Disrupting the hair industry
Working in the hair industry isn’t always easy. Drug and alcohol abuse, insane hours, and a lack of inclusion can leave people to burnout and even worse. To understand the struggles in the industry, we hosted a panel of hair dressing superstars who spoke openly and honestly about trying to find their way in the industry.
The hair industry is full of varied and diverse people, and alongside them comes their varied and diverse struggles. With a recent statistic highlighting that only 30% of hairdressing apprentices complete their training, the founders of TKay Studio, MAMAWEST, Stuart Bane Colour, and Elvies Studios wanted to chat to people in the industry about their careers, experiences, and change that’s needed.
So, we brought together some high profile people in the hair industry to ask them about their experiences, how to find yourself, and the future of the profession.
Stuart Bane, from Stuart Bane Colour, explained he’d been badly burnt out twice during his very successful career.
“I’ve had an amazing career,” said Stuart. “I’ve worn many different hats and had an incredible amount of success, but it comes at a cost. All my relationships and friendships broke down because I didn’t have the time to nurture them. We talk about balance, and finding that is really hard.”
Finding balance for Stuart came from taking a step back from the glitz and glamour of the industry. Finding peace behind the chair meant only paying attention to feedback from the clients he’s working on.
“I’m an introvert, and I lean into that now. And that’s ok.”
For Sheridan Shaw, MAMAWEST, leaning into who she is was a long journey of self-discovery. For years she tried desperately to be what people wanted her to be. This started from a young age, with a family that wasn’t tuned into her needs.
“Hairdressing gave me purpose, it gave me structure, it gave me routine.” she said. “Until my bosses started getting mad at me for showing up to work completely annihilated, which was just the norm.”
For years, the crutch of drugs and alcohol gave her a false sense of herself, while simultaneously sabotaging her career and she’s worked hard to forge her own path.
“Living a clean and sober life in the hair industry is completely f*cking hard, because it’s so centred around celebration, night time events, and alcohol.”
Since becoming clean, Sheridan’s salon has gone from strength to strength, more than doubling in size, and diversifying into brows and lashes. And she recently won the Victorian Salon of the Year at the AHIA awards on the Gold Coast.
Reflecting on her success, Sheridan said she had a lot to feel good about but she doesn’t want others to feel like they have to find the light by floundering in the darkness like she did.
Ash Wuillemin, co-owner of TKay Studio, can relate to Sheridan’s substance use. Entering the hair industry at a very young age, she was exposed to the partying lifestyle early, and used the lifestyle to escape from her personal life after three significant losses.
“I gave everything I had to hairdressing, I gave up every weekend because I thought that was what you had to do to get to the top.”
And while weekend work is still the norm, her and her business partner Kyra make sure to give their staff one Saturday off each month. They know that burying yourself in work to avoid feeling the difficult stuff is not the way to go.
For Ella Rowe, creative director at Elvies Studio, her focus and passion is on inclusivity in the hair industry. She’s driven to empower clients to celebrate their natural beauty.
“There’s talk about hair trauma, embracing frizz, about drug and alcohol issues, low-apprenticeship retention rates, but what about the impact that racism has had on the major population of our community?” She asked. “There are black and brown people everywhere with nowhere to go for a haircut, hair care, quality hair products that they can buy off the shelf, the list goes on.”
She explained that sometimes the pressure to make money and squeeze clients in distracts hairdressers from the fact that they’re working with people with individual needs. People can often be incredibly anxious coming into a salon because of their previous poor experiences.
Stuart agreed, saying that working on all types of hair shouldn’t be about being a specialist, but just being a good hairdresser.
Kyra Kearney, co-owner of TKay studio, has come into her own over the course of her own hairdressing journey and believes in “being completely, insanely yourself”.
“I was always the quietest person in the room and probably the first to cry, and I used to feel a lot of shame about that,” she said. “I always thought that to be a leader, you needed to be a certain type of human but that’s just not the case. Who you are is perfect. The people who are meant to be around will gravitate towards that.”
“If our voices are louder,” said Kyra. “Then together as a collective, we can adjust this industry.”
For more help on dealing with mental wellbeing, try our mental health masterclass in partnership with Tom Chapman. It’ll give you the tools to be able to spot signs in your clients of poor mental health and understand how to help them.