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Salons Direct: Ask the Expert with Patrick Wilson

It’s been two years since we last caught up with Patrick Wilson, who is now Art Director at Olsen and Olsen, guest artist at GHD and L’Oreal Colour Trophy Winner People’s Choice Award winner. Here at Salons Direct, we love to keep in touch with our favourite industry experts to follow their movements within the business.

In this edition of ‘Ask the expert’, Patrick muses on the HAIR industry and taking a leap of faith within his career.

What is your first memory of appreciating/noticing really great hair?

The first time I attended the L’Oreal Colour Trophy, Alan Edwards headed the main show. It was really exaggerated, and it was the first time I’d been to the final of any competition like that, and it was just so different to typical salon hair that it really struck a chord. I became obsessed with Alan Edwards for a while. I looked through all of his award collections. I went to Glasgow and found his salon was on Wilson Street and was like ‘oh my god it’s a sign!’ – I did end up staying in Liverpool after all of that, though!

When did you decide that becoming a stylist was going to be a full-time profession?

I’m now in my tenth year of hairdressing. The vast majority of that time has been spent in some of the best salons in the North West, but recently I’ve been juggling more session work than ever. I spend three to four days a week outside of the salon taking on extra jobs, whether that’s red carpet, catwalk, commercial or editorial. For a long time I’ve been scared of making the full commitment, but come the end of this year I’m moving to London to fully commit to session work. I’ve always wanted to make it work with travelling between Liverpool and London, but sometimes you miss out on opportunities simply because of where you’re located. And it’s not fair to clients to simply rearrange them all the time. The harsh reality is that with regards to fashion and celebrity, there’s much more going on in London than the North West.

How do you think social media has shaped the industry?

It’s changed the industry substantially. When a salon used to launch a collection, they’d wait for one occasion per year to publish a collection in a magazine. Now you can post multiple times a day. You have lots of opportunities to show off your work. In many ways, it democratises opportunity. It gives anyone a platform to get their work out there. A lot of younger hairdressers have got more followers than celebrity hairdressers who’ve been around for years. I would caution, though: don’t cater your work to ‘likes’. I have a certain kind of image I know I can post and get 300 likes. That doesn’t mean that is what you should do all the time. Show variety.

What is one thing you wish that you had been told before embarking on a professional career in hairdressing?

There’s a perception – especially amongst people who are academically clever – that hairdressing is a career for people who aren’t very bright, and one that pays very badly. That’s absolutely not the case. I think we need to get the message out there that hair is a multi-billion-pound industry with plenty of opportunities for career growth, entrepreneurship and vast earning potential. Life doesn’t begin and end in the salon down the road.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to stylists just starting out in the hair business?

Salon stylists

For salon stylists, aim to get into the best salon in your area. Look at who’s winning awards, look at whose work you admire on Instagram, and once you’re there, take your training really seriously. When I trained at Barbara Daley in Liverpool, I had to have a new model every Monday morning, and if you didn’t provide the model you had to go out on the street and told ‘don’t come back until you find one’. Obviously, this never happened to me as I didn’t want to be the one who was shamed!

Session stylists

For session stylists, you have got to be available. Sometimes you will be missing your best friend’s birthday, and you won’t be going out if you’ve got an early call time the next day. Try and assist as many great hairdressers as you can. If you’re working backstage, remember you’re part of a team, and no one is bigger than the top hairstylist. Be humble. If you’re posting on social media, absolutely never take credit for the look. You must mention who the head stylist is, or who you’re assisting. And obviously, never post a look before the show has occurred. If you think you shouldn’t do it: don’t.

Where do you find inspiration to keep your hairdressing fresh and innovative?

I’m lucky enough to have assisted Sam McKnight backstage at shows including Chanel, Burberry, Fendi and Balmain. He is my hair idol, and his team is brilliant. Because of his continually excellent work and great reputation, he attracts the very best of the world’s session stylists to assist him every season. You learn so much from being around his company, and you can take that back to your work and apply it.

Who influences you to be a fantastic hairdresser and why?

I think you find role models at every stage in your career. When I was an apprentice, I really looked up to the Barbara Daley art director Cameron Scott. She was different from all the other stylists there, and wasn’t afraid to just go for it when cutting hair, and was really confident in her abilities. She taught a course for L’Oreal, and that became my first goal, to do what she was doing. Obviously, the greats of the industry inspire you. When I first got into doing fashion week, it was always Sam’s team I wanted to be on. I did London Fashion Week for six seasons before I got the chance to be on his team, so it was a bit of a dream come true when I got to assist him at Charlotte Olympia.

What would you say is the work that has made you the proudest?

There isn’t one individual thing, but this year I entered Creative Head’s IT List Most Wanted, and I was nominated in the IT GUY category. I put together a massive portfolio of all my work, and it was a real chance to see it all together in one place, reflect, and take stock of everything I’ve done in the past couple of years.

How did you get involved with Look magazine and Mollie King?

Earlier this year, I was asked by ghd to head the hair for the launch of their new Wanderlust collection. Part of the launch involved flying out to California to style the hair of a team of international influencers at the Coachella music festival. One of those influencers was Mollie King, formerly of The Saturdays. Each day I would do a different look that would be featured on Look Magazine’s social channels, and then in the magazine itself with a step-by-step guide on a four-page spread. It was a really amazing trip, and it helped me build more new working relationships. I still work with Look Magazine, and now that Mollie’s releasing new solo music it’s a great time to be involved with her. She’s a lot of fun to be around and has great hair that’s a pleasure to style!

Where do you see the future of styling heading?

We’re a lucky industry. You can buy a dress online, you can watch a YouTube tutorial and get yourself to a reasonable level at makeup, but to get a good haircut you have to go into a salon or have it styled by a professional. We aren’t as threatened by the Internet age. I think more clients are after an ‘instagram-worthy’ service. And that doesn’t just extend to the hair. It’s the salon environment. The whole experience. The process of getting a haircut is no longer just that.

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