HAIR STYLIST Gary Taylor has just returned triumphant from the ‘Oscars’ of the hairdressing world.
With the title North Western Hairdresser of the Year firmly in his grasp, the 43-year-old has put the small town of Brighouse on the cutting edge of hair fashion.
Gary, who runs Edward & Co on Bradford Road, is understandably on a high. He described how it felt to take the industry’s top regional award: “Imagine being a local actor getting a part in a local TV show and then years down the line seeing that actor stood on the stage at the Oscars. That’s the nearest I can get to explaining how it was.”
In the audience at the awards ceremony in London’s Park Lane – attended by 1,700 guests from the worlds of hairdressing, fashion and the media – were all 12 members of his staff, including his wife Heather, also a stylist. It was the 28th year of the awards.
“They have given me such tremendous support,” said Gary. “They had to be there.”
It was a case of third time lucky for Gary, who belongs to the Brighouse hairdressing dynasty founded by his grandfather. On two previous occasions he reached the final nominations for the award but failed to scoop the top prize. This time he successfully beat off competition from salons in Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire.
“It was fantastic even to be recognised in the hairdressing awards. Just to be nominated is major. But to win it is amazing, it is the pinnacle of my career.”
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Gary has hairdressing in his genes and began working in a family salon at the age of 11. He founded his salon back in 1994 and set his sights on becoming regional Hairdresser of the Year five years ago.
“One of the things that made me go for this was to prove that local small town salons like us can offer the London experience but not at the extraordinary prices of London,” he explained.
A cut and blow dry by a senior stylist at Edward & Co is £31 while Gary himself charges £45 for new clients.
“There are some fantastic hairdressers in the provinces.”
To prepare a collection of styles for the competition Gary spent two years researching trends and techniques. “After being nominated twice I knew that I was on the right track but I needed to up my game,” he said
“The whole of our staffroom was posted with pictures of styles that I liked. I went to hair shows and exhibitions. My staff gave me their opinions.
“Last year I didn’t enter the competition but I went to the awards to see what I would be up against. It has meant a lot to me.”
Entering the awards is a costly and time-consuming process. Gary used professional hair models and a London-based photographer. He took his wife and other staff members along to the photoshoot.
But his investment paid off and he will now be asked to present hairdressing courses and high-profile shows around the country.
He is already a familiar face in the hairdressing world in his capacity as a trainer – his salon has its own training school – and Clynol academy representative. “I get asked to make guest stylist appearances at other people’s salons. Training is very important in this business. You are always learning. I’m still learning.”
But what is it that makes a successful hairdresser?
Gary is in no doubt: “You’ve got to be absolutely passionate about what you do. You need to want to get up every morning and go to work.
“I’m not interested in employing anyone who sees it as a nine to five job. I have a team behind me that have to be passionate as well.
“And anyone who says they have learned everything there is to know about hairdressing is not pushing themselves because it’s impossible to know everything.”
Now that he has the champion hairdresser trophy Gary says he’s going to focus on helping his stylists to achieve their goals.
“And I’m also going to concentrate on another side of my business that is not widely known about – wigs for chemotherapy and alopecia patients,” he said.
“I’ve been doing them for about 10 years but as it’s such a sensitive topic it’s not something that I talk about much.”