Exclusive: Celebrity hairdresser interview!

Lee Stafford, celebrity hairdresser has done very well for himself, from cutting hair in his mum’s dining room in Essex as a teenager to owning his first salon when he was just 22 years old – to now being an internationally recognised brand (just walk down the hair care aisle of Boots, - we challenge you not to notice the vibrant pink branding of Lee’s brand of hair care products).

What you might not know, is that these days he’s made it his ambition to improve standards in the hairdressing industry, and he’s starting with colleges. 

We caught up with Lee at the Association of Colleges conference in Birmingham to learn more about what he’s on with… 

“I never went to college, and… I’ve never given a young person a job as a stylist who had been trained at college.

“I had seven salons and employed hundreds of staff, so something was wrong.  

“About five years ago I started researching the college training system and what I discovered was something I call the ‘omelette analogy’

It was like hundreds of colleges were teaching different recipes and different techniques to cook an ‘okay’ omelette, when what I really wanted was the same recipe, the same technique… the same standard so that the omelette wasn’t just ‘okay’ – it was Michelin star quality.

"So, I knew that I had to work within the national curriculum,  I created 22 ‘recipes’, and I broke each recipe down so that executed properly we would get that ‘Michelin star’ result, every time.

“It was a system of trial and error. But, we’re there and we’re currently working with nine further education (FE) colleges up and down the country.

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Lee shares his favourite magazine with us...

 

Lee is ambitious; he wants to be in 15 colleges by the end of next year, he added:

“Hairdressing is a very difficult craft, it’s not just the practical aspect of hairdressing – it’s the business, coaching and attitude.  Attitude is so important – you need to have a positive attitude  - Lee Stafford is all about great hair with a great attitude.

“We work intensively with staff in colleges – initially we spend three weeks with the staff, that’s 9 to 5 every day.  Then we commit to visiting the colleges 30 times a year – it’s all about dedication, passion and standards. 

“We reward the staff with their own qualifications, called ‘Big 10s’, when staff get to a certain point, and they have completed our training to the required standard, they are rewarded with a pair of engraved gold scissors.

“And, it’s my belief that if you can get the fabulous college staff enthused about what we’re doing, then that’s going to rub off onto the students.

“This model really does improve standards, and I think long term increases student numbers.”

Lee believes that hairdressing students have been let down for decades, he said;

“Young people spend one, two, three years of their lives being let down. Even to a point where either the student will have lost the love for the craft, or maybe drop out and not even have finished their training.

“One thing I know, is that a student with a Lee Stafford certificate will get a job interview, but it will be their attitude and talent that will get them the job.”

We asked Lee what advice he would give to a young person thinking about going into hairdressing, he said: 

“That’s simple, the most important thing is to get good training – you will be spending three years of your life training and you need to research long and hard before you decide where you get that training.”

And, our final question for Lee – what advice would you give to your 16 year old self? He said; 

“I still can’t believe where I am, so how could I think that I should have done anything different?  I still think that this is a dream, and one day I’ll wake up and it won’t be real.

“I think I would say, life and work is a journey – you’re never going to be Vidal Sassoon overnight – it’s a journey – enjoy it!”

Careers, CollegeWeb editor