Simon Ellis is the kind of guy who casually throws out a statement like “I worked with Vidal [Sassoon] in the 70s”, so illustrious has been his career, so when he gave us the opportunity to sit down with him at Hair Expo, we jumped at it. The UK hairdresser has spent the past 15 years with Schwarzkopf Professional, and with decades of editorial, business and education experience, he proved a particularly good litmus test for the current state of the industry. EL_2_16_MakingOf_00284

Simultaneously presenting the brand’s annual Essential Looks collection at expo and commenting on how the seasonal model of releasing campaigns has evolved, Simon Ellis is remarkably hyper-aware of where the industry lies. With this knowledge he navigates Schwarzkopf in inspiring salons whose clients now seek instant gratification for all their hair needs.

“Fashion’s not just dictated by the catwalks, it’s now also dictated by celebrities,” Simon shared. “When Taylor Swift has a haircut, and she has up to 100 million followers on Instagram, the minute she cuts her hair the world changes. We have to immediately be able to respond and tell people how to do it.”

This is an issue for traditional company campaign schedules, which, for Schwarzkopf, Simon explains, have always been based on seasons, the major fashion weeks and key product launches. In a genius development, Simon and Schwarzkopf are developing a new platform, titled The Trend Lab, which will utilise in-house infrastructure to recreate celebrity looks as they happen, and broadcast them digitally. The cost, workload and production elements that would go into this process are immense, and a launch date is set for next year. However, these instantaneous images don’t invalidate Essential Looks, or the brand’s other collections.

“If you think of the umbrella of Essential Looks, with that collection being our trend driver and driving us as a company, under that it then clusters, so you can have a collection in its classic form, say twice a year, in line with fashion week, but then the idea is you have Essential Looks carrying on through the year because it’s bringing essential trends to the table,” Simon explained, sharing that this is all available on the brand’s pivotal app. “On the app we have the Essential Looks collection, and then on the side of that we have all these other looks that you can achieve, different look books, other inspiring material that goes in underneath it in parallel, including the Trend Lab.”

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2016’s Essential Looks offering is titled ‘Made To Create‘ and is centred on futuristic trends, rule breaking and sports luxe, highlighting the variety clients now crave.

“At the end of the day hair is much more playful,” Simon said of this conceptual decision. “It’s multi-textured. Consumers are much more interested in having a different variety. You can wear your hair sleek and straight one day, put product in the next day and make it look grungy, or pile it up high, it’s about choice. You had this classic landscape of fashion, but fashion’s become global, it crosses continents now, it’s also very fast.”

Ultimately it’s an incomparable level of experience in the industry that allows Simon to see where it sits and where it’s going. After, as previously mentioned, just casually working alongside Sassoon himself in the 70s, Simon moved across from the salons to running Sassoon’s iconic education program. From there he joined Schwarzkopf with the aim of changing their perception from a more classic, traditional and as Simon put it “German in a sense of being slightly negative” brand, into something more innovative, or to use Simon’s favourite term ‘sticky’. “It was about making it reflective so you can say ‘I’m proud to have that product’,” he shared. With trends and collections that will soon have such a swift turnaround, we’d say he succeeded in increasing that indispensable ingenuity factor.

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We spoke a lot about ‘now’ and the generation built around that notion, but I wouldn’t let a man who’s extreme awareness of the industry doubles as a precognitive-type superpower go without talking about the future. When looking forward, only one word came to Simon’s mind.

“I see that the future of our industry is in education,” he shared. “Because there’s only 3 ways in which to earn money in our business; cater to more clients, and that requires you to learn to cut faster and smarter; raise your prices, which means becoming better, in your creativity or skills; and the last is sell more, which requires training. It’s all based around the ability to educate and become more skilled around what you do.”

Basically, Simon’s asking a generation that desires instant results to spend the time, have the patience and offer the necessary input to slowly, meticulously and continuously hone their craft.

However, as Simon can personally attest to, the results are paramount. Are you up to the challenge?

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