between salon visits. Today we got to try the new Dia Color shades as it offers up to 70 per cent coverage.
  6. Our stunning result. What a difference from when we first started!

Book the course:

Navigating Grey with Nancy Stripe

£220 per person

Leeds – 3 June 2024

Cardiff – 24 June 2024

London  – 12 August 2024

Edinburgh  9 September 2024