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Darren Ambrose on Juggling Session and Salon

by chloeweldon / last updated June 9, 2022

Darren Ambrose

Balancing a busy salon column with a regular stream of session work is a juggling act few can manage. But in a career spanning five decades, Darren Ambrose has achieved just that. So just how has he managed to maintain the momentum of a busy salon, without having to sacrifice his love of session work? We chatted to Darren to find out more…

After his work caught the eye of the late Terry Calvert, then-manager of the Clipso salon group, Darren was swiftly invited for work experience at his London salon. For the next four years, Darren devoted himself to training and perfecting his craft, absorbing everything the industry had to offer and finding his place within it.

Have you seen our big debate on in-salon training vs. apprenticeships?

Darren Ambrose session and salon

Promoted to company creative director for the Clipso group, Darren began to travel nationally and abroad, presenting work at shows including Salon International and the British Hairdressing Awards.

Have you put in your entries for this year’s British Hairdressing Awards? You can enter here.

In a ‘sink or swim moment’ in 1996, Darren and his wife Jackie moved into a caravan, investing every penny into opening their salon and Darren’s big break into session styling came shortly after through photographer friend Trevor Leighton.

You’re being hired for your creativity. On a shoot, you’ve got to tap into what the creative director wants, to fulfil the brief. In the salon, you’ve got a similar situation with a client. It’s about key communication and understanding.

Shoots with celebrities led to regular work within the music industry, and soon, Darren had built up enough well-connected contacts to be approached for regular work. But with a steady stream of clients at the salon, the juggle was real. “The salon business was thriving, but there were amazing prospects with session work. You need to be on hand all the time and it’s more of a juggling act when you’ve got a busy salon.” And both present risks. “Owning a salon requires considerable financial investment. In session, it’s more about your commitment as an individual,” Darren says. “You’ve got to be committed to both, to do well.”

Darren Ambrose session and salon work

Despite the worlds of salon and session often being compared as different entities, Darren stresses how similar they really are: “You’re being hired for your creativity. On a shoot, you’ve got to tap into what the creative director wants, to fulfil the brief. In the salon, you’ve got a similar situation with a client. It’s about key communication and understanding.”

From British Hairdresser of the Year, to a Smash Hit Award at Wembley for Best Female Haircut, Darren’s career has been varied to say the least. So, is variety the key to contentment? “It’s about finding a balance that works for you and it’s a great way of challenging yourself. What we’ve achieved as a brand feels amazing and we’re so lucky to work in an industry that offers such diversity.”

You can see the full article in the May issue of HJ.

Speaking of salon, we spoke to Marney Lian about the adventures of being a new salon owner.

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