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Leeds lights up with tales of session, styling, salons and success

Starring two very different hairdressers, with equally exciting stories – The Coterie popup in Leeds certainly did not disappoint…

Last night The Coterie popped up in Leeds, this time at the trendy Lambert’s Yard for a night of insight into the careers and minds of two of the most exciting hairdressers of our time.

First up was Samantha Hillerby, a local girl done very good – and by good, we mean scoring front covers of Vogue and tending to the hair of Victoria Beckham and Cara Delevingne amongst countless other stars. Interviewed by Creative HEAD publisher Catherine Handcock, Samantha spoke about moving to London during the exciting ‘90s. Nicky Clarke introduced her to legendary session stylist Guido, working as his first assistant for three years. “Working with Guido gave me great leverage,” she explained. “With Guido it’s different – he has a core team and looks for a different thing in each assistant. He challenged me to look at my perception of beauty – he taught me to look at imagery as a narrative.”

It might seem unusual that at the height of her success, Samantha went back to her roots, but her recently opened studio in Swanland, near Hull, has proved to be another example of her expertise. Lined with covers of Vogue she styled, the intimate space provides a bespoke experience for her clients – many of whom have no idea that she is the session superstar she is! “My clients come through word of mouth, I didn’t want to advertise my studio too much – I wanted it to have an air of mystery. If I wasn’t true to myself then I didn’t want to do it at all.”

To finish the first half of the session, it was time for a quick-fire question round, which revealed the most unusual job Samantha has worked on – “A shoot in Ireland where my kit didn’t arrive, so I had to think fast on my feet and get to Boots!”, Samantha’s best advice – Mark Hill told her to “Milk it, girl!” and the advice she gives to her team – “Build your foundations and follow your dreams!”

From style maven to style maverick, it was then time for Ky Wilson to do what he does best – talk about the industry with zero filter. Having started out in hairdressing “because I needed a job”, he quickly found his feet and began hooking up with likeminded people, something he still values greatly today. “Pop-ups were a great way if generating cash in a cool environment. People would come in and have beers and pizzas and we’d collaborate. Doing things on your own is dead boring,” he explains. This in turn led him to opening his own spaces in warehouses – he even had a bed behind a backwash at one point. “You don’t need the high street – if you’re good, clients will come to you.”

Having entered the It Guy category six times before winning this year, Ky has shared his entry online to show other budding It Listers what works. “It’s a newspaper – it was cheap to print, and I can use it to share what I do,” he says. “I like hand-making things rather than paying someone else to put a book together.”

And in true Ky style, he has a refreshing take on social media: “I don’t use it for my personal life, it’s just for business. I’d rather get a like in person, from someone saying ‘I liked that’. You see hairdressers who are in the right place at the right time, they’re doing a cool band’s hair and drinking a Red Stripe, and having fun but they can’t cut hair. They just want to be famous because of Instagram.”

To finish the evening, Catherine fired some final quick questions at Ky. What did he have to give up to get where he is today? “Nothing, because I wanted to be here!” What is the product he can’t live without? “A hairdryer… and my mouth”. And finally, does he have a motto? “If what you’re doing isn’t making you happy, then stop doing it.” …We couldn’t agree more. 

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Special thanks to BaByliss PRO for providing the lucky dip goody bags for our guests!