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The Coterie made it’s Manchester debut and it was all about the brand

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Popping up in Manchester for the first time, The Coterie was a rip-roaring success last night with a trio of guest speakers delivering awesome insight into the power of self-branding.

With the hashtag #brandyourself doing the rounds, and a room full of hairdressers sitting comfortably, Creative HEAD publisher Catherine Handcock set to work – probing our experts on image projection, staying true to your creative vision, carving a career path and owning your own unique area of the industry.

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First under the Coterie spotlight was salon Bruce Masefield – the former creative director of Sassoon, who is now one year into owning a self-named salon in Edinburgh – who talked candidly about stepping away from a global brand and shaping his own.

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“My time at Sassoon was amazing, and I’ll never forget everything I learned, but it was time to go,” said Bruce, on taking the decision to leave just months shy of his 30-year anniversary with the company.

Always be brave enough to talk to people – they can feed your inspiration and add to your world; never feel you aren’t worthy no matter who they are

A hugely talented hairdresser with decades of salon and session experience, Bruce is honest about the fact he’s still learning out to run a business, and passionate about the importance of reaching out to others to make new connections (“Always be brave enough to talk to people – they can feed your inspiration and add to your world; never feel you aren’t worthy no matter who they are”).

With his wife Lynsey, he has embraced salon ownership and worked hard to create a brand that reflects his own sense of style but also engages with clients on a personal level. The slogan: ‘Individuality is a State of Mind’ conveys the importance Bruce sees in hair being a personal statement. “I want our clients to know they own their look – we shouldn’t interfere with it, we should add to it, help realise it”, he said.

Inspired by airy and chic Parisian apartments, Bruce Masefield Hair on Edinburgh’s Randolph Place is a beautiful, stylish and welcoming space. The letter B (for both Bespoke and Bruce) is woven into the very heart of the salon’s service offering – B:spokecolour, B:spoketreaments, B:spokecut… – but despite a keenness to create a brand with “his name all over it” , interestingly Bruce was initially reluctant to eponymously name his salon. “It was Lynsey who made me see it was the right move; Google my name and everything I’d done in my career comes up,” says Bruce, “it made total business sense”.

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Next into the Coterie hot seat was Yolanda O’Leary – a brand authority who has worked with the likes of Lancôme, 3INA, Shiseido, Nike, Converse, Diesel and Gucci, helping to build commercial success and cultural relevance. She also co-founded (with beauty director Katie Service and fashion editor Navaz Batliwalla (AKA Disney Roller Girl) The Beauty Conversation – a boutique consultancy helping brands to find their unique voice.

Luxury brands are learning from younger, more disruptive ones

Sharing fascinating insight into how a brand “talks” to its consumer, Yolanda spoke first about the “DNA” of luxury fashion and beauty brands, and about how big brands have in a sense “dialled down” the high-end to tap into new markets and become more accessible. “Things have changed – social media has made us all so much more transparent,” she says. “Now, luxury brands are learning from younger, more disruptive ones in order to maintain or expand commercial viability”.

She went on to talk about the power of authenticity for brands, saying “It’s more important than ever”, and referring to US beauty brand Glossier as an example of why it works. “Glossier’s community and staff are the same as its customers – it’s core messages and brand values are clear and transparent and represented in its people and products, and its working brilliantly.”

We heard about Yolanda’s work for new cosmetics brand 3INA (pronounced Mee-nah) – whose launch campaign was focused on breaking down preconceived beauty ideals (“we cast models based not only on how they look but more importantly on their personalities, values and beliefs and skills and successes in other areas of work”), as well as fashion label Diesel’s #dieselreboot campaign (“the greatest thing about this was that the brand wanted to completely shake things up ”).

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Last to step into the interviewee shoes was Mr Jayson Gray. An industry maverick, Jayson was a driving colour force at Toni&Guy for almost 25 years before striking out alone and metamorphosing into the Karbon Kyd.

“I found I had a mission”, says Jayson, “to get on and do my own thing – to turn things upside down and to go my own way. Karbon Kyd is more than just a brand, it’s who I am – it really IS me and what I stand for.”

Being true to myself was so important – having a corporate background really helped me to see that

Born from the desire to create a unique brand, his new persona is all about imperfection, DIY processes and an underground vibe – and it’s taken him on a unique journey that’s a far cry from his corporate beginnings. For Jayson, Karbon Kyd is a complete and all-encompassing cosmos. “Being true to myself was so important – and having a corporate background really helped me to see that, to draw comparisons,” he says.

Does he believe being disruptive is fundamental to getting noticed? “Absolutely. You can’t be afraid of doing the opposite of what people expect.”

Much like Bruce’s B, the letter K is an intrinsic feature of Jayson’s brand (the Karbon Kyd Kollektive – “I launched it to help creative people around the world connect and co-create”; the Karbon Kyd Klubhouse – a pop-up space in which to connect and create) – it’s a key part of the aesthetic, and you’ll find it emblazoned all over the KK Instagram feed.

A self-confessed cultural magpie, kollekting (sorry, we couldn’t resist) inspiration from his everyday surroundings and exploring creative avenues that really open up his imagination, Jayson is inspired by the story behind the end result. “I’m more interested in the journey of creating than of the creation itself,” he says. It’s no wonder he is so passionate about training and inspiring others (cue Karbon Ed – bespoke and intimate education offerings for salons and colourists across the globe).

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To close the evening (pre drinks back at the bar, obvs), Catherine brought together all three speakers for a quick-fire Q&A session. Here are a few titbits:

On what drives you daily…
“Being assertive and having self-belief, always being a maverick and never a victim” – Jayson 

On something you wish you’d invented…
“The bloody Tangle Teezer, it’s everywhere!” – Bruce

On a brand that’s doing everything right…
The Lost Explorer – it’s David Rothschild’s project. Google it! – Yolanda

And before we knew it, time was called on another fine Coterie gathering. But guests were in for a final treat as they were handed a generous gift from event sponsor BaByliss PRO, before heading for home.

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To see more pictures of the night check out our Facebook album

The Coterie returns to London on 31 May for In Session, featuring guest artists Rebecca Chang and Sam Burnett and hosted by award-wining beauty journalist Sophie Qureshi. Tickets cost £30. Click to find out more >

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