There’s no question that the pandemic has had seismic consequences on mental health. People in all types of situations have been struggling, and hairdressers – as empathetic, tuned-in people – often take on a lot of their clients’ struggles too.
When session stylist Louis Byrne launched I Can I Am And I Will (#ICIAIW) – a personal empowerment project that uses tried and trusted methods of self-discovery to help individuals regenerate their unique skills, creativity and wellness in order to realise their full potential – before the pandemic, he couldn’t have known what was to come. But it was a timely reminder that we need to take care of ourselves first. Louis’ 12-week RE-set Plan includes a variety of easy-to-follow growth techniques, aimed at enhancing mental health, building confidence and boosting motivation, resulting in a happier, healthier mindset.
We caught up with Louis Byrne to discuss how the last 18 months have helped to shape this timely project. He recently held his first event, in collaboration with Nobu Pilates at the exclusive Nobu Hotel in London’s Portman Square, for an immersive empowerment experience where attendees enjoyed the connection and community around which his I Can I Am And I Will movement is based. Next, he’s looking to the future generations with a collaboration with a school…
Q: When you launched your I Can, I Am and I Will initiative you couldn’t have known that the pandemic would be arriving to throw everyone’s lives into disarray, but it’s certainly apt timing. How has the last 18 months impacted the initiative?
Louis Byrne: Nobody could have predicted what was coming, but the last 18 months have really given the #ICIAIW empowerment movement context. The movement has been incredibly important in my life, and because of the pandemic it’s now something that everyone can benefit from. To be able to go on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, to really connect with yourself, deepens your self-awareness and allows you to get creative which is so important for our industry.
In times like these – with people experiencing heightened anxiety and depression – it is key to be able to connect with the present moment. Recognise and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, let them live and then move on. The last 18 months has given me the drive and determination to spread the #ICIAIW message of empowerment and positivity and reset the mindset!
Q: What have been some of the key trigger points that you’ve seen people struggling with?
LB: I’ve seen people really struggling with their identity; in understanding who they are and their place in society. I’ve found, over this past year and a half, that a lot of people are requesting major restyling changes, so I’ve been cutting off a lot of hair. I think is helping people shed the past few months, giving them a new lease of life.
The thing I’ve come to realise with the pandemic is that it’s been a totally different experience for everyone. We are all having to adapt to different ways of working and living, and that comes with a lot of worry and stress. It’s so important to remember to live in the present moment.
Q: You also launched the B Plan project – tell us a bit more about how this came about?
LB: The B Plan project is all about helpful wellbeing techniques for us all to use and practice while in the working environment. Breath, Break, Boost, and Believe – these are all things that should come naturally to us but can easily be forgotten, so we created images and shot these for the #ICIAIW empowerment movement to give wellbeing a fresh and unpretentious approach.
Q: Tell us a bit about how the collaboration with Riverside Meadows Academy came about?
LB: Riverside Meadows Academy supports Children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and I’m an ambassador for the academy. The head of the school, Sarah Anderson-Rawlins, is a client of mine and has been from the very beginning of my hairdressing career in Northampton. She saw the message that I was putting out with #ICIAIW via my social platforms, and she got in touch to collaborate. My story really resonated with her, and she saw how the message could benefit the students of Riverside Meadows Academy. They work in a trauma-informed way, as well as therapeutic, to create a safe learning experience.
Currently at the academy is the ‘House of Byrne’, which represents diversity, inclusivity wellbeing and empowerment. Each week the students get to visit the House and learn more about these key elements. There is also an #ICIAIW class which has been added to the school syllabus for individual children to be able to identify with different aspects of what #ICIAIW means to them, identity, empowerment, positive mental health and self-belief. This class is for students to feel emotionally empowered to share their individual interests academically, and/or creatively. It’s a space that will allow learners the opportunity to see the gold thread of #ICIAIW and enjoy looking inside who they are and reflecting it back.
The next step is to roll out the #ICIAIW RE-Set Plan within the academy for both students and teachers, with the eventual aim to take this nationwide.
Q: What does 2022 hold for you and ICIAIW?
LB: 2022 is looking incredibly exciting for the #ICIAIW empowerment movement! We have the Immersive Empowerment Experience tour planned, and the launch of the #ICIAIW Journal and RE-Set App, which is a creative mentoring programme, along with many more exciting collaborations. #ICIAIW is limitless, so watch this space!