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Tracy Hayes colour on Julie Verhoeven
Colour Tracy Hayes, cut John Vialcourtesy of Tracy Hayes

Cult colourist Tracy Hayes predicts post-Brexit hair trends

The British colourist on the beauty of individuality and finding the balance between colour and cut

From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Spotlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook in their respective industries.

Tracy Hayes always knew she wanted to work in beauty. Growing up in Dunstable, a small town in Bedfordshire, however, there weren’t a lot of options available and it took a move to Dusseldorf where she started work as an assistant at the Vidal Sassoon Salon to begin her hairdressing journey.

Having always been interested in fashion and beauty, Hayes grew up taking inspiration from the growing punk scene that surfaced when she was a teenager, reading magazines such as The Face and i-D for references. “Punk had a huge influence on the mood of young people, Hayes says. “I remember wearing very heavy make-up back then which was down to this.” After assisting for two years in Germany, Hayes came back to London to become fully qualified as a colourist at Sassoon’s where she went on to be appointed Colour Creative Director.

These days, Hayes is at Fudge Professional where, in her role as Global Head of Technical Training, she does everything from educating at international hairdressing academies to colour testing for her Fudge Headpaint colour range and editorial shoots. She has also built up an eclectic personal client base including designer Matty Bovan and artist Julie Verhoeven who come to her for fantastical and outlandish colour creations. Think a seapunk creation for Matty, blending algae and indigo hues, and a bleached triangular perm for Julie.

We spoke to Tracy about her post-Brexit hair trend predictions, pushing the boundaries in her creative process and her advice for young artists hoping to forge a career as successful as her own.

Why are you a hair colourist? What made you want to become one?
Tracy Hayes: I knew I wanted to work in the beauty world, and my introduction into colour happened so naturally. I feel so lucky that I do something I’ve always loved, have never stopped learning and generally just have the best time in a very fun industry.

How did you actually get into it?
Tracy Hayes: The catalyst for it all was being brave enough to leave home. There were initially four of us planning to work the summer season overseas, but one by one people dropped out. When the time came, I was too nervous to go alone, which is why I ended up choosing Dusseldorf as my friend’s brother lived there, who said I could live with him. I’d saved six weeks’ spending money, which meant, if I wanted to stay, I’d need to find a job before the money ran out. I was determined not to fail, especially as my dad had a bet on that I wouldn’t last!

Tell us a bit about your creative process.
Tracy Hayes: I work best when part of a creative team. It creates an environment where everyone’s most creative ideas come forward, and from there you can formulate a plan. As a colourist, I’ve also learned to never discount the person in the hairdresser’s chair. The more heads of ideas you can throw into the mix, the more fun you ultimately have.

Is beauty something you try to capture in your work or something that you reject? What is your relationship to “beauty”?
Tracy Hayes: Beauty means something different to each one of us. I’ve come to appreciate this even more with the birth of social media, which promotes many ideas of beauty I don’t necessarily agree with; I find it slightly terrifying that a minority of the younger generation seem to be morphing into the same look. I think beauty is for the individual, and that people feel amazing whatever their appearance and whatever they are wearing. If I had to sum it up, I’d say beauty is about individuality and not about trends.

What are the projects that you’re most proud of?
Tracy Hayes: I work at Fudge Professional where I look after the Headpaint colour range, which we recently relaunched in its entirety. I’m immensely proud of it. We’re such a small team, and all the testing is done in house, which makes the launch an even greater achievement. Going back further, I’m proud of the progress I made at Sassoon, from working as an assistant in Germany to becoming Colour Creative Director of their London Schools and Academies. With this job, I was lucky enough to work on the many colour photographic collections and travel the world.

What should a hairstyle bring to a look or fashion image?
Tracy Hayes: There needs to be a balance between hair colour that is at once incredibly eye-catching and simultaneously completely synergistic with the cut, style and image as a whole.

You work with a lot of very creative people – Julie Verhoeven, Matty Bovan, etc. – creating wild and colourful looks on them. What attracts you to working with these people? What does the creative process look like when doing their hair?

Tracy Hayes: I was first introduced to Julie by my friend John Vial, with whom I have worked on and off for close to 25 years. It’s always fun to collaborate with such creative minds, and I’ve been lucky enough to be pushed outside my own creative boundaries whilst working with the sweetest people. I’ve been looking after Julie’s hair for around eight years now, and each time it’s a different story. The same goes for Matty. Often they’ll come in with references, but once we’ve thrown more ideas into the mix, the finished look is nothing like the original plan and could involve a completely different colour or shape of cut. Whatever the look, we always have so much fun, and spend the day laughing.

Is there a hairstyle that has gone out of fashion that you would love to bring back?
Tracy Hayes: All haircuts naturally come back into fashion, reflecting the mood of society. With Brexit, the current mood is ‘totally fed up’! I imagine we’ll be seeing lots of free-flowing hair. Think the ‘Summer of Love’, and the long, wavy hair of the 70s and ‘fros. The UK wants to be in a happy place and we’ll see this in the hairstyles people choose.

How do you think the industry has evolved since you first started out?
Tracy Hayes: Colourists used to be classed as secondary to the whole experience, with the colour department often hidden away or tucked into the basement. This has changed completely, with some salons specialising in colour alone. Colourists have a very faithful clientele and nowadays enjoy the same glory as stylists.  

How do you think our understanding of beauty has shifted with the evolution of technology?
Tracy Hayes: Instagram and social media mean everything is instant, which is great for sharing ideas. It’s also a tool people can use to pursue their own individuality by following a multitude of tribes who tap into your own sense of self.

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?
Tracy Hayes: Work with the best, prepare to work hard, often for long hours and very little money. Strive to become a team player.

What is the future of beauty?
Tracy Hayes: Away from social media, I think we’ll start to see beauty more as a celebration of the individual, expressing themselves in their own form.

Who would you like to shine a spotlight on next?
Tracy Hayes: My wonderful clients Julie Verhoeven and Matty Bovan. And all the designers I work with, such as Christopher Kane who, with his sister Tammy, produces astonishing collections that are always one of the most talked about each season.