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.


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.


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. 


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.


“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 


This Is The Biggest Mistake You’re Making During A Creative Colour Consultation – And How To Solve It

This Is The Biggest Mistake You’re Making During A Creative Colour Consultation – And How To Solve It


The success behind great creative colour lies in the consultation, but what are the common pitfalls many hairdressers get wrong? Paul Mitchell educator, Victoria Panting, shares all.

Victoria Panting

Victoria Panting

The biggest mistake I see is hairdressers not taking enough time in the consultation to thoroughly understand the investment the client has in their hair. To clarify, when we are talking about ‘investment’, in this scenario we are talking about the financial investment and time invested. It is vital to understand this from the perspective of your client from the get-go to prevent any change of direction mid-appointment.

Let’s start with financial investment. This topic should always be handled sensitively, and I always like to give a personal tip – do not judge a book by its cover. 

Have an open conversation with your client about how much they have budgeted for their hair today; this will help you understand their financial comfort level. By having this conversation, you may find that what they want to achieve doesn’t sit within their budget,
so it allows you to recommend an alternative service. 

Other things to consider when discussing financial investment in hair with your client are how much your client has budgeted for haircare to maintain their colour. This means it’s more important to educate your client on the importance of home maintenance.

It’s also important to find out how often your client can afford to visit the salon for colour refreshes. Recommend a service with maintenance that matches their budget.

Next, let’s consider investment in time. How much time can your client invest in their hair? Today – if they are tight on time, can we achieve what they want within that time?

Victoria Panting working

This also relates to appointment frequency – ask yourself will this service require a monthly visit to the salon, is this a realistic expectation for your client? If not, will an alternative service provide the longevity your client is looking for?

Finally, can you recommend any retail products which will help the client to maintain their look at home at a time and frequency that suits them? Setting realistic expectations when it comes to ‘investments’ is vital to a happy client.





Things fall apart, it’s inevitable, but it’s how you respond to failure and grow from it that will lead to success. 

Unsplash Bernard Hermant

Unsplash/Bernard Hermant 

That fuzzy feeling when you attract a new client, turn a lovely profit, or receive a pat on the back for a job well done… it’s great, isn’t it? But life can’t be all good news. We humans are bound to take a wrong step and face failure at various points. Instead of seeing failure as the bogeyman of business, see opportunities for improvement, suggests Gina Conway, owner of Gina Conway Aveda Salon and Spa. “I had to close two locations after lockdown. But I looked at the positives. I had more time and energy to put into one salon and academy, and breathed fresh life into it. Knowing what I know now, and after many ups and downs, I feel I’m in the best professional place in my life.” Failure can be used as a litmus test to figure out whether you’re on the right track in your business. “Sometimes, the world isn’t quite ready, and it’s telling you to listen harder and make some changes,” adds Gina.

Ben Lifton, founder of social media marketing brand Content Kweens, marketing services firm UGC Creators, and a speaker at Salon Smart 2024, advises to check if what you’re experiencing is actually failure… “or does the thing we wanted not serve us anymore”? If it is failure, sit with the feeling as “only once we feel it, can we start to move through it”. Then he advises to process that but “don’t look back and regret”, because that leads to resentment. Afterwards, “identify what influenced us to end up where we are now”, then finally learn and take that learning forward.

“Knowing what I know now, and after many ups and downs, I feel I’m in the best professional place in my life.”

Gina Conway

Perceived failures can leave everyone in a business feeling deflated. But at hair and beauty salon Fringe Benefits in Gloucester, owner Marina Hodgins employs a positive approach to turn things around. “When team members have left and taken their clientele, which has a detrimental effect on turnover and team morale, we dust ourselves off and start again,” she says. “We contact clients to offer an alternative team member that they would be suited to, offering a bonus such as a free reconditioning treatment to demonstrate how we value their support. This helps to grow a team member, boosting confidence.”

Constant success could lead to complacency. Failures, on the other hand, encourage business leaders to stand up and fight. In the case of Fiona Canning Allen, owner of Ark-i-tec Hair in Bradford, failure wasn’t the end “but a stepping stone to growth”. “I’ve learnt to adapt and seek support to navigate the evolving landscape of salon ownership,” she admits. “Through these experiences I’ve become resilient, determined to flourish even amid challenges, and focused on fostering a salon environment where both clients and staff thrive.”

Unless you’re superhuman, failure is an inevitable occurrence in your career. When faced with it, listen to these voices above and unpack them first. Use the experience to grow, learn and get better. Once a positive analysis of your perceived failure has had its use, move on with your chin up, head up, and heart full…