Today we caught up with David Kinigson, internationally renowned salon owner, fashion/celebrity stylist and expert educator to hear his tips for students on how to expand their knowledge and skill set. The thoughts and ideas he gave are exciting and will offer you some great action items to put into practice. Read on for our conversation:
Of the things you learned when going to school to get your license, what skill or piece of knowledge have you used the most?
It is important to take the time while you are in school to learn the most formative aspects of doing hair- curl formation, wave pattern, cutting and color theory. Develop good habits from the beginning. After graduating school and getting your license, continue to develop by placing yourself in a high quality apprenticeship program. With that said, the skills related to what I call “the human element” are often not given the emphasis they deserve in school and those skills have been important to my success. Understand the value of developing excellent communication skills, as well as, strong technical skills. With a strong foundation you will have the opportunity to branch out into developing editorial, education and platform skills.
Many new stylists develop great haircutting skills but fail to spend the same amount of time on their ability to listen to the client and gather the information they need to create something great, designed especially for her. The client conversation is so important and often overlooked. Effective communication and consultation skills- the ability to place yourself inside the world of your client, will allow you to create a color, cut, and style that will be a true expression of their personal style.
Take time to devote attention to the areas that are the most important to you, whether it be cutting, color, or texture. It doesn’t really matter what the area of expertise as long as you devote the time and attention to it.
Follow your desires on what you want to learn more about. Take the initiative to get DVDs or take classes on those topics. This may seem obvious but understanding that education must be an ongoing priority is the most important thing for your success and continued growth as an artist.
How important do you think it is for new stylists to identify a specialty? Did you consciously decide to focus on haircutting as a specialty?
Yes. I became a hairdresser in what I call the “silver era” of New York precision geometric haircutting. To be a “haircutter” in New York City at that time was an elite profession. It was the 70s- beauty parlors were still setting hair with rollers, round brushes or curling irons- there were not a lot of specialized haircutters. I was among the first crop of stylists that wanted to specialize in just cutting- what I’ve long since dubbed “the quest for the perfect haircut”. I’ve written books and papers on it and I teach it at our academy. I did not become a colorist and I don’t really do up-dos in the salon. I cut hair.
But it’s a different time now. If a young hairdresser wants to be a generalist I think it is important to develop the same level of expertise in one area as you have in the other. For instance, develop excellent haircutting skills then once they’ve reached a certain level, move on to an apprenticeship in color. It is great to have a focus, and if you put emphasis on each area you want to be proficient in you will be well rounded and excel even more. If you are going to both cut and color hair make sure you approach and pursue each of them with the same vigor and passion. Today’s hairdresser would be well served to become adept in all areas of the industry including business. Take this opportunity and use your time as a student to experiment and identify what really interests you.
You’ve been called a pioneer of dry haircutting. For those students not familiar with the dry haircutting method can you explain some of the theory behind it?
When you cut hair dry you can accomplish things beyond what wet precision cutting alone allows for. If you consider that each choice of technique and variation yields a slightly different effect and these effects become exponential under each unique variable. Variables include hair type, available length, cranial and facial features. There is value to understanding and utilizing the variations between different cutting modes and techniques to best accentuate these variables.
There is distinct value to wet cutting. For instance, in wet cutting you can more easily see the directional growth patterns of hair and the planes of the head. When you cut hair wet you can achieve certain effects that are intrinsic and more classic. It is the foundation of modern haircutting.
Dry cutting expands on that foundation. When you cut hair dry you can see movement much more easily and you can accomplish certain other blending and texturizing effects. More informed choices can be made when you plainly see the qualities that become available by approaching haircutting from a broader perspective.
Depending on where you go to school and where you apprentice, you are going to learn a certain cutting schools of thought. When a person learns a particular school of thought, they do, and can only do, what that school of thought or method allows for. For example, when I worked at Vidal Sassoon in NYC, we cut hair the Sassoon way- wet precision cutting. The method itself dictates that you must stay within the method you are being taught. If the method is wet precision cutting, you only cut hair in that mode. Likewise, if you are schooled as a dry cutter, you can’t and don’t cut hair wet.
My broadened approach to haircutting is a physical one, a relative approach. If you think about it, haircutting is really based on physics and not geometry alone. It is a theory of relativity that can transcend illusionary barriers and allow you to cut outside the box.
There is a Zen saying in martial arts, which translates to “the way of no way” or in simple terms “do what is appropriate under the given set of circumstances”. When appropriate, cutting hair in both wet and dry modes- one, or the other, or both- is a very freeing approach. When you can approach designing hair from a relative point of view- utilizing a broad array of skills and tools- it allows you to invent haircutting with each haircut you create. You develop an objective point of view, understanding that everything is relative to something else, and you put yourself inside your client’s world. This causes that person becoming your muse and inspires you to create the perfect look for them and exceed their expectations.
Through this process you can begin to see the value to different approaches and modes of endless haircutting choices that are available to us. Once you have completed your apprenticeship the world of possibilities will open up to you. As you grow and develop remember to transcend dogmatic schools of thought.
It’s all about self-expression, style a transformed salon experience. If you truly listen to your client you will hear things they say that give you a sense of who they are with regard to their beauty and personal style. Add to that specific client understanding the knowledge of all the techniques you’ve mastered, what is currently trending, and that begins to touch on what I call “the human element”. That is when you are truly utilizing your freedom to create art and make a difference in the lives of others.