He’s the down to earth Kendal kid whose career has gone stratospheric. We caught up with the L’Oréal Colour Trophy 2017 UK Men’s Award winner, Ky Wilson of The Social, to chat curls on blokes and how he’s been keeping it real in the months since his on-stage triumph
There are some great shots of you, your team and your model heading to the stage, including a couple where you’re keeping it ‘Ky’ with a pint in your hand! How did it feel when your name was announced?
Quite surreal. I tend to enter things just for myself really – to step my game up rather than any kind of outward recognition or validation – and so to be given the title ‘champion’ in front of everyone was so amazing, but it felt a bit… weird! As a team, we were so happy with the look, and the response to it throughout the entire contest had just been unreal; the number of amazing industry icons that came up to us on the night of the final, before everything was announced, and said that the look was bangin’ or we were the winners in their eyes also made it feel like we’d kind of won anyway, regardless of the results.
I was gobsmacked that Jason Miller from Charlie Miller mentioned that the judges’ vote was unanimous before he said our names too. That was just f***ing insane to hear, especially said on stage! It felt like the perfect end to a journey that’d been filled with weird coincidences and hints at fate and destiny. In the regionals, we turned up and were assigned model number ‘18’ – and this is dead weird – the house number that I grew up in was number 18, and my salon in the Lake District is number 18. I even took the p*** at the time with Frank Lillywhite, who was a vital part of the team who worked on the entry, saying: “Look mate, we’ve won this!”
What happened in the days after your win?
Obviously there was an awesome response on social media. Just a wave of fantastic support and feedback for Frank and I, and the whole team. Within the industry though, the response was just nuts! The connections that have formed organically thanks to interest in the look have been so valuable.
Had you entered L’Oréal Colour Trophy before?
Yes, in fact L’Oréal Colour Trophy Men’s Award was the first competition I EVER entered in my career years ago… but I didn’t get anywhere! I’ve entered several times since (including the women’s hair category, where I’ve actually made it to the Grand Final before), but it was a case of not having found the right model, not having settled on a consistent overall look I was happy to run with throughout the heats, and not having built that relationship with a model up until now. I’ve personally found the women’s category harder to crack, as it’s been harder to formulate a look I felt confident in. I thought the little green mullet that Linton & Mac came up with and smashed it with was genius. So brilliant.
How did you decide on your entry and know your choice of colour and style was ‘the one’?
I’ve always wanted a curly-haired guy to win L’Oréal Colour Trophy, and every time I’ve entered the Men’s Award, I’ve always chosen a curly-haired guy as my model. Past winners have tended to have really straight hair, which can help show off some subtle colours, but I just love the look of curly texture and the dimension it can add.
Keeping true to The Socials ethos, I collaborated with Frank – a good friend of mine who uses The Social as his London base to cater for his southern clients and is also apart of The Social Education – for the salon’s entry. I’d also worked with our model, Joe McGrath for countless years before entering the competition. My cousin Beth actually found him in the Manchester music scene when I was searching for a guy for something, and just approached him because he’s got mega hair. I’ve always known I wanted to do something big with him and his hair is so good, that we just enhanced it for LCT really. The colour work was pretty simple – it’s stuff we do in the salon, is low maintenance and is exactly what The Social is all about. I’ve got to give a tonne of credit to my right hand man Frank – he was by my side throughout offering support when needed, and also telling me when to stop, which is a crucial part of the styling process.
The clothes Joe wore in the original entry shots are actually my clothes! When it came to the regionals, we knew the look looked best offset by a blue suit, so we had to cart him off to Topman to get one in a better fit. As a subtle trademark, I made the little clipper necklace that I created a couple of years back into a brooch and pinned that to his lapel, which was actually a bit cheeky and could have gone massively against me! We even sprayed him with the same cologne that me and Frank were wearing for good luck and to tie us all together subliminally as a team. It seemed to work, but whether it even had an effect we don’t have a clue!
How has winning L’Oréal Colour Trophy shaped your 2017 and 2018 so far?
I’ve returned to educating for L’Oréal this year (2018) for the first time in a long time, which has been so awesome, and I’ve also been running more and more workshops and courses through The Social Education and having fun with that. The win definitely helped drive and cement interest in them.
It’s also enabled me to hire my East London space out to brands, bloggers and photographers – really playing with the social element of what we are all about. Frank and I are doing a shoot with L’Oréal for a consumer magazine later this year too, which I’m really looking forward to.
It’s obviously meant a huge amount to you, The Social as a brand and your team, but we’re interested to know: how have clients reacted to your win?
It’s cool and it’s creating a bit of a buzz. I don’t really speak about it that much to clients, but the awards are in the London salon and people do notice them and ask. The image appears in my winning The It List ‘It Guy’ entry, which I made like a newspaper and always keep out on the coffee table for when clients are sipping on their Social Slurp drinks too.
In the Lake District, it’s caused a bit more of a stir. I think it throws a different kind of spotlight on regional salons and that prestige gets a different kind of coverage in regional press, which is nice.
What was the winners’ shoot experience like?
It was wicked. We went to Paris for it, but Frank, Joe and I had a f***ing mental journey to get there! We were in Dublin with a project the day before, so we had flown from London to Dublin, then flew on to Paris ready to do the shoot the next day. I had a wedding back in London immediately afterwards too, so I ended up travelling back the next night. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience, but it was cool – it was like we were doing a proper little tour together.
The shoot itself was great and really laid back. I wanted to go in and absolutely nail it, no messing about, so as soon as we got into the studios I sat Joe down and we got to tonging his hair. Within half an hour, we were done! We had the two looks already sorted and Jack Eames, who was the photographer on set, literally snapped him in three shots.
It was so great to see all the winning teams as we have a right laugh together every time we meet up. It was good to catch up with Lan Nguyen-Grealis (the make-up artist on set), as I’ve worked with her before, but the shoot gave us the chance to really talk and really cement a bit of a relationship. I also loved working alongside the guys from Linton & Mac – we had a proper good laugh! The competition connected us and we’re doing some little collaborations as a result, which is cool.
Any tips for those thinking of entering this year’s contest?
It’s all about finding the right model. Don’t use someone the judges have seen countless times before. Find a model that everyone wants to have sex with, whether they’re male or female! If you’ve got that, as soon as they walk into a room, they’re going to be a head-turner.
So, what’s next for you?
I’ve got a couple of wig workshops with my mate Luke Pluckrose (who I used to assist when I was starting out and who I think is massively underrated in our industry) that I’m running at The Social – they sold out really quickly. And people are travelling across from Montreal just to attend, so it’s really taken off! We’re getting more and more global students wanting to connect and book on our The Social Education courses, which is exciting.
I’m also working this year to take more education up north and teach more often up there. I’m collaborating with Mitch from Laundry on something for that, which is cool.
And finally: Can you sum up your LCT17 experience in three words?
Memorable, so cool. I mean, we are a pretty young salon, and Frank and I definitely will never forget the feeling of hearing ‘The Social’ ring out at that final.