When it comes to the royals there a few contacts every girl wishes she had in her diary, with Pippa Middleton’s personal trainer, Kate’s stylist and the man responsible for their flawless locks being top of the list. So we were royally honoured when Richard Ward (a.k.a. the Duchess’s hairdresser) agreed to talk to Hotcourses inbetween celebrity clients from his Sloane Square salon. With years of experience behind him and countless awards to prove it, Richard is an icon in the hairdressing profession.
With clients such as Elizabeth Hurley and Sir Michael Caine, there are not many a-list stars who Richard has not helped style for the red carpet. With thousands of hairdressing courses growing in popularity, we were keen to know more about his career progression and ask his advice for those hoping to follow in his footsteps. From cutting hair to doing the school run and watching Eastenders, Richard was more than happy to take a well earned break and answer all our questions.
Let’s be honest, it must be hard to look back over your career and imaging doing anything else, but was hairdressing always the plan?
I didn’t always have the ambition to be a hairdresser no. I was a public schoolboy who loved sport and art, but when my parents couldn’t afford for me to stay at school in the sixth form I had to leave. My mother was a hairdresser and had her own salons. I used to love coming up to London with her to go the swanky London salons; she adored keeping up with the high end! In the summer holidays, I went up to Daniel Galvin with her and while I waited for her at reception looking at all the amazing work going on and the fabulous people coming in and out, I decided I could channel my creativity into hair and that hairdressing was the coolest job on the planet! I love the fact that hairdressing is such a creative, artistic industry and that my job is to make people look good. What’s not to love?
What would you say is the most important lesson you have learnt over the course of your career?
To trust my gut instinct – it rarely fails me and I continually amaze myself that I even question it!
You have styled countless stars over the years, what has been your most memorable moment?
I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years and naturally there have been many highlights but ultimately, it would have to be the royal wedding of HRH Catherine and Prince William. The four months we took preparing for it and the actual day was unbelievable and definitely a once in a lifetime achievement.
We can imagine! Hair is such a precious thing, especially when you are marrying a Prince! But how do you ensure every one of your clients loves what you do to theirs?
I think hair has the power to make men and women feel wonderful or dreadful – it can turn an average looking person into someone who can turn heads, which is why a bad hair day is worse than a ‘fat day’ – their words not mine! At least that’s what my clients tell me!
When it comes to styling my clients hair, I always say what I think, but the customer has to be given what they want so it’s a fine balancing act and one which any stylist knows how to handle the more experienced they become.
If you had to pick one, what is your favourite ‘look’ to create on clients?
I think the bob has to be the ultimate haircut. There aren’t many other fashion trends that are pretty much permanently in fashion and in a few short years, it will celebrate its centenary; actress Louise Brooks first sported a bob in the twenties and it’s as relevant now as it was then – you don’t get more iconic than that.
What are the qualities you need to make it in the hair industry? What makes a successful hairdresser?
Being a great hairdresser is all about being a great listener and a brilliant communicator. Of course you have to be creative too, but some of the greatest hairdressers I’ve known haven’t been the best technically – what they’ve had is an ability to understand what women want and deliver it. You have to constantly evolve and develop artistically, but honing your consultation skills and ensuring you know what the client wants, even if they haven’t communicated well, is vital.
What’s it like being Richard Ward, can you describe a standard day in your life at work?
5.30am – I’m always an early riser – I don’t sleep particularly well and find silly things keep me awake at night. I always get up and go into the kitchen and make a pot of tea for Hellen (Richard’s wife, who is also the managing director of the Richard Ward brand) grab the newspaper and head back to bed for us to have a minute to read and relax before our children wake up and we start the school run.
8.30am – After dropping Elysia at the bus and Oliver at school on the motorbike, I head back to pick Hellen up. We use our journey into work as time to discuss business as after working together for 21 years now; we’ve come to an agreement not to discuss work at home, so even though it’s through our helmets this travel time allows us to get into work mode and talk through the day ahead.
8.50am I always like to have a walk through the salon before I start any appointments – I notice everything! So, the light bulb may need changing, a mirror cleaning, a tile wiping over, every tiny detail is scrutinised – Hellen wishes I had the same eye at home too!
9.00am – Our salon is like four salons in one so we have a great management team in place and we meet regularly to discuss the performance of the various departments, team, customers and the focus ahead. It’s important with the various projects we now have – the salon, product ranges, television and international travel – that the management team are all able to progress confidently with their own areas and then report back as needed. We’re big believers in giving the managers the empowerment and autonomy to take ownership of their own specialist fields.
10.00am-1.00pm – I’m the resident television hairdresser for Lorraine and also Alan Titchmarsh, so when I’m filming that tends to happen in the morning at the show’s studio. With Lorraine, it can be anything from a talking head on the coach to actually styling hair on the streets. With Alan Titchmarsh, I actually have my own ‘Turn back time’ capsule on the show, where I provided a live makeover with a studio volunteer alongside presenter Myleene Klass who then styles them.
1.00pm – Lunch is quick – I always have a salad that’s prepared by our in-house catering team. I tend to eat in the office where my PA Lauren, Salon Manager Gavin and General Manager Julie will share any news, diary dates or run any forthcoming opportunities by me. Our portfolio manager Sam will also grab me to talk over any new activities and new product developments she’s organising or to diarise and plan any QVC shows in both the US and UK.
1.30pm-6.00pm- I’m based in the salon five days a week but I actually cut hair probably only three days a week now. My daily salon diary can vary from cutting client’s hair, meeting journalists, filming a show or blog, attending meetings with our own product brands, catching up with our PR, hearing the latest product news from the L’Oreal professional team, or holding team appraisals. No one day is ever the same!
6.30pm – Home time is children and family time. It may, at times, also mean that I need to spend some time packing for an international trip to promote the Tangle Angel brush series with our distributors, or going on a UK trip for the L’Oreal Professional Business Voices seminars that Hellen and I host. Hellen cooks for us all or if we’ve had a particularly varied day where each of us needs to de-brief each other on what we’ve been up to, we’ll stop for dinner on the way home so we can both clear out our mental in-trays before we get back to face checking the homework!
9.00pm – After a catch up in the latest Eastenders, that’s us finished! If I’m awake for Grand Designs – another favourite, then I’ve done well. Time for bed and ready for the early start again in the morning!
That sounds more than hectic! We won’t take up much more of your precious time. What would your advice be for one our users starting out?
Be prepared to put the hours in, listen, learn, share and grab every opportunity given to you with passion.
Good answer. Finally, in a sentence can you tell us what you love most about your industry?
The diversity – one minute I’m looking at figures, the next I’m doing an appraisal, then I’m doing telly or a live shoot, or compiling trend predictions, then testing products or being involved in research and development, all in between seeing clients and working with my amazing team!
A very long sentence but we will let you off – thanks Richard!
If you fancy yourself as a hairdresser to the stars, as Richard said, putting the hours and learning are the way to make it, and a hairdressing or barbering course is a great way to start. With a number of part time evening and day courses on offer, getting into hairdressing is something you can fit around your current career. One day you too could be styling the royals!