Andrew Barton is a familiar face on TV, from his appearances on GMTV and 10 Years Younger. The International Creative Director of Saks Academies and British Hairdresser of the year for 2006-2007, took a day off from his celebrity client list and international travels for glamorous photo shoots and fashion shows, to visit the Yorkshire Craft Centre on Monday 30th March. Although he never normally returns to a venue, this was his third appearance at Bradford College as he feels such affection for staff and students here. Demonstrating the latest trends, cutting techniques and ideas in an art gallery turned out to be right up his street, as Andrew was keen to highlight the artistry of hair design.
“As International Creative Director of Saks, I am responsible for the general quality and image of work that leaves all our salons. As we have 130 salons and 2000 staff in the UK, this is quite a tall order. We have standards, procedures and training in place for all teams, whether they are young or very experienced, hairdressers. Although I am based in London, my work takes me all over the world, so this is an authentic tan! I was in Ibiza last week, shooting a fashion story for Elle, and the previous week I was shooting a commercial for Timotei in South Africa. As well as seminars and lots of photographic work I also teach at Saks Academies and train the artistic team. I spend one day per week in the salon looking after clients. After twenty-five years of doing hair, I find that this is my most rewarding day of the week.”
Andrew demonstrated on four volunteers drawn from our 450 hairdressing students. Using Victoria Beckham’s latest cut as a reference point, Andrew gave model Samantha something young, trendy and cool. For the second haircut he departed from Bianca’s usual poker straight style to create something working with her natural curl. Andrew felt that Rebecca’s face shape and voluminous hair concealed her face and so gave her softer layers. He loved the colour of Evie’s hair but felt that her hair cut was not very exciting so he made the shape more interesting.
“None of these models have presented me with anything like the challenges I face on 10 Years Younger. They really are a disaster to deal with but the transformations are amazing. I get really excited when I go around the country and people tell me that it was the hair not the teeth, the surgery, the clothes, or the make up that made the most difference. Nothing has the power to transform or make people happy like a new hairstyle. Clients can escape the world, relax in the salon and walk out happy. I am addicted to the smile I can put on their face. The right haircut can make someone look younger, taller and slimmer.
The word designer is under-used for hairdressers. The image is still old ladies having weekly shampoo and sets but in reality we design something unique for every client. When designing a haircut it is about features, body shape, head shape et cetera. It is about creating the perfect design for an individual, taking all the elements into consideration.
I originally wanted to be a fashion designer and went to Art College, but drifted into hairdressing as I needed to earn some money. I was frustrated that I had never become a designer for the first ten years until one day I realised I just worked with a different material rather than fabric. With hair design it is all about creating what you want. This is the power that everyone in this room has. You made that choice, not the client. You are there to gain their trust and advise the client.
This is a fabulous job where your designs make someone feel special. Aim high. Don’t aspire to the £10 haircut. Although this is an essential part of the market, you will find it more rewarding and exciting working higher up the scale. You need to understand classic design; how a haircut works and then have a desire for creativity. Trust yourself as a designer. Some of you will decide to be all-rounders, others will specialise. You will be working a long time so you should do what you enjoy and attract clientele based on that.
Early on I knew I wanted to be involved in fashion design and at the cutting edge of hairdressing. Cutting hair with scissors is just like using a pencil in art class. Light strokes will produce a beautiful sketch and hard ones, sold lines. I prefer to make hair pretty and beautiful but hard edges might be what you want for funky, edgy designs. My best advice if you can get into really creative haircutting is to find inspiration. I am a massive magazine reader and read Vogue every month. It is a great barometer of style and design.”
Andrew’s packed schedule shows that hairdressing can lead to great opportunities. He has just got a publishing deal for a book of top tips for women’s hair. As well as his other filming commitments, he is planning his own TV show, and he is also continuing to develop his own range of hair products.
"Although the models here let me do anything, which gave me lots of creative juice, we don’t always have a free hand. Creativity is about what you feel. As I get older, teaching creative haircutting is harder as it is about my taste. Creativity is all about trusting yourself." The audience gasped to learn that Andrew would have charged £430 for these haircuts in the salon. Andrew explained, “I am not going to defend this. I am a lad from a mining village with just one O level in Art, though I should have got one for talking. I have worked really hard. I joined Saks ten years ago when we had 30 salons. Hairdressing is a business, never forget this and make the best standard of living you can for yourself. At 42 I still love creating with this fibre called hair. TV has catapulted me and my clients’ expectations are huge, so I have to give them value. Usually when I cut a woman’s hair for the first time she turns round and says ‘No one has ever done this before.’ I make someone feel a million dollars. Hair is one outfit your client will never take off, take back to the shop or leave at the back of the wardrobe. I don’t think of myself as a hairdresser but a designer. Every piece of work I do is a work of art.”