Discover Leigh Keates, one of the most talked about young session stylists and quite rightly crowned ‘one to watch’ by Creative Heads.
We caught up with Leigh to discover more about his craft and how he came to work with celebrities such as Felicity Jones and Georgia May Jagger within the business of hair.
What is your first memory of appreciating / noticing really great hair?
It’s safe to say I wasn’t exactly a child protege when it came to hair, it’s not something I had always dreamed of becoming. In fact it was completely the opposite, as I never thought it would be cool to follow in my mum’s and sister’s footsteps.
I didn’t even consider it until I was 18, and I was a very slow learner. It took a good few years to begin to understand and appreciate hair, but I do remember the first time I picked up Guido’s book ‘Heads’. For me, so much clicked into place and my appreciation of simplicity was born; less is more, ugly is beautiful and much, much more was taken from that moment.
When did you decide that becoming a session stylist was going to be a full time profession?
For the first half of my career I didn’t even know the session industry existed, but once I finally discovered it, I knew that was the path for me. It wasn’t until 2012 that I left my full time salon job, taking a more flexible position at Josh Woods Atelier. In the beginning I was still in the salon 3 days a week but since joining Premier Hair and Make up 4 years ago, it’s now more like 3 days a month. Josh and my clients are very understanding and supportive.
How did you make the leap to handpicked stylist for celebrities such as Felicity Jones?
I’m not quite sure actually, I’m still trying to get my head round this myself. It was never expected or even deliberate. I treat every job the same and always give my all, so there’s nothing more gratifying than a client requesting or rebooking you. But I guess it can be a small world in that industry, and if you do a good job and are nice to work with, people will talk and pass your name around.
What is one thing you wish that you had been told before embarking on a professional career in hairdressing?
That everything will be ok. You go through phases of thinking you’re not good enough, or watching your peers progress faster than you and there’s even times when other people tell you you’re not cut out for it.
But we’re all on our own journeys and with faith and perseverance, everything works out at the exact perfect time. All of the moments that gave me doubts, tough days and missed ‘opportunities’ have led me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t have it any other way now.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to stylists just starting out in the hair business?
For me everything I know today is based on what I learnt from assisting. Find the best in the business, or someone who inspires you, and watch closely. For me it was Sam McKnight. Learn from those who have trodden the path before and you’ll find it hard to go wrong.
Where do you find inspiration to keep your hairdressing fresh and innovative?
Inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere, my peers, my icons and my assistants… from Instagram, art, illustrations, films and TV, exhibitions, food and of course nature.
It mostly comes down to being present and conscious, keeping a broad range of interests. It’s amazing how it can positively affect your subconscious and provoke that much needed inspiration.
Who influences you to be a fantastic hairdresser and why?
As I mentioned, my mum and sister are hairdressers so it definitely runs in the family, but I’ve never felt any pressure to be ‘fantastic’, just lots of support to do what I love, and if you follow what you love it’s pretty likely that at some point you’ll become good at it.
I’m very grateful for the support and influences of my family, peers and educators, and to the likes of Johnnie Sapong who introduced me to the session world and Sam McKnight who let me join his team which opened up a whole wealth of opportunity for me.
What can we expect to see from Leigh Keates in 2017?
I don’t like to have expectations, but every 6 months I present my agent Helen with a wish list of goals and people who I would love to work with.
Last year was a huge success working with such great actresses around the world but it meant I had less time to commit to my fashion work. So 2017 I would like balance the fashion and celebrity again and hopefully pick up some more Fashion Week shows for September.
Discover more from Leigh over on Insta: @leighkeateshair
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