Meet Kieron Fowles, Creative Director at Regis Salons
Those who work in hairdressing will tell you that making guests look and feel great is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s not difficult to see that we work in a fabulous industry which not only makes people feel good about themselves, but also makes a vital economic contribution to the economy, as well as providing flexible employment for a third of a million people. It’s no surprise then that the hairdressing industry attracts thousands of creative young people into apprenticeships each year, with clear pathways to progress from and aspire towards. One clear success story is none other than Regis’s very own Creative Director, Kieron Fowles.
Kieron joined Regis as Creative Director in 2015, headed by The Beautiful Group – the largest owner and operator of hair and beauty salons in the world. Having previously worked his way up in the industry over the past decade, Kieron built on his knowledge and expertise in all things hair. Younger than most occupants of creative directorships, who are usually in their 40-somethings by now, Kieron has welcomed the role and hasn’t stood still since! From creating new collections, leading a creative art team, working collaboratively with brands and flying all over the world to partake in fashion shoots such as Fashion Week – he’s a busy man! We finally got him in one place for long enough to answer a few questions from some of our followers and guests.
What is your role in the company?
I’m a Creative Director at Regis Salons and I’m responsible for the brand’s global creative vision, developing the company’s artistic teams, driving trends, creating new collections, representing the brand on the fashion stage and generally being the creative voice of the company in the UK and North America. Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve had to say that!
Tell us a little about yourself, where did you grow up?
I grew up in a place called Bourneville in the UK which is very quiet, a lot of countryside, very residential but not too far from the city. It was really peaceful actually, I’d go as far as saying it was a really tranquil place! Growing up we used to play outside in the sunshine – it was before anyone had to worry about anything like social media because you were out and you were playing with your friends. It was really, really beautiful actually, especially the woodlands. A lot of my inspiration has come from a young age, just playing in the outdoors, seeing all the different textures of natural materials like twigs and branches and stuff, I got a bit of a knack for building and creating things.
Who else in your family/networks worked in hairdressing while you were growing up?
There’s nobody else in my family or inner circle who’s in hairdressing actually – but I was always inspired by my mum and sisters, and nan – they always paid attention to their appearance and dressing up. They all had long hair too and I’d end up brushing it for them for hours – I didn’t know why at the time, but it felt quite therapeutic! Fashion and keeping up with the latest trends always played a massive part in my life because the women around me were really into it, and although there was never anybody in the creative industries on a professional level, they all had a real interest and passion for looking good and making the effort when it came to their appearance. I remember distinctly they always wanted to smell really nice too(!), so the latest perfume and makeup was always highly regarded in my household. They always wanted to take care of their appearance and how they looked, so I guess that just filtered down to me!
What were you like growing up?
I was quite mischievous growing up – I used to love to mess with things I shouldn’t like mixing my mum’s nail vanishes! I was always trying to explore and find out how things worked and how things could be changed for a better or different outcome.
What influenced you growing up?
For me I found the catwalks really intrigued me especially stylists who were pushing avant garde hair because at the time it was very fresh and very new and not a lot of places were talking about hair in this way.
Did you always want to be a hairdresser?
Haha, this a good one! So, I actually wanted to be a police officer, (I’m being serious!), then I explored a bit of leisure and tourism before I found my calling as a hairdresser. Although I loved hairdressing and being creative, at the time it wasn’t something that boys typically aspired to do – so I was torn between doing something I loved, and doing something that society, at that time anyway, would have expected me to do. But I am so glad I chose hairdressing! In fact, when I turned 21, I was contacted for an apprentice position which was extraordinary really because back then, the hairdressing industry didn’t really accept apprentices over the age of 18 – it was very uncommon. For a company to consider me made me feel really, really good. In fact, if they didn’t contact me that day, I reckon my life would have turned out very differently. For me that was the turning point.
How did you develop your skillset so quickly?
I think for me because I was starting hairdressing so late I had so much that I needed to catch up on. I managed to keep my vision and end goal very clear, so if there was something that I wasn’t quite clear on, I would make sure it was my duty to keep on at it until I had cracked it. A lot of it was in my own time too but I didn’t mind because I knew that the more I put in, the more I had to gain.
I had dedicated so much of my time and energy into training – when I qualified, I cried. It was such an emotional moment for me because I knew how far I had come and even with the odds against me I managed to pull it off, and I’m so glad I did. I’m not going to lie, there were times when I thought about giving up when the going got tough, and it took a lot of positive thinking and encouragement to see it through. I look back sometimes and think about what could have happened if I had dropped out.
What could have happened if you dropped out?
I don’t even want to think about it! I wouldn’t be where I am today, that’s for sure.
What do your friends and family think about your hairdressing career?
My mum, well she never fully understands it(!), but I know she’s proud. For me, especially when I was so indecisive about what I wanted to do and not being clear initially on which career path to follow, I think it unsettled her when she didn’t know what my future was going to hold. But now that she’s started seeing me achieving things and getting awards and stuff, or even when I was completing each assignment when I was still in training, every milestone in my career has made her feel proud and happy. Especially nowadays when she sees me working at Fashion Week with these style icons and fashion veterans, we all used to look up to when we were kids, I know my mum is proud. It’s a really humbling moment when I look back at what I had to do to get here and all of the support I couldn’t have done without along the way.
Even my friends who love finding out about what I’ve been up to and telling others about it, as much as I find it endearing, I’m also like ok guys, you can stop making a big deal out of it now! But I suppose it is pretty cool when you take a step back and look at everything. It’s so humbling and I feel honoured to be given the opportunity to work with such fabulous people. Sometimes you forget to appreciate these things when you’re so involved and in the moment.
Where do you look for inspiration in your day-to-day work?
It’s such a wide belt of things that could influence or inspire me when it comes to creativity. I could be driving somewhere and see something as simple as the shape of a tree, building architecture and just the environment generally that surrounds me – as silly as that sounds. Anything can be inspiring, but in particular, working on Fashion Week is amazing because I get to pick up new trends and help translate high end fashion into more wearable styles for our guests in Regis salons. There’s always ways to evolve a look and it’s my environment, what I’m surrounded by each day that is my ultimate inspiration.
Travelling also helps me feel inspired. There are so many different cultures to explore in the world and it’s something I find so fascinating. Whether I’m in Bali or India, Italy, Japan or anywhere else in the world for that matter, it’s truly captivating. I learnt that the Japanese in particular are very intricate, and for me it’s those little details, the signatures and the finishes that stand out. Other things to take inspiration from are the sub-cultures you can find in different religions or just generally how different communities identify themselves and each other using different colours, textures and patterns. Walking through Paris and spotting the iconic Parisian blow-dry in all its voluminous glory – you can’t beat that – it’s rich, it’s class – it’s va-va-voom! I find that any destination in the world is very relevant if you’re in the creative industry where, as long as you are respectful and pay homage to what your source of inspiration represents, cultural and worldly aesthetics can be a limitless resource for sure. Absorbing all these flavours and knowing what your client’s taste levels are at, so to speak, really helps to produce something bespoke that you’re both happy and proud of.
Tell us about your favourite designer or show
Well, I just did the Prada show so for me right now I’m really feeling that look…
Prada! Ok, let’s just take a minute to let that sink in first…
Haha! See now you’re doing it! Yeah, I guess Prada is a pretty big deal. Funnily enough before I worked on their fashion show I had never really pegged Prada as inspo for me, but it’s one of my faves now and I love their style. The recent show they did was mega. They bleached all of the models’ eyebrows and it was just black and white hair – it was super inspirational. There’s very few brands out there that can get models to dye their hair, or even their eyebrows any colour but with Prada, they’re so iconic that the models instinctively trust the creative vision – and so do I!
It’s probably no surprise then that I also like Miu Miu, because it’s a similar sort of aesthetic, just aimed at a younger market.
What would you say your overall style is?
My style is very dressed out, undone, sometimes very unrefined. For me it’s about appreciating the imperfections and creating a difference rather than trying to make something that’s refined. My work usually has something that is quite edgy, sometimes quite dark and I’m all about the texture and focusing on the finest of detailing, whether the hair is pulled or positioned in a certain way or how it’s finished – I think that’s probably a common synergy in most of my work really, from commercial right through to editorial. For me, my style is in the detailing.
What advice would you give to stylists starting out in the industry?
If you’re starting out, be strong and 100% committed. There are still some people out there who are negative towards those who want to take up a career in hairdressing, so my advice to you is to ignore those types of people. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses in life that they need to either home in on or overcome. One of the things I needed to deal with was dyslexia – so don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t make something of yourself in the hairdressing industry. I mean yeah, I struggled sometimes with writing emails and getting my thoughts down on paper, but I really think that that’s exactly what propelled me into doing hair and being creative. My language was hair and through believing in myself – as cliché as that sounds – it’s really helped me get better at emails and boss those meetings that I used to be nervous to attend and present in. So, what I’m saying is surround yourself with positive people who lift you and support you, because trust me, at times you’re going to need it. It takes a lot of hardwork, a lot of time and energy to make it as a good hairdresser so don’t be under any illusion that it’ll be plain sailing. But it’s also so rewarding and you learn so much about yourself and others – every day is a new day and you get to meet so many wonderful people from salon guests, other stylists and big influencers in the industry. You’ll definitely get what you put in – so regardless of your race, gender, religion or background – don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do it – you can, and you will!
The spectrum of hairdressing is so wide now too so there are so many things you can specialise in. Are you interested in bridal hair? Do you want to be a colour specialist? Do you want to specialise in session hair (so Fashion week and editorial shoots etc) – or do you fancy yourself as a salon manager? These are the questions you’ll be asking of yourself when you’re working as an apprentice and it’s ok to change your mind too! I know loads of stylists who have chopped and changed their specialisms and added to their expertise by focusing on a new specialism – as long as people want their hair doing, there will always be a new skill to learn and master. In fact, even to this day, I am still learning and evolving, it’s never a done deal if you’re truly passionate about hair.
Tell us a unique story or a funny anecdote related to your work
Ok, now I didn’t find this funny at the time but the team I was working with thought it was *hilarious*. It was the first time I was working for (the world renowned) Eugene Souleiman and the style for each model was a high ponytail. When we were watching the demo for the hair they double wrapped the elastic, but for some reason I didn’t see that part so when it came to the line up before the show I had only wrapped the hair around for my model once, and when they went to check the hair and touched mine, the bobble just went *poof*… The hair came completely apart and the pony fell out. They were literally about to walk out onto the runway. I could have just died. I remember Eugene asking ‘who did this one?’ and I literally had no place to hide. Everyone was saying ‘Ki that was you!’ and laughing, so I really, really didn’t feel good at that point! I know looking back that OK, so I didn’t see the double wrap – rookie mistake – but I tell you what, I’ve never had a pony tail fall out on me since! Lesson learnt here was that if you’re unsure about anything, you need to ask! Backstage really is so much fun and it’s like one big family, sometimes mistakes happen, which is what helps make us on the ball next time.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I find it so hard to switch off – which sounds soo boring I know but believe me even when I’m on holiday I’m looking for inspiration and new ways of doing things. If I really need to switch off to stop myself from burning out, I literally do nothing. No TV, no social media, no hair. I find music really helps me to unwind – it transports me to a different place and a place of calm, so when it’s time to get back to work I’m feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
How do you think the hairdressing industry has changed over recent years?
With social media advancements and the rise of reality tv celebrities and social influencers, guests nowadays know exactly what it is they’re after. Today’s guest is well-educated on the latest styles and trends and at Regis our stylists have to undertake continuous training to keep up to date with the latest trends, particularly in colour. We’ve got a growing number of MCEs (Master Colour Experts) which I think is testament to the increased level of complexities that is involved in creating some of these more specialised trends.
I think things are so accessible now whereas before people used to have to wait for trends to trickle down from the catwalk or wait for big award shows to see celebs on the telly, but now, because of the power of social media trends come and go quickly – just like the rise of ‘fast-fashion’ we’re also seeing ‘fast-hair’.
Also, from a stylist perspective, before you’d have to travel for inspiration whereas now everything is at your fingertips – if I wanted to find out about Japanese style and culture, I can just google it now. The hairdressing industry itself is so fast paced now, styles aren’t staying ‘on trend’ for as long as they used to or things evolve and come back round again a lot quicker too. I think because of this fast-moving environment, it’s given stylists the extra challenge of creating looks which we know our guests are going to still feel great about in the weeks after their appointment.
Whether they’ve opted to try out a new hairstyle at the start or towards the end of its trend cycle, as a stylist, we need to ensure that it’s wearable and can easily evolve into the guest’s next style of choice. From a commercial perspective, I try to create collections by identifying trends that I think have a sense of longevity to them. A lot of it means forecasting trends and repeat patterns. For instance, if a guest has opted for a long hairstyle with a heavy fringe, I look to see how that style can evolve over the next 6 to 8 months – the focus is and should always be on what the guest wants.
The hairdressing industry is constantly evolving for the better, I think. For starters there’s more male hairdressers now, just look at how trendy barbering has gotten over the past few years. The old-fashioned stigma of hairdressing is slowly dissolving and making way for more male stylists and more female stylists in senior positions. How guests perceive salons is also changing, I think.
You were probably part of the wave of men that started getting into hairdressing, don’t you think?
Yeah, I definitely think I was a part of that wave. I think it’s also opened opportunities for people by showing others how attractive and appealing life as a hairdresser can be. I think it’s honestly one of the best industries you can work in – and I’m not just saying that! I truly believe it because I’m happy and happy with what I do. I think the more we talk about hairdressing as a career, the more doors we’ll be opening for both females and males, especially males who possibly weren’t receptive to hairdressing before or female stylists who didn’t think they could progress further and make a name for themselves. I’m seeing a lot more women being regarded as iconic stylists and I think it’s long over-due, but they definitely deserve of all the recognition that’s being given. If sharing our experiences encourages the success of others, then how great is that, you know? I love the hairdressing industry because everyone just unites together regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender or race and everyone accepts each other because everyone’s commonality is hairdressing where you have the freedom to express yourself. This is one of the best hairdressing companies to work for in my humble my opinion. It’s testament to the growth of this industry and how far we’ve come as a hairdressing force to be reckoned with.