Tabatha Coffey, who’s been called the Gordon Ramsay of hair in the past, doesn’t beat around the bush when asked if her on-screen persona â€“ fierce, opinionated and always straight to the pointÂ â€“ is just a put-on for the small screen. “That’s just me,” says the celebrity hairdresser who was in Auckland this past weekend to judge The Fashion Hair Awards and give a talk on running a successful business as part ofÂ The Collective â€“ an extravaganza of education, fashion and all things hair. MiNDFOOD sat down with Coffey to find out how to get the most out of every hair appointment with your stylist.
What makes a great hairdresser?Â
Communication is really important. Obviously, skill is hugely important but before you even get to show your skill you need to understand what your client wants and really listen to them. You need to advise them in the right way if theyâ€™ve asked for something thatâ€™s just not possible â€“ you need to be able to honest about that. A lot of clients when theyâ€™re not happy, itâ€™s usually not the hair itâ€™s the communication. â€śThatâ€™s not what I asked for” or “Thatâ€™s not what I expectedâ€ť is usually because a hairdresser hasnâ€™t listened properly, and hasnâ€™t had that conversation that “this is great but itâ€™s not going to work for your hair type”.
What’s the worst thing you can say to a hairdresser?
“Just do whatever you want.” It’s a totally unreasonable expectation to have of us. And thatâ€™s where the communication comes in. Because when a client says that I know if I did whatever I wanted that day maybe I feel like doing pink with blue polka dots or shaving their hair off. I know a client wouldnâ€™t be happy with that. Sometimes when a client says just do whatever they want is because they canâ€™t articulate what they want because theyâ€™re overwhelmed. Part of what we need to do is solve the problem. Weâ€™re problem solvers. And when clients come in they have a problem. “I just canâ€™t manage my hair, I canâ€™t get it to look the way I look, I suck at styling at home.” You need to dig a little and work out what the problem is.
What’s the best way to communicate what you want with your hairdresser?
You need to be honest and open. Iâ€™m fine with pictures. And if youâ€™re not able to articulate, and you shouldnâ€™t be able to because youâ€™re a client, that I want my hair graduated with long layers with a soft baseline, if you canâ€™t do that then talk about something you know. I always ask my clients how do you want your hair to make you feel. We can all say “I want my hair to feel modern, sophisticated, sexy, windblown.” You can talk about a feeling. Itâ€™s same with colour â€“ if you canâ€™t articulate I want caramel highlights with balayage â€“ then talk about what you know, talk about the colours you know and then we can work that out together.
What do you do when a client asks for something that’s just not achievable?Â
I’m always honest. There’s usually something deeper to it â€“ if a client shows me a picture of a celebrity sometimes it’s not even the hair that they like, that’s just honest. It’s finding out what it is they like. And I believe in honesty with clients because I want to meet their expectations and exceed them. What is it that they want to evoke? “I want to look modern or cool or sophisticated.” And then you build that look in from there. And the biggest thing for me is that they are able to maintain it at home. It’s great that your hair looks great with me, but when you leave the salon you have to make it look great by yourself.
What’s the biggest mistake women make with their hair?
They try and do too much and they have unrealistic expectations. If you’re good to your hair, if you take care of your hair and use great products and nourish it then your hair will be really receptive to whatever you want. But when you want to do too much to it and you don’t take care of it and give it love and TLC it really starts to look ragged, your colour doesn’t last, your hair is less resilient, it doesn’t behave in the way you want it to. And it doesn’t look good. If you want to go really full-on with your colour then you need to make sure you’re trimming your ends, you’re keeping it healthy, you’re not frying it with appliances because too much is too much.
Do we talk about scalp health enough?
No,Â we don’t and people don’t realise that the scalp is an extension of their face. Your scalp is really important, brushing your hair, checking your scalp is really important. We don’t talk about it enough because it’s not sexy. There are products coming in which are changing this. I think people are realising with different scalp conditions, no one wanted to talk about oily scalps or dandruff, the conversation is changing but it needs to change even more and hairdressers need to take responsibility for this too.
What’s the biggest business lesson you have learnt?
Adaptability. It’s hard to change when you’re doing well. You don’t really think about where you need to make those changes to keep up with the times to expand and then all of a sudden everything’s beyond you and you become stagnant. As a business owner, you need to be flexible. I always say you need to be like bamboo because it bends and never breaks.