Mark and Kathy at Crown Hair
We sat down with masters of hair Kathy Gilbert and Mark Jones from Crown Hair, Darlinghurst to chat creative evolution, cross-generational knowledge and the way communication and collaboration can combat tricky changes in the industry.
Mark and Kathy both trained at a pivotal time for hair - Vidal Sassoon was revolutionising the industry, bringing with him a newfound sense of freedom and putting the client’s needs and desires at the forefront of his practice.
Vidal Sasson crafting his legendary 5 point cut
His approach fostered a very collaborative, specialised working environment which Mark and Kathy maintain as the centre of Crown Hair’s ethos. “Sassoon absolutely informed and inspired my practice, there’s not doubt about that." says Kathy.
"He was informed by, not just fashion, but art and architecture. He saw things in terms of shape. At that time, it was revolutionary and exciting.”
“He was so unique in his creative approach”, reflects Mark, who notes that this emphasis on collaboration was a big part of why Sassoon inspired him.
Another invaluable way Sassoon’s practice informed their training was through specialisation, allowing the hairdresser to hone and perfect their specific craft, and work within a team to create a finished look.
“You’d specialise in being an amazing, precision haircutter, or you’d specialise in colouring hair. And Vidal didn't treat these as separate things, they worked together - the colour was about supporting what the shape did. It was very collaborative, it was about working in teams.” - Kathy.
But that approach is changing…
Kathy at Crown Hair
“Young hairdressers don’t usually train that way now, it’s a bygone era.” says Kathy. This more condensed, less specialised education means Sassoon-style hairdressers are rethinking the expectations they have for their new apprentices. However, the emphasis on collaboration is helping Crown bridge the gap between old and new knowledge.
“It’s different, and we have to find that bridge all the time, in communicating. But this younger generation brings with them a whole lot of things that we don't have.” says Kathy.
Mark and Kathy agree that it all comes down to passing on knowledge in a way that is relevant.
The way Mark sees it, his knowledge and experience of history, art and aesthetics are valuable to a younger generation who may not have that kind of broader understanding yet - “My influences come from architecture, art and colour. It’s win-win. When someone is young, they are open to exploration, they just need to be shown where the references come from.”
And it goes both ways.
“What a younger generation brings to us is a new perspective and a digital world”
Mark and Kathy agree that communication is key to making this exchange mutually beneficial and rewarding. In fact, they see communication as central to ensuring all relationships within the salon - from staff to clients - are open and fulfilling.
“One of the things that we think is a bit of a lost art is communication. It’s about marrying the client’s expectations with what’s possible and making sure you're on the same page. We don’t often have to say no, but I think its really important to know when to say no as well. Because giving someone false expectations is the greatest set up for failure.” - Kathy
The experience that informs this understanding of clients, expectations and possibilities is what makes Crown Hair so special. They utilise Sassoon-inspired collaboration to ensure client’s have realistic understanding of what can be achieved, making it much more likely they’ll leave satisfied.
“At my stage, in my career, I like advising people because I like the collaboration. I like to share what I am feeling because I think the client should be part of the creative process.”
While it seems like a simple concept, there are factors which disrupt this kind of open dialogue. The digital world means there’s myriad of knowledge at ones fingertips, but this isn’t a substitute for proper experience and education, which some people forget.
Mark works his magic
“Only recently, in the last decade has it been happening - you get people coming in and trying to tell you how to do your job. And that’s a new thing, a youtube thing.” - Kathy
While Kathy says she understands it, she notes that it makes navigating the teaching sphere tricker. The younger stylists can be more nervous, and less assertive, when a client comes in thinking they know exactly how to create their own look.
“Nothing is more frightening than having a client sitting in front of you telling you what they want, but not being prepared to trust you. They're the ones you have to be extra clear with.”
For Mark and Kathy, its about reminding younger generations of stylists that it’s important not to give the power back to the client in a way which is a set up for failure.
“The client’s not a hairdresser… they know what they want but not what’s possible.” says Kathy, and that’s where communication is key.
Mark at the salon
A crucial aspect of this communication is considering what the client wants to get out of their time in the salon. Hair is inextricably linked to identity and self expression, which makes achieving a successful outcome all the more important.
“Not everyone uses their hair as a statement, some use it as a security blanket. And you don't wanna get that wrong.”
“We [in Sydney] sit very quietly in the world, and it’s about finding those quiet changes sometimes” says Mark.
“It’s an old fashion analogy, but I still believe it - the hair is the frame to the face. You want a really beautiful frame that lets the picture be seen and enhances it.” - Kathy
Another integral part of that picture, is skin. As one of HydroSkin’s first retailers, Crown Hair has witnessed the evolution of our products and experienced their benefits first hand.
“I loved that we were right at the beginning of the building process.” says Mark. “At that time my skin was quite hypersensitive, I had a lot of redness, and was told to spray, spray, spray the Hydro Mist! It actually helped immensely. And what I love is how light it is, at the end of The 3 Steps, it all sinks in.”
Beauty in the details at Crown Hair
Kathy admits she was initially sceptical, citing past disappointment with Australian skincare brands.
“My experience has been that good quality products come from overseas, where there’s been many decades of good quality brands, research labs etc” Kathy notes. But when the ingredient makeup was explained, particularly in relation to the pure, undiluted Hyaluronic Acid in the HA ² Serum, Kathy was hooked.
“On a day to day basis for me, it really meets the brief, and it’s pure. I realised it sits apart and alone from what else is on the market” - Kathy.
“It all works so well together, it’s just stunning! The price point is fantastic, it’s made in Australia by passionate people who know their stuff and they’ve really taken it to another level”
We’re privileged and thankful to have such skilled creatives supporting HydroSkin. Visit Crown Hair to see our range in-the-flesh, and for an unforgettable salon experience!
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