5 Minutes with Eugene Souleiman – Here’s What We Learnt
Eugene Souleiman, Wella Professionals Global Creative Director, is one of the most in-demand session stylists in fashion and has been breaking boundaries in the hairdressing industry since he got his start in 1982.
Through training from his mentor Trevor Sorbie and learning the “Sassoon way”, he built a solid styling foundation and from this has styled some of the most creative and trend-setting catwalk hair looks fashion week has seen.
We got a chance to sit down with him in the midst of this year’s Wella Professionals International TrendVision Awards in London to talk to him about everything from what he looks for in an apprentice to how he creates trends. Here’s what we learnt…
People management is the hardest part of Session Styling
‘What a lot of people don’t realise is we have a very short time frame backstage. We work with a lot of egos and we have to nurture a lot of people. We also have to develop a skill set with a team and hold a team together. It’s like having a salon and taking it around the world and you’re all living in the same place. There’s a lot of other things that are really involved.’
The creative process of styling for fashion week changes from season to season
‘It depends really on what collection it is. With Thom Browne, I had a month and a half before his show. You know, we were talking, sending emails off. I was doing a sketch, he was sending a picture, a shoe. With the real creative designers, you have to have a dialogue; you can’t just go into a fitting blind. It doesn’t work unless you’re incredibly lucky. John [Galliano] is the same. He will write a little story about a woman he’s met or looked at and imagined what her life would be like. It just really varies and that’s a good thing. Inspiration can come from anywhere or anything. You shouldn’t limit yourself in how you’re inspired.’
Success starts with just being you
‘You’ve got to be true to yourself and you’ve got to be technically proficient, you’ve got to be really engaged, you’ve got to be really inquisitive and you’ve got to put a lot of hours in and really practice to get your skill set to a place which is really good. A lot of people think they can get there using Instagram and social media and you can get there like Andy Warhol said anyone can have their 15 minutes of fame, but it won’t last and you will always know as a hairdresser or an artist you never really got there because you were great at doing hair.’
Social Media is great but skill it was will sustain you
‘I do believe that the cream will rise to the top and that it will last a while. You know what I’ve realised is everyone wants to get to a certain place and what they are forgetting is the most enjoyable part of getting anywhere is the journey. The process is important and people need to realise, yes, there are shortcuts but they have time – if you’re constantly aware you have to keep evolving. Try out new things and you’ll always be on top of your game.’
Being a perfectionist means never being satisfied
‘I am never fully satisfied with what I have done. I am not and I never will be. I am not hard on myself but I know I can always do better and I’ll keep trying and the minute I stop trying maybe I won’t be as good. If you want to be good you’ve got to work at it no matter how natural you are or how much of an affinity you have with what you do.
The more you work, the better you get. I used to be up for days. I’d have 2-3 hours sleep a night, and then do hair pieces for shows. I look at it now and you see these kids that are like “I am so tired” and they’re like 19. When I was that age I was bouncing off the walls. I am 53 and I’ve got more energy than you! They’re like, “I need to eat.” Eat? What’s eating! Do another shampoo and get with the programme!’
Don’t go looking for a mentor – they’ll find you
‘When I started to work at Trevor [Sorbie] I would always look at Hairdressers Journal. I didn’t even think the images were shot by a camera, I just thought those pictures existed. I had no idea of any of that. I had no ego. I was a little boy from a council estate. It was when I worked in a barbershop after I got my City and Guilds in a hotel and the manager was like “what are you doing here?” She was just like, ”You stick out like a sore thumb, why are you here? Go to Trevors’.”
She showed me some pictures in the Journal and made me an appointment to get my hair cut with him. He couldn’t do it so the manager did it and I just had no idea. I told him I was thinking about becoming an apprentice. He was like ”well we are looking for people you should come for an interview.” I did an interview with Trevor he was like ”can you do this?” I said “of course I can.” He was like ”you’re a cheeky little monkey ain’t ya… I am very interested to see how you’re going to do on your presentation test.” And I got in. He was fantastic and I learnt so much. I mean learnt about hair but the one thing he did teach me is that you really have to work and put the hours in. It’s not going to happen overnight.
There are many routes to doing hair
There’s a lot of boring people out there that want boring hair. Some designers are uncomfortable with creative hair because it’s too much for them. Then there are designers like John and Thom that are about ”come on then let’s have a go.” I think its great that there are different mindsets. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. I think it’s all very personal. The approach is really important.
To find out more about Eugene’s work with Wella Professionals click here
Feature Image – All images via Instagram – @eugenesouleiman