Hester Wernert-Rijn on Braids, Beauty & The Importance of Being Selective

While almost entirely unique in its creative basis, like any other long-standing industry there are a lot of traditional norms in beauty. One of the more noticeable of these is the proportion of male executives and platform artists to their female counterparts. What’s exciting, is that lately, it seems like maybe, just maybe that’s all beginning to change.

No, this is not yet another opinion piece on feminism or sexism in the industry, it’s an interview with an incredibly well-rounded, devastatingly creative woman who presented the A/W17 trend—Pastforward—at Wella’s International Trendvision Awards in Barcelona, Spain last November.  

This is where I first started to notice that from a change in the way that we approach trends, to changing the way that companies are run, there are a lot of interesting shifts on the horizon for the beauty industry.

Quote about beauty
While I can’t discount any of the artistic presentations during the event—the opening, in particular, was breathtaking—when Hester Wernert-Rijn’s first model walked down the runway I immediately turned to Wella’s VP of Communications and said, “How do I talk to whoever did THIS???”

Luckily, the good people of Wella are always willing to be helpful, because I can now officially state that my long-held theory seems to be holding true: to create beauty, you have to have it yourself. Mrs. Wernert-Rijn’s candor and exuberance shine through not only in her answers to my many, many questions but are reflected in her work, as well.

ITVA look from Hester Wernert-Rijn

A Global Creative Artist for Wella Professionals, further endorsed by Balmain Hair, owner of not only an 18 chair salon in Amsterdam but the founder of her own school…it’s hard to see how she manages to squeeze in her editorial and chef de cabine fashion week work. Short answer? She doesn’t. Well, not all of it anyways.

On Life, Love and Work

Tell us your story. Your life/career story.

Being a hairdresser is all I ever wanted as long I can remember. For many years I focused and worked on technical cutting skills. Working in the fashion industry provided insight of how to break down the technical skills into a more natural way of cutting. 

My preference goes to cut on dry hair, this way you will always see the natural flow and falling of the hair. After it’s been washed, this flow how your client naturally wears it is less than when they entered the salon.

Since my twenties I stopped working for someone, became a freelancer, started with traveling to see the world, to learn as much as I could and began to build my portfolio. My journey began in South Africa where I lived in the summertime six months for two years in a row. Here I learned how to work on a set and worked with a lot of different clients.

Back in the Netherlands, Dutch agents approached me to join their agency, but it wasn’t the right moment for me. I still wanted to work more overseas and learn as much as could; so I went.

Looking back, this was one of the best decisions I could have made; I met Eugene Souleiman. He is the most creative and crazy person I have met in my life; someone who loves hair as much as I do—so what’s not to love!

Thanks to Eugene, or even better, Eugenius, I am so lucky that I had the opportunity to learn so much during the 14 years of hard work, teaching, and traveling. He’s not only my mentor, but after all these years he’s also my friend, and we try to see each other whenever possible during shows or whenever we visit each other’s countries.

Between all traveling and learning, I started my salon with 18 chairs in Amsterdam; Mogeen. It doesn’t look like a salon but more like an atelier with antique items and butterflies on the walls and plants that are coming down from the ceiling.  

The salon has a warm, cozy and tasteful feeling when you enter. Next year on October 10th, I will celebrate its 10 year anniversary with my team of 14 amazing and very cool girls.

Next to the Mogeen Salon, I also started the Mogeen Hairschool where my educators and I train everyone that wants to learn how to get into the hairdressing industry. It’s really an inspirational platform; it’s all round by educating and combining a lot of different techniques, styling, color and set cutting.

I have been a Wella Global Creative Ambassador for a few years now. This means I am in the fortunate position to inspire hairdressers around the world and give them a peek-a-boo into the world of Wella & Hester by the global campaigns that I shoot for Wella and the international shows. 

Quote from Hester Wernert-Rijn on Braids
The hairdos that I create for Wella are very wearable and sometimes during shows I love to create strange, complicated and not wearable hair to inspire people. I really love the collaboration between Wella and me; they give me the chance to grow and together we can reach out to more people to inspire.

For me, Wella really feels like family. For international magazine shoots such as Vogue, Pop Magazine, Dazed & Confused, Numero and Harper’s Bazaar, I use the Wella EIMI styling products, and for the Balmain Hair wigs,  I use the colors of Wella. Being endorsed by Balmain Hair provides me the opportunity to create whatever I want; there are no boundaries, I absolutely love this.

All together, it’s quite busy and a full schedule, but I’m enjoying every bit of it!

Can you explain what your position as Chef de Cabine entails and what is involved in being in the position/role?

Chef de Cabine of “hair” means that you are responsible for the whole team and the show from the beginning till the end. It starts with a fitting meeting with the designer in combination with the make-up artist.

During this meeting we create different looks with hair and make-up, naturally based on the wishes of the designer and the collection, followed by a final decision of the designer regarding the look or looks for the show.

The day before the show, I do a fitting with my first assistant and the other assistants that will join the team the next show day. This way everyone knows exactly what to do. My first assistants (Magdalena Loza & Mandy Nijland), organize the other assistants by making groups to make sure we will be finished before the shows start.
ITVA braid model from Hester Wernert-Rijn
It’s a lot of responsibility, but I am so proud whenever the last model comes back from the catwalk and the designer goes up on stage to receive his or hers applause. It’s a precious moment every time that gives me goosebumps.

You’ve had this lifelong passion for braiding stated as an “obsession” in your bio – please explain and walk us through this obsession’s lifespan.

My mom always braided my hair in so many different ways when I was young. She’s not a hairdresser but wow, when I look back she made me and my sister always look cool. Two pony tails left and right, six different braids and of course different colors of bows in our hair.

Since our hair was so long, we trained ourselves to braid our hair before we went to sleep, so it didn’t wrap around our neck. Because of this, I guess my hands just love to make braids in as many ways as possible.

Braiding make hair graphic, it provides depth; colors pop out even more, and it is just very very beautiful. It’s really an obsession for me, whenever I can make braids, I will make them!

Let’s touch on your love for Japanese Manga because that’s not something we usually hear from other people when it comes to things the inspire and influence them.

When I was young, I watched a lot of Manga movies, even though I couldn’t understand what was said, these films were something special. The tears in the eyes, the glistering, the hair that always floats in the wind and the use of color for the characters; to me it’s just amazing.

ITVA short haired model form Hester Wernert-RIjn
Because of this love, I can make strange but feminine avant-garde hair with a lot of color that moves and softly floats.

Looking back, what single occurrence can you pinpoint as being the main turning point in your life?

When my little girl Tiger-Lily was born in 2013! Being a mom made me more selective workwise because you simply cannot do every shoot and show anymore, especially in combinations with the salon and the school. So, I just say yes to the best options that I also enjoy doing instead of saying yes to everything.

Strangely enough, from that moment onwards my career went faster than ever before because I was more selective and apparently chose the right jobs while still having quality time with my daughter and husband.

What is the first thing that you think of when you think of “Beauty”?

The first thing that comes up when I think of beauty is the moment I saw my little Tiger for the first time. I cried out of love and still she is the most beautiful ‘thing’ I have ever experienced in my live. This will probably never change.

What is your method of maintaining a work/life balance?

Having the best husband in life, Serge Rijn, who always supports me, keeps me grounded, shows me that there is more in life than work and reminds me to enjoy the small things. Because of him and his love, I stay balanced and focused.

I also love to box and swim! Boxing to stay calm and swimming to enjoy the silence. When I put my goggles on it’s just so quite underneath the water, so peaceful it really clears my head. With Tiger-Lily, I love doing crafts and painting, for me being with her really unwinds me from everything.

On Being a Female Lead

There are not many female platform artists in the industry, what has been your experience “coming up” as a woman in this environment?

My  experience is that it is great!!!! I guess it’s easier for men to do this job, I never understood why but now I’m a mother, I do understand. I just can’t leave home for a long time because I get homesick to my daughter and husband.

So if I may say, yes I’m proud to do what I do, working sky high in this industry in combination with having a family. It’s a challenge yes, but the support of my lovely husband, my amazing mother and parents-in-law provide me with the opportunity to do what I do.

Do you think that female artists have a different approach to creating looks or giving life to trends than male artists do?

In a way I am inclined to say yes but to be honest I think it’s mostly just a matter of different taste between artists. In general I think female artists are more softer in the way they finish the hair, less harsh. But then again I have seen also a lot of female artists that finish the same as men so I can’t be really sure.

Again, I think each artist has an unique creative process and different taste that brings them to an overall look. Maybe female artists see women differently than men and that this influences their creative process overall, but of course I can’t be sure about this at all.

On the trends showcased at ITVA

Can you walk us through the overall trend story?

A/W17 New Norm by Pastforward trends is all about sophisticated, emotional hair and hand-crafted aesthetics. The hair that was created for the ITVA is inspired by this trend and based on old techniques that we have forgotten about, I personalized this and made it my own in a new way.  

Quote from Hester Wernert-Rijn on Hair
You can say I wanted to reinvent the past to create the future. With this trend we used warm colors like rusty, orange, pastel pink, petrol with a bit of mixed mint and a hinge of yellow, beautiful lavender and bright purple. All together the colors and the shapes of the hair makes this collection uber-authentic, showing effortlessly craftsmanship of hair.

These looks seem very “global,” and a couple had a bit of a Tibetan or Mongolian vibe, was that intentional?

Different cultures inspire me, so l love to mix them in my collections. For example the mixing braiding techniques with different material into the hair, the combination reflects different cultures but are beautifully combined. There are so many techniques that we have forgotten about.

Hair is a never ending story; you can create new things again and again and again.

How much (if any) collaboration happens between the SS/17 creation and the AW/17 trend creation? Do you have a cohesive “trend message” or do you each create in your own way?

The S/S 17 trend differs from the A/W 17 trend, so we both have our own creative process regarding colors and styling from the start, but our trend message is the same. Wella combines Dimitri and me for these shows, both sending the trend message of Wella and showing together our beautiful work by translating so many hairstyles and combining these with so many different colors of the Wella color portfolio.

It’s amazing how we both manage to show everyone the endless  possibilities of hair. In the Autumn/Winter 2017 show you see the hairstyles and colors that are inspired by haute couture followed by hairstyles using the same color for salon wear.

Can you touch on the color/cut/styling techniques we’ve seen?

For the A/W 17 show I have chosen a variety hairstyles mixed with a lot of colors. On the first two girls of the show I used all the colors in the avant-garde hair and broke it down to wearable salon hair with the girls that follow, showing a bob and using golden combs to give the look more creativity and richness. 

The hairstyle with a petrol avant-garde sculpting braid that showed the graphicness and depth of the hair. The wet gelled bob in the same petrol colors, keeping the graphicness, but more wearable as a cut. The look with the short hair on top and longer in the nape including a fringe in the front, is the London cool street look using earth colors in the hair. The Rusty colors pop even out more by using curling irons.

A thick rich premium braid shows a lot of structure and warm colors like orange, pink, light red and coral combined with golden coins to go back to the chic hair in the old days when a lot of materials were used.

One of my favorite looks is the light sky blue icy hair, in the three hair models you can see the different lengths and the amazing embroidery in the form of flowers. Again mixing the old with the new.

Altogether a lot of techniques, cuttings and color inspiration for 2017!


Photos provided by Wella Professionals

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