Conversations on Colour: Sophia Hilton
Not Another Salon founder and Crazy Color ambassador Sophia Hilton explains why she doesn’t believe in colour trends, the moment she felt truly confident as a colourist and why she’s currently obsessed with front face panels.
What do you love most about being a colourist?
Let’s be honest, colour is the more exciting part of the industry at the moment. Technological advances in products, as well as technological advances in our smartphones, has meant colour has exploded. It’s made our job so much more exciting, as well as frightening, but always interesting.
Where do you go for your colour inspiration?
I’m not the kind of person who gets inspired to colour a brunette because I saw a leaf fall off a tree – it just doesn’t float my boat. I love trying to understand a client’s personality and lifestyle to choose the right colour for them, so I generally work backwards. I need to understand their budget, home commitments, the vibe they want to put out to the world and who they really are. I don’t care what colour is on trend or what colour a stylist likes – I believe being a good colourist is all about the client.
What are your favourite colouring techniques at the moment?
I’ve just worked on a feature with Crazy Color called ‘Face Frames Got Fat.’ It’s taken me 10 years to convince my clients to be comfortable with face frames and suddenly within a two-year period I’ve seen clients embrace them. The truth is they really are no longer face frames – they’re front panels. You need to look at the market right now – we’re crying out for clients’ money. Easy maintenance colour is not going to pay your rent. Face framing and fat front panels means more regular maintenance and it’s what’s going to keep us alive in this economy. It also happens to look really hot.
Are there any colouring trends or techniques you’d like to bring back?
The reality is trends don’t actually change that fast. Season after season we try to recreate something that is factually different, but for so long everything does remain the same. I can honestly say in the last 12 months the world of colour has really changed. It’s hard to think of anything I would bring back, when literally everything that has been is happening right now. I didn’t think I’d be excited to see a revival of thick panels, being a lover of beautiful blended colour, but I am. I’m excited for something new.
What are the biggest challenges facing professional colourists at the moment?
Money – 20% of clients are not returning to the salon due to finances or fear of safety. Another 10% to 20% of them have started to either grow out their natural colour or colour their hair at home. Another 10% don’t even feel they need to get their hair done anymore because they’re not going anywhere. The truth is there are still people out there who want to maintain their look and want to spend money and it is our job to find them. The biggest challenge you will face is not getting into a price war. Do not compete on price for your services. Work on your education and improve your level of technical ability and service. With 10% of the UK salons now closed and an estimated 20% by the end of the year, you need to think hard about how you will be the last one standing.
What’s been your most memorable colour consultation?
It wasn’t my consultation, but I was doing a second consultation for a member of my staff about 12 months into running Not Another Salon. It was a really complicated customer with bands, damage and several amounts of home dye. I breezed through the consultation as though it was something as simple as a root tint and directed my staff member on what to do. When I walked away it occurred to me that it was the moment I realised there was nothing that scared me. Before that point I’d always had that constant anxiety of not knowing. Finally, I’d got to the point where I was relaxed no matter what walked through the door. It took 12 years to get to that point and it was a great moment.
What do you enjoy most about being a colourist?
The education. You can just keep going and going. I recommend going on at least two courses a year to keep you fresh. If you are self-employed you are best splitting out the money at the end of each month. For example, having a separate bank account called ‘education’ and setting up a direct debit of 5% of your earnings. As a heads up, next year I’m running an online course to teach you everything you need to know about Crazy Color, so watch this space.