This month, Karoliina sits down with the legendary ANNE VECK. With multiple awards to her name, French-born Anne’s passion is education – sharing her skills and creativity with her peers. Today, she’s on a mission to make hairdressing more professional, ethical and sustainable. Let’s hear it for Anne!
HI ANNE. THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME TODAY. TELL US ABOUT YOU… WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHAT’S BEEN YOUR JOURNEY TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a hairdresser, I fell into it a bit by mistake. My family situation forced me to leave school at 16 and get a job. My mum’s hairdresser was looking for an apprentice and the rest is history! I trained at the Academy de Paris where I qualified with the Brevet Professionnel Coiffure Mixte in 1984 at the age of 21.
I have spent most of my career in England learning the art and business of hairdressing in a series of small-town salons. Then I worked in my own two-salon group, before finally discovering the exciting world of education, photo shoots, platform work and session styling. It’s been a long journey, but I am now enjoying my career – in the industry I love – more than ever.
Most recently, after 31 years of being a salon owner, we sold the business. It’s not the end of Anne Veck the hairdresser. I still have a few years ahead of me. I want to share my knowledge with my peers; my new challenge is to spread the word on sustainability and inclusivity.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BECOME AN AWARD-WINNING HAIRDRESSER LIKE YOURSELF?
Practice practice, practice and maybe you will get it perfect. Don’t expect success to happen overnight. If you enter a competition, be prepared to lose – that will happen more often than not. Just remember, you have to be in it to win it!
YOU HAVE HAD A VERY SUCCESSFUL CAREER AS AN ARTIST FOR GREAT BRANDS. WHO ARE YOU WITH NOW AND WHAT DOES YOUR JOB ROLE INVOLVE?
I have been working with Davines for the last four years. I changed because I wanted to work with a brand whose DNA is sustainability; I love the brand and everything it stands for. It allows me to have different hats on – I can be a showcase artist for their worldwide hair tour in front of 4000 hairdressers, or teaching colour or sustainability to a small group.
WHERE DID YOU LEARN TO DO TEXTURED HAIR?
When I opened my own salon in 1991, I had a lot of demand, but I became increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated to admit that I couldn’t deal with every type of hair. First, I bought an NVQ book on Afro Caribbean hair, then I attended an afro hair event at Alexandra Palace.
I have gone on courses with experts including MK and Charlotte Mensah, and we trained in house too. Hairdressers need to be versatile; if you can’t do textured hair, it’s like saying you can’t do blondes. We live in a multicultural society and an increasing number of clients have very curly hair –you don’t want to lose out on these lucrative services.
YOU’VE BEEN KNOWN FOR YOUR AVANT-GARDE WORK THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO LEARN AVANT-GARDE?
Avant-garde is difficult to teach as there isn’t just one technique. One thing for sure is you must master all your classics, like finger waving and intricate plaiting. Then you must think outside of the box. I often get my ideas when I’m running.
I let my mind wander freely and somehow I find a way to construct the hairstyle I imagined. This could involve developing the idea by creating a mood board, researching online, picking up materials such as garden netting or chicken wire, but mainly practising the look over and over again until it comes to life and reflects my original vision.
ARE YOU PLANNING TO TAKE PART IN COMPETITIONS THIS YEAR? IF SO, WHICH ONES?
Yes, I’m a bit of a competition addict… You’ve got to be in it to win it! I’m planning an afro hair collection and a colour one. You name it, I’ll be entering it – UK and international!
WITH SUCH A DIVERSE SET OF SKILLS, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?
I like to experiment with new textures in hair – exploring the creative potential of things like knotting, knitting, bonding and shaping – to create new shapes and architecture in hair. When I am happy that a new technique works, the next step is to use it to create a hairstyle that works visually, aesthetically and with impact. It must grab the attention, but it has to belong to the model and not look like a “hat” which sits on their head.
HOW DOES OUR INDUSTRY LOOK TO YOU AT THE MOMENT AND HOW DO YOU SEE THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS?
Social media has a huge positive impact on the way salons and individuals market themselves. However it can also be negative because clients’ expectations can be very unrealistic. Some of the hair images are impossible to achieve in a normal salon appointment.
I would like to see hairdressing recognised as the great profession it really is, rather than a last resort for underachievers! I have travelled the world with hairdressing, and have been able to earn my living each time I arrived in a country where I didn’t speak the language.
I expect to see the rise of genuinely sustainable products, with manufacturers investing real effort to reduce their carbon footprint and to stop destroying the environment in the sourcing of products. A great example is that most of the major players – L’Oréal, P&G, Unilever – have committed to phase out use of ‘dirty’ palm oil grown on rainforest plantations.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY SUSTAINABILITY IS SO IMPORTANT TO YOU AND WHY IT’S SOMETHING WE ALL NEED TO BE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT?
I want a better world for my kids –unfortunately by the nature of our business, hairdressing is not very green, so we need to make a special effort to reduce our impact. Over the last 10 years, I’ve realised that businesses have a responsibility to be more sustainable and our clients agree.
There are growing numbers of salons following the sustainability and ethical direction, particularly offering organic and vegan options for colours and hair care. However, I would like to see more salons switching to renewable energy for which there are subsidies from the government to incentivise change. There is a myth that sustainable business choices are expensive. This is not the case; reducing your energy consumption benefits both your bottom line and the planet.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR 16-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Don’t let your inner voice restrict what you want to achieve. Don’t worry, it will all work out in the end! Educate yourself. REMEMBER knowledge is POWER.
HOW COULD WE MAKE OUR INDUSTRY MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO JOIN?
Better pay, faster training programmes.
SIMPLE, BUT SO TRUE! HOW DO YOU MAKE TIME FOR YOUR SELFCARE AND WHAT DOES THAT CONSIST OF?
I like to start my day with a yoga session and a big glass of hot water. Yes, HOT WATER. I feel it cleans me from the inside. I like to keep fit. I now work with a Personal Trainer. It’s great fun. Maybe twice a week I relax on my bike for a long ride through Oxfordshire.
WHO ARE YOUR HAIR HEROES THAT YOU LOOK UP TO?
The team at X-presion. They are not scared to break the rules and explore new territories. The team at Haute Coiffure Française, the work of Alexandre de Paris and Odile Gilbert. Very inspiring and a lot of emotion in their work.
CAN YOU TELL US YOUR KEY TREND PREDICTION FOR THIS YEAR?
Natural hair is reigning supreme across styling as well as colour. Elaborate updos and intricate styling are out in favour of simple ponytails and semi-updos; anything that says low-maintenance. There’s still a fascination with big hair though – ultra-volumised hair with natural texture and fuss-free styling.
FINALLY, TELL US A FUN FACT ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD NOT KNOW.
I’m good at knitting!
anneveckhair.com / @annevecksalons