To put it bluntly: if you weren’t there, you missed out. Ssh! is quickly becoming one of the must-see events on the Australian hairdressing event calendar, and in 2016, attracted some of the industry’s edgiest and most avant-garde artists to paint their vision on what is effectively a blank canvas, writes Tam Allenby.

Held this year at the Seymour Centre in Chippendale, the third edition of this creative maelstrom took the enthralled audience on a multimedia, technicolour journey, and into the minds of some of the industry’s most visionary talents.

Mad World, by Richard Kavanagh

Starting with a heartfelt thank you to the sponsors who make events like Ssh! possible (stepping up for 2016 were Schwarzkopf Professional, De Lorenzo, ghd, Sebastian, evo, the Australian Hairdressing Council, é SALON, Togninis and Hair Aid), Emiliano Vitale and Benni Tognini prepared the 400-plus crowd for a boundary-pushing evening and promised that this year’s installment would be bigger and more innovative than ever.


And they certainly lived up to their promise. Kicking off the proceedings were UK cutting heroes Mazella&Palmer, who introduced their theme in a slickly produced video edit, their models dressed as antique dolls, clowns and geishas. Behind a silhouette, the pair then displayed their philosophy of classically polished yet current haircuts on two live models, with bold colouring and extreme fringes the order of the day.

Eros Creative Team

Richard Kavanagh implored the audience to “imagine a world where hairdressers don’t exist”, a “mad world” where a 1985-esque “Authority” develop haircuts in a lab. In this world, the people eventually became sick of cookie cutter styles; they wanted to be themselves and rejected the cuts, and the factory closed down. But a few of the scientists stayed on alone, where their ideas germinated.

Arguably the most ‘out-there’ feature of the night came from the Taiwanese Eros Creative team. Over pulsating beats, and in a truly experimental performance that pushed the boundaries far beyond hair, the three amigos unveiled and pieced together a collection of sci-fi inspired costume designs, that brought to mind Alien, Predator and Avatar.

Robert Lobetta
Robert Lobetta

Between sets, emcee Jules Tognini kept the energy high and the crowd entertained, introducing us to all of the featured artists with a down-to-earth, banter-heavy game of beer pong – with a distinctly Aussie twist. In the prerecorded segments (presumably filmed during rehearsals), the ‘lucky’ contestants found themselves consuming far more than the usual swig of beer; inside the cups lay such pleasures as full teaspoonfuls of Vegemite, a dry Weetbix, or a whole raw onion!

Richard Ashforth
Richard Ashforth

The legend Robert Lobetta and Team Lobetta reinvigorated the crowd after intermission, and reminded us all that beauty is not always found in perfection, but often as a product of “daring, wit and madness”. As you’d expect from the hair guru (and the trio of Alex, Jamie and Kobi that carried his name), their “house of asylum” set had models clad in high-fashion couture, a stark black-and-white aesthetic; cutting-edge cuts, colours and hairpieces.

House of Asylum, Team Lobetta

SACO, led by Richard Ashforth, presented a sleek and minimalist display, with spotlights illuminating the artists as they showed off their impeccable technique and creative vision on a number of live-models.

It all reached a crescendo with Peter Gray. From behind a masked silhouette emerged a petite model with a headpiece at least double her size, who had to be physically helped and guided onto the stage. At first glance the piece resembled a roll of yarn; individual strands were soon rolled out to audience members, and eventually the model was raised off the floor and suspended high above us by white dreadlocks. Assisting Peter Gray in the display were other top names, among them Sharon Blain, Julie Hagney, and Jayne Wilde. His message also went beyond the world of hair, urging the crowd to help stop human trafficking.

Presentation by Peter Gray

In a first for Ssh!, both the Sunday night show and the Monday masterclass were live-streamed around the globe on liveED, providing the opportunity for hairdressers everywhere to share in the creative wisdom that was on display.

In the words of Robert Lobetta, Ssh! really is “one of those special events that lets us think beyond anything we’ve ever done before”. Emiliano’s parting message was one of inspiration: “This started with a thought, and we want you to take one thing away. If you have an idea, see it through…”

We can only guess what Ssh! 2017 will have in store.

See more at the Ssh! Facebook page.