Hairdressing Careers – The Multi-Tasker Zoe Irwin
Zoe Irwin has curated her perfect career as a trends expert, brand ambassador, colourist and stylist by taking chances, not being afraid to approach the right people and forever learning
What was your route into hair?
I took a summer job in a salon before starting college. It wasn’t something I’d considered before, but I enjoyed it. I decided to do an apprenticeship and during that time I went to Salon International, which changed me. I was in the crowd and someone asked me to be a model for Trevor Sorbie.
I spent the day with Trevor’s team learning how to walk, they dressed me in Vivienne Westwood and cut my hair off. I saw a whole different side to hairdressing and I knew instantly that I wanted to move to London once I finished my apprenticeship.
I worked at a London salon called Stage Door. Charles Worthington had worked there as creative director and it was a hub of creativity. It was owned by a photographer, so I started shooting hair at a really young age. I was still really inexperienced and needed more training, so I went to the Wella Academy and did every course on offer.
I did my first show with Wella Professionals, which is funny because I’m now the brand’s UK consumer colour trends expert. I went to Paris to study French beauty and learn French. I started working for magazines and became part of an international art team which was incredible as I was doing shows to global audiences of 6,000 people.
I came back from France and someone recommended me to Guido who was looking for new assistants. I’d learned so many classic techniques during my time in France, but I had no idea how important they would be for my career.
Guido asked to meet me and I joined his team, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gone to France. I worked with Guido for 10 years and became a brand ambassador which involved travelling the world educating and putting on shows. My next role was at Headmasters as the creative director. I had an incredible time and launched many new initiatives. After that I went to Hari’s – a super high-end salon in Knightsbridge.
Can you tell us about your present roles?
I’m the creative colour director at Taylor Taylor at Liberty in London. I’m also one of the founder team members of Blow Ltd, an ambassador for ghd, an ambassador for the Manta brush, a trends forecaster and Wella’s UK Consumer Colour Trends Expert.
If you live life as your future self, you will then become that person.
I went back to school and studied at Central St Martins and also in Milan. I have a tutor from WGSN and I’ve been working on different brands as a freelance trends forecaster.
I travel the world shooting hair and I believe I have a responsibility as a trends ambassador to know what trends are developing all over the world.
What are the pros and cons of your roles?
The diversity of my role is wonderful. Everything I do is so different, and I love the longevity of things. When you have worked with brands for years and are involved in product development it genuinely excites me.
How did you get your brand ambassador roles?
ghd asked to meet me when Vogue called me the ‘blow-dry queen’. The brand was looking to add someone who had knowledge in styling and I had designed the big blow-dry menu at Headmasters.
Wella created the trends expert role in the UK and it was the perfect match. I’m also a colourist which people forget, and I wanted a colour role. I’d already started doing the Wella Master Colour Programme and I fell in love with the colour and the performance of the brand.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
Time is my biggest challenge. It feels like everything comes at once. If you look at each opportunity individually, they are incredible, but the hairdressing calendar is all packed into six months. I overcome this by being hugely organised.
I’m a colourist so I have huge amounts of colour; I’m a session stylist so I have huge amounts of kit – I have to be so many things to so many people. I have to switch from one task to another very quickly and efficiently.
I could not do any of this without my husband who works with me – he organises everything at home and is a huge support.
What are your tips for aspiring brand ambassadors?
I‘ve always studied and still do. I spend 10% of my annual earnings on my education and I’m about to go to Paris for a balayage course. You don’t have to take the obvious career path – go around the outside if you must to get to where you want to be.
You should have 100% belief. Start living the life you want to live – if you want to be an ambassador, start shooting that way and give quotes to magazines. If you live life as your future self, you will then become that person. Finally, I always approach people – don’t sit back and wait for them to approach you.
What’s next for you and your career?
I have set up a new business consultancy. I realised there is a gap in the market for a PR and creative director to come together. I’m basically working with salons on making over everything in their business from the design of the salon to the menus. I’m looking forward to developing my role with Wella and continuing to be an ambassador for ghd.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of Hairdressers Journal.