Hair to the Throne - Redken Platform Artist Richard Kavanagh

You know how sometimes you feel like you’ve been tossed a freebie? That’s how I feel about this post… like seriously this interview just fell from sky. I’d love to give you some hocus-pocus about how I stalked this Twitter for months praying for an interview but that didn’t happen… I didn’t work for it I was simply blessed with it by the interview gods…

There’s really no introduction fitting for Richard Kavanagh other than AH-MAZING,

I’ve been admiring stylists from Canada, Australia and New Zealand for quite some time so it was definitely an absolute honor for me to do this interview; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! How long have you been in the industry?

Richard Kavanagh: I started hairdressing in 1986 at the age of 15.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! When did you know you wanted to be a hair stylist?

Richard Kavanagh: At school, I actually thought I was going to be an industrial chemist or a biologist. Until one day, at the age of 14 I was having my hair cut and coloured (you see, I was into New Wave and Punk music and style, so I was getting a wedge cut, square top with a long fringe (bangs) over one eye, coloured orange, pink and green) and the stylist explained to me that she could determine exactly what colour result she was going to achieve by understanding what effect the chemicals (colour) had on the biological structure of the hair.

She knew that a certain part of the colour product would lighten the hair a certain amount causing the hairs pigment to react in a precise and predictable manner. That knowledge then helped her determine what other colours to mix and add to either augment the hair's new underlying colour or mask it. That way, she could be absolutely certain that she would get a specific result.

Well I was fascinated; I never knew that chemistry and biology could intersect in such a practical and creative way. Then she went on to explain to me that while the head was an imperfect shape, if you apply geometry to the head with sectioning patterns, and apply physics to the hair by understanding certain types of elevation have certain effects on the shape, you can create and recreate any sort of shape or style in most hair types.

At that moment it hit me like a thunderbolt. For the first time in my young life I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and with absolute certainty that I wanted to be a hairdresser. I went home and told my mum that I was going to be a hairdresser. What do you think she said? NO! Absolutely no way! You are going to university and that's final! Well, it’s a good thing I'm stubborn and rebellious, because for the next year and a half I persisted with the idea of becoming a hairdresser. I asked everybody I came into contact with if they'd train me and eventually my mum agreed to let me leave school to start a hairdressing apprenticeship.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Oh wow, that’s such a fascinating start, I think all those technical terms would have frightened most people away! Any chance we can see a picture of that haircut and color you got? (laughs)

Richard, other than a cosmetology school have you had any additional training or education that you believe has helped you to stand out amongst the sea of other hair stylist?

Richard Kavanagh: When I started hairdressing in New Zealand, the most common form of training was the apprenticeship. That was 8000 hours (four years) of in salon training supplemented by 2 weeks out of every 6 months spent at school studying theory. A theory and a practical exam at the end of each year determined if you were proficient enough to progress. I started doing extra curricular courses run by salon suppliers like L'Oreal during the second year of my apprenticeship. I continue to this day to attend seminars and workshops whenever I can. Attending at least three or four a year.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Eight thousand hours?! That’s equivalent to a college degree, I wonder if that’s why the industry is so much more respected over there. Richard, you just gave me my next research topic. Okay, I’ll try and stay on subject here -- you’re like a hair Rock Star! You do platform hair artistry is that correct? How long have you been doing that?

Richard Kavanagh: Yes, I started doing platform work in 1998 after I won some major awards. (New Zealand Hairdresser of the Year, New Zealand Hairdressing Association Creative Head of Merit) L’Oreal asked me if I wanted to present a hair show to a group of hairdressers and I jumped at the chance.

(He later went on to win the L'oreal Colour Trophy)

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! For our readers who don’t know what that is (a platform artist) can you explain to them what a platform artist is and tell us how you got started on the platform artistry circuit?

Richard Kavanagh: Platform artists present technical and trend seminars to hairdressers. Basically I get to present a bunch of my ideas and styles to an audience of my peers. Back in the mid to late 90s I entered every hairdressing award and competition I could physically manage and I was able to either win or place in every award in New Zealand Including L'Oreal Colour trophy, New Zealand hairdresser of the year, NZ Hairdressing Association regional and national cutting, styling and creative champion and more...

Because I was creating somewhat of a profile and the work that I was having published was very strong and pushed the boundaries, I was invited to share my techniques and ideas with an audience of hairdressers. My first show was to 150 hairdressers in my home town of Auckland and I was so nervous. I remember giggling to myself at one point when I realized that I was just playing and everyone was taking me really seriously! From there, I was lucky enough to be asked to present many more times and have had the honour of presenting to audiences of up to 2500 in places like Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines, Korea...

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! That is absolutely amazing… I personally just recently got into studying international hair artists, and New Zealanders are like on another level of glam when it comes to hair. How would you say the industry differs from the U.S. hair industry?

Richard Kavanagh: Well, on one level it is different and on another level it's really just the same. My experience is that hairdressers are the same the world over. We seem to be a unique breed and we always seem to be very similar to each other no matter what country you're from. The main differences would have to be in the way that we are trained. I understand that in some states you can get a cosmetology license in as little as six months? In New Zealand it takes years to become qualified. However, on the flip side, you don't need a license to operate in NZ so any Tom Dick or Harry can open a salon and start doing hair. The trends are slightly different. We tend to like a slightly more relaxed look to hair and tend to push the boundaries a little bit harder on the fashion edge. As a rule in the USA, I notice people are better at finishing hair as lots of clients like good blow out. We could learn a lot from you there!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Richard, would you say that you have a niche, or is there anything particular that your clients or industry peers would say you're known for?

Richard Kavanagh: I would say my main strength is a knack for making women look beautiful. I see beauty in women and seem to be able to very easily create a shape which enhances their best features. That and my ability to create strong shapes really really quickly. I sometimes do an entire haircut from start to finish in two minutes on stage. I can also create a dramatic up-do in seconds. What most people would say I do well is that I do it very easily. I make it {look} easy.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Your schedule has got to be insane, you still do “salon time” in addition to being a platform artist and widely sought after for editorial, and you do television!? That’s incredible Richard, how do you keep it all together, what’s a typical working day like for you?

Richard Kavanagh: There's no such thing as a typical work day for me. Monday I get up at 5am, shower and dress and drive 40 minutes to the airport where I catch a one hour flight to Wellington City, a driver picks me up and takes me 40 minutes to the TV studio where I do a weekly segment on a live television show called Good Morning New Zealand showing women how to create the latest looks from the runways of the world.

Then I fly back to Auckland each way on the plane I spend the spare time writing my new book or catching up on emails. Then I usually have a meeting at 3 in Auckland for planning one event or another, then its home to the office, and a few hours of email and writing, planning the marketing strategy for my Hot Tools range or writing runlists for different shows.

I have a small private clientele, so I usually do about three to five haircuts a week. Most weeks I will have an educational event to plan or present, a photo shoot and or a fashion show or two. Tomorrow (August 28th) I am doing a 7am guest spot on a radio show, and Next Monday, I have my TV spot in the morning, and then a 90 minute hair show in the evening… and as I said, I have a hot tools company and I’m writing a book. Did I mention I have three kids as well?

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Okay, I’m exhausted and in need of a serious vacation just hearing that! You have to let us know once the book is finished so that we can update the readers and let them know where they can find it.

What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the industry and hair stylists specifically?

Richard Kavanagh: I think the biggest misconception is that hairdressing is a job you do if you can’t find a decent job. Although, that perception is changing at the middle and top end of the industry, I still think there are a lot of people who think it's not really a great job. I think one of the challenges facing our industry is the high rate of illiteracy amongst hairdressers.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! It seems that every up and coming hair stylist wants to work with celebrities. What advice do you have for someone new who is trying to break into the industry and wanting to work with celebrities?

Richard Kavanagh: Be diligent. Get really good at the basics, and I mean really good. You need to be able to do any look with ease, and know what works and what doesn't. Quiet confidence is a great asset. Be discreet and don't talk too much. Do your job and do it well. They're not your friends, they are clients...

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Those are some great tips! I’m almost afraid to ask… So -- what’s next for you? Any projects in the works that you can share with the readers?

Richard Kavanagh: Well, as I said, I'm writing a book, I have an offer from a publisher and I've got a couple of TV show ideas for hairdressers up with the networks that are in development... I'm planning to spend more time in NYC in the next couple of years, and I hope to teach a class at the Redken Exchange.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Nice! We would be honored to have you here in the States. Once last thing before we go Richard, do you hire assistants, provide mentoring for young stylists or offer any workshops or training and how can stylists and stylist in training get in touch with you?

Richard Kavanagh: I teach a three day introduction to session styling workshop, I have assistants on some of the bigger commercial shoots, and I have some assistants that work on smaller jobs voluntarily to gain experience. People can reach me through my Facebook page Kavanagh: love your hair

Richard, thank you so much for such an insightful and inspirational interview, I personally can’t wait to talk to you again about your show and book.

For more information on Richard Kavanagh, you can fan him on Facebook, follow his Twitter or read his blog.

Ciao for now…Class is dismissed!

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1 comment:

HERCS said...

Awesome Richard! Kelz x