“I can’t help but break the thing” – Rudi Lewis on his career in session

“I can’t help but break the thing” – Rudi Lewis on his career in session

“I can’t help but break the thing” – Rudi Lewis on his career in session

Even after 30 years in the business, the iconic session stylist has the playful mind of the rebellious teenager he once was

by CATHERINE | EXPLORE > PORTFOLIOS

Rudi Lewis @ LGA Management

On certain jobs session stylist Rudi Lewis finds himself people-pleasing – a habit formed during his years working on clients in salons, and one he can’t quite shake off. But put him in a room with people he clicks with and off he goes – liberated, empowered and excited to create looks that pulsate with the raw energy and rebellion of the music and subculture worlds where his heart and soul have always belonged. That’s when you’ll see Rudi at his scintillating, sensational, zeitgeist-defining best – and see why brands such as Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton want him on their teams. Creative HEAD meets a risk-taker par extraordinaire…

Damp, squalid, overcrowded – the Glasgow tenements of the ’70s had some of the worst conditions in Britain. Not the obvious background for a career in high fashion, but for young Rudi Lewis, growing up on one of the roughest estates was also where he discovered music, style, and the codes of punk that later took him to some of the most glamorous places in the world. “Where I lived, you could get beaten up for having the wrong pair of trainers, it was pretty homogeneous,” he says, “so I can still remember the first time I saw David Bowie or Adam Ant and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s okay to be yourself, I don’t have to live this life, I can be someone with my own style somewhere else.’”

Rudi Lewis @ LGA Management

On certain jobs session stylist Rudi Lewis finds himself people-pleasing – a habit formed during his years working on clients in salons, and one he can’t quite shake off. But put him in a room with people he clicks with and off he goes – liberated, empowered and excited to create looks that pulsate with the raw energy and rebellion of the music and subculture worlds where his heart and soul have always belonged. That’s when you’ll see Rudi at his scintillating, sensational, zeitgeist-defining best – and see why brands such as Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton want him on their teams. Creative HEAD meets a risk-taker par extraordinaire…

Damp, squalid, overcrowded – the Glasgow tenements of the ’70s had some of the worst conditions in Britain. Not the obvious background for a career in high fashion, but for young Rudi Lewis, growing up on one of the roughest estates was also where he discovered music, style, and the codes of punk that later took him to some of the most glamorous places in the world. “Where I lived, you could get beaten up for having the wrong pair of trainers, it was pretty homogeneous,” he says, “so I can still remember the first time I saw David Bowie or Adam Ant and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s okay to be yourself, I don’t have to live this life, I can be someone with my own style somewhere else.’”

His escape route came in the form of hair. Inspired by Irvine and Rita Rusk, the super-stylish Glaswegian hairdressing duo who had won countless national and international awards and who went around the city in matching leather overcoats and oversized sunglasses, salons were springing up all around Glasgow and 16-year-old Rudi – who had always known how he wanted to look and how he wanted hair to look – found himself training at local salon Billy Smith’s in Clydebank, before qualifying at James Margey in Glasgow’s West End. “It was an oasis of cool people like I’d never seen before,” he recalls. “I loved it.” When a hairdresser neighbour left to go and work at Trevor Sorbie in London, a 17-year-old Rudi followed – and never looked back.

He chose to work at Eclipse in north London because they shot photo-collections and took part in the Alternative Hair Show. Rudi had already developed a love of image-making, thanks to a friend of his mother’s, Nick Peacock, who back home had taught him how to use a camera and develop his own photos in a dark room. Rudi is grateful for his time at Eclipse because it’s where he learnt how to run a salon but, desperate to work in Covent Garden, in 1995 he chose to move to Paul Windle’s salon because “he had work from really cool photographers such as Glen Luchford in his windows”.

It must have been an omen, because that’s where Rudi met Eugene Souleiman, who told him he loved his work and that he shouldn’t try and copy anyone else’s, and that’s how Rudi ended up assisting Eugene at the shows, and where Rudi excelled and found his niche. And that’s how a career in session was born.

The Motif, photography by Casper Wackerhausen-Sejersen

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How important to your session career were those early years working in salons?

My time in the salon was genuinely formative in so many ways. For example, when I was at Eclipse I assisted an Afro hair specialist called Randolph Gray, who did tonnes of clients all day long, so I had to learn how to work with Afro hair. At that time it was unusual for white hairdressers to have much experience with Afro hair, it was a totally separate industry in a way. But I was exposed to it quite early on in my career, and it’s meant that I’ve always been confident with all textures of hair.

Paul Windle had run the academy at Sassoon and there was a culture of very technical haircutting at [his salon] Windle when I joined. I noticed there was this guy who used to pop in now and again and do these insanely good haircuts. It was Eugene Souleiman, and he’s one of the most unique and brilliant people I have ever met in my life. After he’d seen me a few times he said to me, “Why are you trying to cut hair like everybody else?” And I was like, “What do you mean?” And he said, “Don’t try to be like them because you’ve got your own thing going on. You’ve got great hands.” And that was the most inspirational thing anyone had ever said about my work. And funnily enough I had actually suffered from impostor syndrome at Windle, because I felt like I wasn’t as good or as technical as the other stylists there.

When Eugene asked me to come and do some shows with him, I had to ask Paul for permission because I was a very busy stylist. At that time, the session world was very separate from salon – if you wanted to become a session stylist, it was either because you thought you were better than anyone else in the salon or you just wanted to get out of there. But Paul saw that it could be very interesting if we could learn session techniques and bring them into our work in the salon, that it would be a very good USP for the business. And it was around this time we also connected with Bumble & bumble (Windle went on to become a distributor for the brand) and its entire product range was based on session. We also had magazine journalists coming into the salon and they would say, “Oh, can you fix the hair on a shoot we’re doing for The Face this weekend?”, so I was starting to do a lot of shoots, as well.  When I look back, those were the golden years at Windle and I am still very proud of that time because I think we created a direction in hair salons and hairdressing that was totally new and really very good. We produced a lot of excellent hairdressers who went on to do great things.

“You can get these jobs where you get a chemistry going and that can be really liberating”

i-D, photography by Josh Olins

Vogue Scandinavia, photography by Gregory Harris

That’s a heck of a start, assisting Eugene. So where did things go from there? How did you get your first break as an independent?

After I left Windle, I moved to Sweden to be with my partner, but I kept flying back to London to do clients. By that time, it was becoming more acceptable to flick back and forth between salon and session, so I was freelancing at salons like Michael Van Clarke, who was happy for me to juggle clients in between shoots, and Daniel Hersheson, whose son Luke was also getting started in session around then. I joined an agency that was mainly based out of New York and things blew up very quickly. Within a matter of weeks I was shooting my first covers for Vogue and was even commissioned to shoot a hair story for Paris Vogue, which was mind-blowing at the time!

How confident were you in your work, given how quickly things were moving?

Even to this day I always have a slight panic before I go on a job, and I think I need it. I don’t like it, and it makes me uncomfortable, but I think that if I didn’t have it, I would probably get lazy. But then you can get these jobs where you just click with the rest of the team, you get a chemistry going and that can be really liberating, so it really depends on the job. If I’m going into a job with people I’ve worked with a lot and they clearly like what I do, then I feel free to push myself more. But when I’m working with a client for the first time, my tendency is to go back to ‘hair salon guy’ and approach it like a consultation and ask them about their expectations so I can deliver what they want really well. I’m quite a thorough consultant [he laughs]. But I will probably always have a bit of impostor syndrome.

How would you describe your aesthetic? What is it that people book you for?

I don’t really like perfection. I like there to be elements present in the hair that are human – something that you know the hairdresser did, like a little tuft of hair that goes that way or one that goes over there. I always need to break the thing. Even when I do the most perfect shape, I’ll just do one little tweak, I can’t help myself. My silhouettes are coming from things that I think are cool and rooted in subculture. So, people like Morrissey, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Kurt Cobain, Nick Cave, Marianne Faithfull… you know, just iconic musicians that I grew up listening to. Even when I’m working on a glamorous high fashion shoot, I tend to reinterpret those looks. I also do some abstract work, creating wigs out of materials that aren’t hair, like buttons or safety pins, but the silhouette is always a recognisable hairstyle, like a bob, or a beehive, but in plastic or something. I want people to see that. Maybe they don’t, but it’s there if you look.

Out of Order, photography by Sølve Sundsbø

Self Service, photography by David Armstrong

And how have you managed to stay true to your aesthetic throughout your career?

It’s something that I’m more aware of now. I think earlier in my career I did projects that were more commercial or high glamour, and I went along with it because I was working with all the big names. But looking back, I always felt that I didn’t really belong. So, I made a conscious effort to go back to my roots and do projects that felt authentic to me. It was around this time that I began to contribute to Beauty Papers magazine, which was looking for work that was coming from a less obviously commercial place, less product-oriented. The projects I’ve done for them have been very much my aesthetic and it was a real turning point for me because it gave me the opportunity to showcase a more intelligent kind of hair story. So, nowadays I’m quite careful only to take on projects that are true to my style.

Session is a competitive industry. How do you stay sane?

I used to be pretty competitive. I would flick through magazines, and it would make me feel envious, thinking, ‘Why didn’t I get that job?’ or whatever. But one of my best friends is a stylist who has gone on to become one of the biggest names in the fashion industry. I remember having a conversation with him some years ago and he said, “The funny thing is, it’s never how you think it is. So, sometimes you don’t get a job and you think it’s because you’re not good enough or someone doesn’t want to work with you. And it’s totally understandable that you would think like that because you don’t have all the information. But I’m in that room when the conversations are taking place, and it literally could be just a random reason why someone else gets the job. It’s not personal at all”. So, that was good to know and understand, I do try to keep a healthy distance from these things nowadays. I do feel like I deserve to be where I am. Sometimes you don’t get the job and a week later something else great comes in.

The Last Magazine, photography by Nathaniel Goldberg

Who do you enjoy collaborating with? Who brings out your best work?

When I work, I’m always stood right next to the photographer, constantly touching the hair and changing things because I know photographers respond to that. I see how light falls on the hair and I see how the hair might affect the light on the face, things like that. A lot of hairdressers are thinking about their hairstyle; but I’m thinking about the picture. I’ve done a couple of projects with Paolo Roversi, which was very liberating. I have also done some amazing shoots with a Swedish photographer called Julia Hetta, where I really got to push it and do some great hair. I also got to work with David Bailey, which I absolutely loved because he’s a legend. But right now I’m really enjoying working with new, up-and-coming photographers. I’m working with a guy called Sam Rock, who is just killing it at the moment, he’s an amazing talent. Another great one I shoot with is Drew Vickers, and it’s always very collaborative with him. I like it when I’m able to have a voice and some creative influence over the outcome of the shoot.

Everyone’s a photographer on social! Are you a fan?

Sometimes I feel that we’re drowning in imagery. The algorithm means that great work is getting diluted by the mediocre work that surrounds it. People barely look at things for more than a few seconds, so I think that’s a downside. It’s the constant scroll on the phone! I used to be a voracious reader, I’d read a book every week, and then because of looking at my phone there was a time when it was taking me months. And so, I just checked out from it. I wasn’t posting anything at all. Right now, we’re trying to detox in our house a little bit, so the kids get an hour when they’re home from school where they can chill and be on their iPads or whatever, and then we all switch everything off so no one’s on their phone in the evening. I just think it’s healthy, you know.

For me it’s all about doing stuff that I really enjoyed before in the analogue world, and then getting to a place where I’ve generated enough work that I actually want to post on social media. It’s why I’ve found myself this little salon-cum-studio space in Stockholm and I’m going to make it this place where every week someone comes over, a bit like a go-see, and I’m going to do their hair and then shoot them, so I generate my own imagery in a quiet, organic, real kind of way. It won’t be retouched and it will be done in my own time, not rushed, like on work shoots, just me and that person. That’s the goal for me. That’s how I’m able to compute social media.

“I see how light falls on the hair and I see how the hair might affect the light on the face, things like that.  A lot of hairdressers are thinking about their hairstyle; I’m thinking about the picture”

What’s exciting you right now?

Well, my energy and focus is really on the new place. As well as being a little salon to do clients, and the portrait studio, I am planning to publish my own little books and ’zines, I’m about to release the first one, which is a collaboration with a young Scottish photographer called Rachel Lamb, we cast it and shot it all in Glasgow. I even borrowed my old boss James Margey’s salon to do all the haircuts. So, it was kind of full circle for me. I am really excited about that project because I’m not just the hairdresser, I’m the creative director and publisher too. I guess it’s a response to the digital and AI thing, I just wanted to make something tactile, that doesn’t just exist online.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

Lots of decisions are difficult because you have to confront fear – your own or someone else’s – but I guess moving to Sweden would have to be up there. After 20 years in London, it was a real gamble. It’s tough to maintain a successful career, learn a new language, start over, make new friends when you travel as much as I do. My new studio is also a big risk because I’ve been so transient for so long now that it’s a bit scary putting roots down. I’ve invested a lot of money, time and energy into it.

You’ve spent a long time in the session world. Any advice for someone just starting out?

There’s something very authentic and approachable about the new generation of hairdressers working in session, and what they’re doing is actually informing a lot of the work that more established artists are doing. You’ve got all these gender-fluid, non-conformist kids who have all that language around their work and everybody wants to be in that space now, right? I mean, traditionally, all the big ideas would come from the fashion industry and trickle out into society but now those ideas are coming from young people and fashion is trying to keep up. So, what I would urge young session stylists to do is shoot with your friends, own your identity, show it through your skills because what you’re doing is interesting and it is changing the world. And it looks great!

Tim Binnington Turned Down Investment In His Brush Business From Dragons Den – And Here’s Why

Tim Binnington Turned Down Investment In His Brush Business From Dragons Den – And Here’s Why

Tim Binnington Turned Down Investment In His Brush Business From Dragons Den – And Here’s Why

The man who helped build the Headmasters empire is striking out once again.

by ATHERINE | DOCUMENTS

For over 30 years Tim Binnington worked tirelessly as part of a team that grew the Headmasters group to a staggering 56 salons – one of the UK’s biggest – with a combined turnover of £32 million. Nobody would have batted an eyelid if he’d shown up for work one day and announced he was going to golf his way through retirement. Instead, in 2024 he’s busier than ever running a completely different business – the Manta, a revolutionary hairbrush that aims to stop breakage while boosting shine.

The Manta came about in 2014 when Tim’s wife Dani was suffering from a life-threatening illness that caused her hair to fall out. As it started to grow back Tim saw how ordinary brushes caused pain and breakage. Dani could only bear to use her fingers as a comb, and that’s when Tim got the idea.

Tim Binnnington

Creating a hairbrush that was as gentle as running your fingers through hair was the goal, but it also needed to protect and stimulate hair growth, working with hair and not against it. “If you brush your hair with your fingers, and you come up against a knot you don’t just yank it – you put a pin in the knot and give it a little wiggle to loosen it. That was my eureka moment,” says Tim. So began a labour of love that, 10 years and £600k of their own money down the line, he and Dani are still completely absorbed in.

“It took almost five years just to develop the Manta,” says Tim, who now is something of an expert on how brushes are manufactured (want to know the difference between a single shot mould and a twin-shot overmould? Tim’s your man). “I needed it to be totally flexible, quite unlike anything else on the market, and it had to be made of materials that feel really good on the skin.”  Guess where he found what he was looking for. That’s right, the adult toy world.

“If you brush your hair with your fingers, and you come up against a knot you don’t just yank it – you put a pin in the knot and give it a little wiggle to loosen it. That was my eureka moment.” 

“I know, I know,” he laughs. “But I wanted the experience of massing your scalp or brushing your hair to be sensual and enjoyable, because from my years as a hairdresser I knew that what people love most is getting their hair washed. Traditional brush manufacturers couldn’t help me, so I ended up at Love Honey, where I found materials that were sensual, hypoallergenic, heat-resistant, durable, easy to clean and – even though you don’t need this in an adult toy –anti-static too. So, basically, everything I needed.”

When the Manta eventually launched in June 2018, it looked unlike anything else on the market. Its Flexguard technology, where each bristle sits on its own base and moves 360 degrees independently through the hair, was so unique it was patented. It sits comfortably in the palm of your hand so you can move and manipulate the brush as you see fit, following the contours of your head and allowing the bristles to glide along and not pull on the hair.

TALKING SHOP: Meet the business leaders who are revolutionising hairdressing.

The Manta flexes to the contours of the head, reducing breakage.

“When we launched, we had such a great reaction from salons,” says Tim, “and they are really important to us were originally going to be our main retail outlets. But as soon as it started moving, we had Covid and as everything shut down, we had to pivot online and focus more on the consumer.”

Fortunately for Tim, something else that came out of Covid was thinning hair, and a newfound consumer awareness of the importance of hair and scalp health. Good news for for Manta sales, surely, as the brush has the added benefit of gently exfoliating the scalp, creating a flake-free, product buildup-free, healthier scalp, which is perfect for hair growth.

“Absolutely,” says Tim. “Everyone is more aware and we are in more demand. We’re launching in Boots this year, in a healthy hair and scalp section. We’re sold on 15 airlines but we’ve just launched on Emirates Airlines as well because they’ve just introduced a healthy hair and scalp section. And we sell in places like South Korea and Japan, where they’ve always been into scalp health.”  A key promotional channel has been QVC, both in the UK and the US, as that’s where Tim gets to actually demonstrate Manta’s point of difference from competitors such as Tangle Teezer and WetBrush.

Did someone mention Tangle Teezer? When creator Shaun Pulfrey appeared on Dragons Den in 2007, he was famously rejected by the Dragons who told him hjis brush to detangle knotty hair was “a waste of time” (Pulfrey subsequently sold a majority state in his business for £70 million). Earlier this year, Tim and his wife Dani also walked out of the Dragons Den empty-handed – not because they didn’t receive investment offers, but because they turned them down.

The duo had asked for a £240,000 investment for 4 per cent of their company. Three Dragons – Peter Jones, Sara Davies and Touker Souleyman – were interested, but they all wanted far more equity than Tim and Dani were prepared to sacrifice.

“We valued the business a lot higher than the Dragons would, but our experience in the Den made us realise the extent of the value of our business,” says Tim. “There are millions of people who are suffering with hair breakage and thinning hair, which Manta can help. Sadly, the Dragons were more interested in the money than solving the problem.”

“I didn’t go into it to make money – it’s only ever been about helping people.”

The Manta family continues to grow.

With the bit clearly between his teeth, Tim continues to innovate. Alongside the original Manta, there’s now a Manta incorporating a mirror for on-the-go touch-ups and a pulsating version, known as Pulse, that uses vibration either to invigorate hair and scalp, or relieve stress and tension. And the newest addition is the Manta Kinks, Coils and Curls, especially developed for the unique needs of 3a to 4c curly hair. Together, the Manta family has won almost 40 awards – including Creative HEAD’s Most Wanted Award for Innovation in 2020 – and as a nod to where the journey originally began, Manta have donated almost 8,000 brushes over the years to The Little Princess Trust, a charity supplying real hair wigs, free of charge, to children who have lost their own hair due to cancer treatment or other conditions.

“The business is doing well,” says Tim, who still squeezes in one day a week at Headmasters, and who credits a lot of Manta’s success to the team who work with him. “We have got our original investment back, but to be honest I didn’t go into it to make money – it’s only ever been about helping people. My goal is to get more and more people changing the way they brush their hair. And even if they say, ‘I’ll never use a Manta, but I’m going to mindfully brush my hair and be careful with my scalp,’ we will have achieved something. Because when a woman gets to 60, 70 or 80 she will have better hair, and that will make her feel better about herself and have more confidence. And the better you feel, the better you are to others, so it makes the world a better place.”

Nicola Coughlan is Talk of the ’Ton

Nicola Coughlan is Talk of the ’Ton

Nicola Coughlan is Talk of the ’Ton

Session stylist Halley Brisker lifts the lid on working with the Bridgerton star as its third series hits Netflix.

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Custom lace front wig for the Met Gala 2022, with colour by Jason Hogan

Dearest readers… Whether you are a Bridgerton fanatic, a member of the Polin fandom or have never watched an episode at all, you’ve most probably come across Nicola Coughlan at some point in the past few years. From Derry Girls to Big Mood, she has a knack of creating ‘wow’ moments that love to go viral. That’s in part due to her role as Penelope Featheringtonin the Netflix hit Bridgerton, and also because she enjoys an exploratory sense of style that captures attention online and on social media.

One of the more misunderstood parts of my job is the ‘style journey’ as I like to call it, which myself and other glam team members craft through the unique partnership we create with our clients. Almost everybody has a personal sense of style but when one also has a public-facing life, there often isn’t time to take care of hair, make-up and wardrobe choices when carrying out duties that come with the role. That’s where professionals come in…

Going red for the Barbie premiere in London

Met Gala 2022

However, where it gets particularly exciting is when my clients want to go a step beyond the expected and craft a style iconography. I’ve worked with a breadth of talent over the years; many like to execute minimal changes to their personal style and have us perform only that, as best we know how for them. Then others want to push the boundaries of style, which for any creative is a form of pure joy. Nicola has always been someone with a love of style and the courage to be dynamic. We met – along with make-up artist Neil Young, stylist Aimee Croysdill and nail technician Michelle Class – on a photoshoot for Refinery29 in 2020. Nicola was already established thanks to her role in the hit show Derry Girls, and was due to appear in the debut season of Bridgerton. We had no idea how big that show would become nor the importance of the role of Penelope Featherington within the Bridgerton universe!

 

 

 

 

 

“Nicola has always been someone with a love of style and the courage to be dynamic”

Halley Brisker

Halley Brisker

It often takes time to discover what our clients’ goals are when working with glam teams. In the nearly four years we’ve worked together as a team of creatives alongside Nicola, we’ve created looks that have incorporated extensive product knowledge – from the oily, sleek locks for the SAG Awards to textured, A-line bobs at The Baftas. Hair piece sourcing for faux bangs at front row shows for Miu Miu in Paris and braided hair bows for the Stylist magazine awards in London. We’ve experimented with colour too; Nicola went red for the Barbie premiere in London and with the custom-coloured lace front wig I created for Nicola at the 2022 Met Gala, Jason Hogan at Josh Wood Atelier painstakingly coloured it to complement a bespoke Richard Quinn dress.

 

Halley and the glam team at work behind the scenes

Stylist Magazine Awards, 2022

Throughout this incredible style journey we’ve gone on together, the thread that has been a relative constant has been Bridgerton, which has just launched its third season. That instalment sees Nicola’s character take centre stage in the plot, to become…  nope, I’m not giving anything away!

It’s no coincidence that as looks go, the hair finish in New York was one of our most straightforward; sometimes we ‘grow as we go’. Of course, I have no idea what the future looks like for Bridgerton or Penelope, but to see hundreds of fans turn out for Nicola was a special moment and a perfect opportunity to create simple, elegant looks for this milestone moment.

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Is Wellwashing Taking Over Our Industry? Why Creating A Culture Of Wellness Goes Beyond A Morning Meditation

Is Wellwashing Taking Over Our Industry? Why Creating A Culture Of Wellness Goes Beyond A Morning Meditation

Is Wellwashing Taking Over Our Industry? Why Creating A Culture Of Wellness Goes Beyond A Morning Meditation

Wellbeing has become a buzzword in the industry, but when does it do more harm than good? Find out how to put staff wellbeing front and centre correctly.

Image: Brett Jordan
Defined as ‘the intentional or unintentional practice of promoting a wellbeing culture that has little or no positive impact on wellbeing outcomes,’ the concept of wellwashing is rising. Much like greenwashing, there are now visible ripples of it in our everyday lives, and
worst of all is that it’s happening in our industry.

The Pandemic shifted many aspects of the cultural zeitgeist, a work/life balance with a greater emphasis on mindful, positive habits being one key area. It allowed businesses to reflect on their practices and check in with the team properly, beyond a passing ‘how are you?’ in the break room between clients. The downside? As attention turned to the topic of wellness, it became a trend and everyone wanted a piece of the pie, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Danielle Garner
Danielle Garner
“As someone who has strong ethical values and fights for what I believe in, I’ve previously turned down substantial financial contracts from large manufacturers due to their green-washing behaviour,” says salon owner, Danielle Garner. “Today similar brands, along with salons and individuals, can be seen well-washing team members, clients and our industry.”

Danielle’s salon, Wildflower, is known across the industry for being an inclusive, welcoming space where both the salon team and their clients can grow and thrive; after all, they did win Most Wanted’s Best Client Experience award in 2022. But Danielle is the first to admit that creating a culture of wellness cannot be dictated – it cannot be a one-style-fits-all all approach, otherwise, you will fall at the first hurdle.

More often, wellwashing comes from a place of feeling the need to ‘do something’, as opposed to a genuine desire to prioritise staff wellbeing beyond the surface level.

“When businesses do this, they can end up just checking the wellbeing box rather than investing in a strategy that has an impact far beyond improving and protecting the wellbeing of employees.,” says lifestyle and holistic coach, Sonia Magnier. “They are missing out on the real benefits of putting employee wellbeing front and centre.”

Conversely, properly Investing in your team’s wellbeing can lead to improved productivity, lower staff turnover and absenteeism, and a more positive company culture. Sonia has seen this first-hand with the clients she is working with and truly believes it makes a difference.

 

Sonia Magnier

Sonia Magnier

So, what can hairdressing businesses do that avoid falling for the typical wellwashing quick fixes? Sonia considers these to be things like a one-off workshop, which though can provide temporary relief, they don’t tackle the deeper issues that contribute to burnout and dissatisfaction.

To genuinely nurture a wellbeing-focused culture in your organisation, Sonia suggests considering these strategies:

It starts at the top
“Leadership needs to walk the talk and show a real commitment to their own wellbeing as well as employee wellbeing. Your team should see that your actions speak louder than words! A half-day wellbeing workshop is a great way to kick-start a wellbeing programme.”

Empower your employees with the tools they need
“Offer training on mental health awareness, stress management, and resilience. Give them the skills to tackle the ups and downs of the modern working world.”

Track the effectiveness of your initiatives
“Listen to what employees have to say and take their feedback on board. Hold leadership accountable for keeping the wellbeing communication going.”

It’s also valuable to remember that wellness is a personal journey, so each person involved in the brand or salon must have the flexibility to work on their wellness. “You can’t enforce yoga or meditation classes if the individual isn’t in the right head space,” says Danielle. “As a business, our HR offering includes six therapy sessions that can be taken at any time. But it’s not my place to comment when a team member needs to make that first appointment. All I can do is make sure they are aware of the opportunity and be there when they need it.”

To genuinely prioritise your employees’ wellbeing, it’s important to commit to long-term initiatives that prove that you care. Not only will you dodge the dangers of well-washing, but you’ll also create a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. 

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Is AI The Answer To Creating A Booming Business?

Is AI The Answer To Creating A Booming Business?

Is AI The Answer To Creating A Booming Business?

How two salon owners and a self-employed hair pro have used AI to level up their work. 

The debate around AI rages on, but the technology isn’t going anywhere. So, we asked three hair pros from across the industry to share how they have onboarded AI to grow their businesses. Have they encountered some teething problems? Sure. But they’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to…

Chris Foster Digital Agency

Chris Foster AKA the Profile Guy

How are you using AI for your business? 

“On the creative side, AI can serve as a brainstorming tool,” says Chris Foster AKA The Profile Guy, who uses AI as a freelancer. “It can aid with everything from styling ideas to building collections. I’ve used AI to generate mood boards and spark new concepts from my imagination, and it’s been incredibly helpful in expanding my creative horizons.” 

ChatGPT may be the most common platform we associate AI with when we think about automation. Sophia Hilton, owner of Not Another Salon in London, has used her social media platforms to be transparent about the business benefits that AI can provide. “We started to use ChatGPT to help one of my trainee receptionists deal with complaints,” Sophia explains. “Since then, I have continued to incorporate it into my business, gained experience using it and created a course on how business owners can write with AI to help them speed up their work.”  

Sean Butt, operations manager at Alchemy & I in Berkhamsted, is always looking for ways to unlock innovation and leverage AI to revolutionise the salon, he has used AI tools to generate his answers for this article, which have been tweaked to ensure they sound more personal. “AI isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a transformative tool enhancing every aspect of the salon business,” he says. “From personalised consultations to trend forecasting, inventory management and process alignment and creation, AI serves as a cornerstone of our commitment to excellence.” 

To help stylists offer bespoke recommendations for each client, the salon uses the AI algorithm to help stylists tailor recommendations for an enhanced experience. Trend prediction features are also used during consultations.

Sean Butt with Senior Alchemist at Alchemy & I, Amy Lutt

Sean Butt with Senior Alchemist at Alchemy & I, Amy Lutt

alchemy & I virtual tour

What element of AI would you recommend hairdressers get on board with? 

For industry professionals on a mission to enhance the salon experience or elevate their hairdressing business, AI-driven solutions are one of the most valuable recommendations from Alchemy & I. “AI-powered consultation tools and trend forecasting software can revolutionise client interactions and business operations alike. It’s a great investment,” says Sean. “It means we can offer unparalleled personalised experiences, driving customer loyalty and business growth while remaining at the forefront of industry developments, securing a competitive edge in an ever-evolving market.” 

For freelancers like Chris Foster, AI is also a great tool for enhancing productivity. “Think of it like the AR filters on social media platforms,” he explains. “AI-powered tools can streamline content creation, making it faster and easier to produce engaging content that showcases your skills and drives traffic to your salon.  

From editing videos and audio, to repurposing content into various formats, AI can be a gamechanger,” he adds. “As a creative, it can help you stay on top of trends by selecting the best music and videos for your content and speed up the editing process, ensuring a great user experience. AI has been pivotal to the success of social media.” 

Sophia Hilton agrees, having used AI to help with a multitude of jobs as a salon owner. “For self-employed hairdressers and salon owners, writing with AI can be helpful,” she comments. “It can help with anything from website copy and social media captions to using it for reading contracts that you don’t understand. When you’ve never done it, it sounds complicated, but it’s easier than googling something!”

Sophia Hilton ChatGPT Instagram<br />

Sophia Hilton

What errors have you made while figuring it out, so others don’t make the same mistakes? 

Using an AI platform can make it tempting to input the first thing you think of, but it takes work to ensure its answers sound authentic to your voice. “The number one thing I teach when using ChatGPT or other platforms like that is to make sure that you’re training the programme to sound like you and not copy and pasting some robot-like text,” says Sophia. “It will not take long for the public to see when you’ve been lazy. Taking the time to train it makes it so much more genuine.” 

“I initially underestimated the breadth of AI applications, thinking it was limited to ChatGPT,” admits Chris. “AI is so much more than that, it’s much more powerful across so many domains – creating websites, graphics, and improving productivity.” Chris has just launched a brand-new AI assistant from his AI agency specifically for salon owners and freelancers to help them run their businesses more effectively, creating maximum efficiency with very little cost.

While integrating AI into the salon has been rewarding for the team at Alchemy & I, Sean admits they encountered challenges along the way. “One notable mistake was underestimating the importance of staff training and familiarisation with AI technologies. Prioritise comprehensive training programmes and support your staff when adapting,” he adds.

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“The Met Gala Is The Exception To The Rule” – Halley Brisker On Styling At Fashion’s Big Night Of The Year

“The Met Gala Is The Exception To The Rule” – Halley Brisker On Styling At Fashion’s Big Night Of The Year

“THE MET GALA IS THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE” – HALLEY BRISKER ON STYLING AT FASHION’S BIG NIGHT OF THE YEAR

The session stylist reveals the military-grade planning necessary for the iconic first Monday in May event.

Halley Brisker

Halley Brisker

We’ve all cooed and dissected the looks from this year’s Met Gala, the most photographed red carpet in the world, second only to The Oscars. But what is it like to work it as a session stylist? Halley Brisker – on hand to style Lily James and Eve Hewson for the 2024 Garden of Time-themed event – lifts the lid… 

“Traditionally a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume institute in New York, the Met Gala has now morphed into a global fashion event headed up by Anna Wintour, who supposedly oversees personally every single outfit worn by the attendees. What does such a night mean for the attendees and the hair, make-up and styling teams that take part? 

“This was my third year and each one tends to play out much the same – my job is often done with little time for organisation. Sometimes I know what I’m doing several weeks in advance; sometimes I can have as little as 24 hours to prepare! However, the Met Gala is the exception to the rule. 

“I often know six months or more in advance if any of my clients will attend. For an event that demands the attendance of the world’s most influential and well-known faces, military precision is required if one is hoping to get them all in one building, in one city, on one night of the year. 

Hair, make-up and styling are also appreciative of this long lead time as there are not enough of us to go around on Met Monday in New York! This is a night that the attending talent hope to be able to have their most trusted teams; often a scuffle can ensue in terms of making sure you can secure the people that make you look and feel your best on such an important night. 

Preparation begins months in advance, with first sketches of outfits. This helps start a conversation among the team and talent once everybody is confirmed. The more open to idea sharing, creative direction and progression of ideas you can be with one another, the more exciting the creative journey will be. It tends to be a busy WhatsApp thread 

Halley Brisker's moodboard

Halley’s mood board and final look for Eve Hewson

Fittings will take place as outfits are brought to life. Directions can and usually will change, but I like to begin my prep with large format mood boarding based on the theme of the year and the initial idea references that the team have put forward. Sometimes it can just be a feeling that my client wants to embody or bring to life. This moodboarding comprises searches for fairly abstract references across multiple mediums, and everybody on the team takes a look and asks for things that stand out. Once I get a feeling for that, I can begin narrowing down my final board which I use on Met Monday.   

“Most teams will make their way to New York (if they aren’t already based there) on the Friday or Saturday. This gives everybody time to settle in and leaves Sunday for some final prep. If possible, I love to squeeze in a hair test on the Sunday night. Going into The Met having had a quick run-through pays huge dividends – I’m somebody who likes to be organised, otherwise I can’t relax. There are two well-established hotels that host most of the talent, literally across the road from one another – very handy if you have more than one client at separate locations.  

Victoria Panting working

Halley working with Lily James

“This is a night that the attending talent hope to be able to have their most trusted teams; often a scuffle can ensue in terms of making sure you can secure the people that make you look and feel your best on such an important night.”

Halley Brisker

“This year I was getting both Lily James and Eve Hewson ready, which if scheduling is executed well is achievable with a good assistant. There are some artists that will attempt more than two people… If your cortisol levels are manageable and you have a fetish for stress, then this might be for you, but it isn’t for the faint of heart!  

Content is king, so you can expect a constant stream of brand partners in the get ready suite along with publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair dropping in, all to create content. That is why for The Met we will always allow at least double the prep time of any other event – four or five hours is not uncommon. We’re creating the most immaculate finishes, if not the most creative looks, so time to do this while everybody involved is able to work their magic and collect their content is vital. It also helps to reduce that rush to the finish line talent often need to be sewn into custom couture before final touches and pictures… Trust me, time flies on Met Monday!

Military precision of production doesn’t end at the hotel suite door. A cavalcade of sprinter vans line up around the block for specific timeslots for each talent attending and a sea of paparazzi wait outside the two hotels, backed by screaming fans. Usually, the team and I enjoy a celebratory drink while we wait for our clients to return – we can hang out and debrief a little before sending off the talent to the after parties, sometimes with a change of hair and makeup look. Once the kit chaos is finally packed up and Im in a taxi looking forward to crawling into my hotel bed in the small hours 

Halley backstage with Lily James 

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