(Don’t) copy the celebrity

Tired of clients coming into the salon with unattainable celebrity looks? There is a way to not only meet their unrealistic expectations, but also surpass them, according to Amanda Dicker, co-founder and creative director of The Chapel

“I had my lightbulb moment when I was working at a bar and started talking to a woman about her hair. The relaxed atmosphere of the bar, coupled with the fact that we were on the same wavelength, led to one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. I learnt exactly what the woman wanted from her hair, and more than that – I understood how she wanted to feel. I didn’t need to see any celebrity images to understand what she wanted, just a conversation with her. This is why I think the next time someone shows you a photo of a celebrity’s hairstyle they’d like to copy, you need to swiftly change the topic to why they’ve brought in that photo and get them talking about how they want to feel.

“There’s nothing wrong with someone bringing in a photo of a celebrity when they aspire to that person. We of course get celebrity lookalike requests at The Chapel, most notably Alexa Chung, Michelle Williams and Nicole Scherzinger. But it’s how you deal with it that matters. You can learn and take away the specific qualities of what they like, such as Siena Miller’s long fringe or Lily Collins’ choppy waves. But the notion of attempting to copy and paste an entire look from one person to another nearly never actually works. And, of course, it doesn’t take a person’s individuality, personality and lifestyle into consideration. It’s no ones fault, the ‘problem’ only comes if there’s a lack of communication and understanding of what to do next.”

What’s the first step?

“What I’ve noticed is that you don’t get the best from people by standing behind them and just asking ‘what are we going to do with your hair today?’. There’s a certain element of pressure on both of you to ‘just get started’ and, particularly if you don’t know each other, you may both be too shy to speak truthfully.

“Getting to know a client properly and being genuinely interested in their lifestyle, personality and who they are, is what truly taught me how to find that perfect look for them. It makes a conversation more interesting and is hugely beneficial when you ask someone what they don’t like, because there’s usually an experience or a story behind it that can help you begin to understand their thinking. When they are able to feel at ease, drop their shoulders and share more, you understand them as an individual. Then together you find ‘that look’ that connects with them. “

How should you approach the conversation?

“You need to make time for your client. Sharing with them that you’ve got time to listen and talk to them about how they want to feel and what their hair means to them has always worked for us at The Chapel. Have they got a drink to hold and somewhere comfortable to sit when discussing these ideas or are they feeling pressured to give you an instruction immediately? I treat a conversation with a client like I would a friend in a coffee shop.

‘A conversation is something you’re interested in, a consultation is ‘solving a problem’
– Amanda Dicker

“With regards to what to say or ask, it’s not ‘one conversation fits all’; it’s about tuning in with that particular client. So while finding out about wardrobe choices, favourite colours and make-up routines are all useful, they’re not necessarily standard procedure questions we ask everyone. Finding a common ground is really helpful. We use metaphors and use the likeness of make-up, which we all understand. A lipstick is likened to a permanent colour, a lip gloss is like a semi-permanent colour… you can use food, gardening, interiors, anything that they get! Making the conversation flow between you is the key and not just having one party receptive to the other. Hairdressing has changed and so too has communication; people spend so much of their time looking down at their phones. Truly connecting with someone you’ve only just met is an underestimated quality.”

Don’t underestimate education

“Education is key because it helps to involve your client in the process. Get them to bring in their own products, tools and to demonstrate how they brush their hair or style at home – all of this allows us to offer guidance and top tips for home maintenance.

“We created a conversational piece using a glass vase of water with oil and food colouring mixed in as a visual model for explaining hair colouring processes. We had new clients booking with us because at dinner parties, existing clients had been describing what they’d learned!”

What should you take away from a celebrity ‘do?

“There’s nothing wrong with someone bringing in a photo of a celebrity when they aspire to that person, as you can learn and take away certain qualities that they like. Today’s stylist should be able to identify what the client specifically likes in the photo and not just attempt to copy the entire ‘formula’ over to someone. For example, it can often be ‘I just love the fringe’ or ‘I love those curls at the side’, but not actually 100 per cent of the entire cut and colour. A lot of people are sometimes subconsciously drawn to the celebrity’s character and overall package more than they are by the hair and its colour specifically. It’s often the way that a celebrity wears it. If you isolate that haircut from the celebrity, is it solely the cut they love and would it suit the client in that exact form?

“Times are changing; individuality is more appreciated, people who were once alienated are hugely supported and people are really coming out of their shells. The pressure to conform and copy celebrities has massively dropped and this is why it’s important, now more than ever, for stylists and clients to relax, chat, understand and educate one another.”