In a culture where the latest looks and beauty trends are instantly splashed across social media and gobbled up by the beauty blogosphere, discerning clients are looking for something more.
Mark my words, the days of a single trend being adopted by every client on the books—a la unicorn/mermaid/rainbow hair or “The Rachel”— are drawing to a close.
If there is one thing that I learned from the time spent with COTY and Wella Professionals at the International TrendVision Awards last month in Spain, it’s that the future of our industry lies in bespoke beauty solutions.
What Is Bespoke Beauty?
Bespoke is simply a fancy British word for “custom”—or more specifically “made to order”. Typically this term is used to refer to suits, or other types of tailored clothing, but it certainly doesn’t need to end there. When applied to beauty, what it basically means is that while the artists can be influenced by and prompted to learn new skills and techniques through current and upcoming trends, when it comes to creating a look for clients, the inspiration should come from them.
Rather than referencing a trend directly, taking a bespoke beauty approach requires a stylist to take a good long look at the client and handcraft a look that works just for them. This approach requires a bit more thought, skill and yes time…but all of that can also equate out to more money, if the techniques are learned and applied properly.
Beyond just the fact that mainstream trends are becoming over-saturated almost overnight (thanks, in large part to how quickly they are shared online), a more custom approach to clients can speak to the ever increasing range of hair types and textures and their unique challenges.
It is no longer enough to separate hair into categories as simple as “curly and coarse” or “straight and fine”. There is a wide variety of clients whose hair falls in between categories and even shades in a swatch book. We saw this with the variety of models during the ITVA catwalk and competition presentations and are willing to bet that it is something that salons across the world are noticing as well.
It’s always exciting when you can catch the first scent of a shift in the industry, it means that it’s time to gear up and get ready to change everything that we thought we knew about beauty.
Since quality consultations are the backbone of any successful salon business, let’s talk about how the approach can be adjusted, just a bit, to tailor a consultation towards a bespoke beauty look.
Last year, one of the hottest hair trends was “Ecaille”—or tortoiseshell color. Everyone from Gisele to your artsy second cousin with the exploding fashion blog wanted this sort of sun-dappled look and colorists the world over were clamoring to find step-by-steps and video tutorials so that they could convince their regular highlight or balayage clients to try this newest, latest trend.
While there is nothing wrong with being inspired by and excited about a new trend, the mindset needs to shift just a bit in order to offer truly bespoke beauty services. Instead of starting out with a specific trend in mind, a stylist would want to let ourselves be guided by their clients’ unique features and desired end result.
If it just so happened that the ecaille technique would work well in their case, then wonderful—it’s a good thing there were how-to articles and videos available, because now they are prepared to deliver!
At the end of the day, a bespoke beauty consultation is long, thorough and a bit more like a personal interview than an overview about which celebrities’ haircut your client fancies that day. It should touch upon your client’s personal life, habits, and insecurities as well as their influences, points of pride and personal style.
Custom Color Stories & Contouring
One of the most exciting things that we saw at ITVA was the application of contouring techniques to haircuts and color. For those of you who have never heard of a Kardashian, contouring is a technique that got its start in makeup, and uses light and shadow to either highlight a naturally occurring feature, or in some extreme cases, reshape it entirely.
With length and layer placement working in tandem with highlight and lowlights, it is possible to produce the same effect with hair. This is going to become increasingly important when it comes to creating a look for a bespoke beauty client.
During the consultation, when a client says that they really want to focus on their eyes, lips of the shape of their chin, but can’t STAND their forehead, it becomes a bit easier to sketch out potential ways to use light, shadow and length to our advantage when creating their custom look.
One way to take the feeling of custom service a bit further and extend the life of that very thorough consultation a bit more is through the idea of creating a year-long color story for the client. Basically, this involves planning the client’s color transitions for the year, in advance.
This ensures that appointments are spaces appropriately, the proper care is taken between appointments to preserve the integrity of the hair, and that the client is transitioned gradually from season to season, rather than getting a whole new look, twice a year.
Bespoke Beauty Product Prescriptions
Of course, all of that time spent conferring with your client and crafting a unique color and style just for them would be wasted without the proper aftercare and this is where things get really interesting. Wella Professionals has created an incredibly in-depth process to diagnose and prescribe the perfect combination of care and styling products for each client’s unique hair.
Building upon the fact that each person’s hair makeup is as unique as their fingerprint, Wella’s upcoming line launch—System Professional—uses a state-of-the-art process to determine and recommend the proper combination of products that speaks to each client’s unique needs.
This is not marketing mumbo-jumbo folks, this is serious, mind-blowing science.
We can’t wait to learn more about this process, the 175 million different possible combinations and what types of data is being collected throughout this process and share it with you. System Professional will not be released in the US until 2017, but we will certainly report back when we learn more.
One thing that we do know is that this system will not be available for all salons, rather it will be offered to a select few that Wella determines to be well-suited to carry all 57 SKUs. Which, intentionally or not, takes the notion of bespoke beauty even further by applying it to not only which looks work best for which clients according to their individual features, but also which skus work best for each salon, according to their business.
However, we believe that every salon can benefit from this line of thinking. If not only during the consultation and service stages you are speaking to a client’s individual needs, but during the retail recommendation as well.
The chances of a client taking a stylist’s recommendations increases. Instead of trying to “sell her on” a single mousse or hairspray, the stylist is recommending a bespoke beauty solution just for them. This simple shift in approach leaves them feeling more well-taken care of and the salon likely with a healthier bottom-line.
How Bespoke Beauty Can Change a Salon’s Business
We all know that every client is special to every stylist. They are not seen as a customer, but instead as a neighbor, a friend (and sometimes even a family member!) it stands to reason that every service is conducted to speak to their individual needs and a desire to make them feel better about themselves.
However, for too long our industry has been focused on creating the newest, latest and greatest trends. This forces salon professionals to learn new techniques, purchase and familiarize themselves with new products, in order to always have something “new” to offer their clientele.
While it can be exciting to be considered an expert in the latest-and-greatest of the moment trends, it’s also expensive and exhausting. While profitable in the short term, the traditional approach can actually damage the relationship that a beauty pro has with a product company, since the cycle of “buy-learn-buy” never seems to end.
The notion of bespoke beauty doesn’t turn away from learning and discovering, it just takes the focus off learning and discovering new products and puts it back on learning and discovering something new about the client.
In the end, the only products, techniques and trends worth knowing are the ones that will serve each unique client in the best possible way. By shifting our focus just a little bit, we can start to fortify the relationships between stylist, education, product and client, all at the same time.