Louis Byrne is a celebrity coiffeur and session stylist with over 20 years’ experience working at the top of his industry. He was tour stylist for Ellie Goulding, the man behind ‘the quaff’ for TV presenter, Emma Willis, and is the go-to hair stylist for an impressive number of actresses, models and musicians. We pinned him down for a chat about life Louis-style...

 How long have you been a hairdresser?

21 years! I came into the industry straight from school. I’ve wanted to do hair for as long as I can remember, and used to practice on my Aunty Val. We started with blow-dries then progressed to colour and perm! It would be a thing we could do together, and we would both enjoy the results. That really taught me the power of hair and making someone feel and look good. It’s an incredible gift we can offer someone.

Where did you train?

First, in a village salon called Hair by McGuire with day release at Northampton College, and then at Hensmans in Northampton, where I completed my NVQ 3 and 4 and became an assessor and taught the junior staff. I was also appointed Art Director, and this gave me a taste for more creative work – definitely a new skillset I needed to learn.

From there, I moved to London, joined the prestigious Brooks & Brooks salon and started working in fashion. I was on [legendary session stylist] Sam McKnight’s team and learned the skills needed to be backstage and on set – they’re very different to those needed the salon.

 How did you get involved in working in the media? 

I’d been doing lots of fashion and beauty shoots but felt it would be the right move for me to work with an artist. It was something I hadn’t tried before, and I love connecting with people – for me, it’s the relationship and the look development that I get most excited about.

I started out working with Ellie Goulding and stayed with her for four years. I styled her for world tours, on the red carpet and all her TV performances and advertising deals and she became so well known for her hair that she became the international ambassador for Pantene.

 Which stars do you look after, and what does that involve? 

When you work with people who are regularly in the public eye, you make connections and that’s how I started working with [TV presenter] Emma Willis. We’ve been together for four years now and I’m an integral part of her team. I have an opinion and I need to feel I can express this.

But it really starts with the hair.

I like to help develop a look for my client – one that they feel empowered wearing. You have to take on board every job they are doing and how they would like to represent themselves, so suitability is key but you also have to keep the looks fresh and exciting, so it’s important you have your finger on the fashion and style pulse.

With someone as busy as Emma, you have to be super time-efficient and extremely reliable and you’ve got to be able to put your ideas forward and execute them flawlessly.

If you can get the balance of all of this right, then the magic happens, and your work is a joy. Your client radiates confidence they feel strong, secure and authentic and that’s when the press picks up on what you are doing.

 Do you need specialist skills or qualifications for this kind of work? 

There are things like continuity – making sure you can re-create the look if needed. You need to learn about lighting and how hair looks if it is lit from the front or back, and you need to know hair textures, products and what they do to the hair.

I picked up my skills from working hard in the salon and knowing how to cut hair, and then working in the fashion industry and learning how to dress hair and about product and application and really having the confidence to go for it.

 How does hairdressing for media compare to working in a hair salon? What are the major differences, in your experience? 

I love to cut hair and there was a time I wasn’t doing it as much, and I missed it. I’m lucky that my client partnerships tend to last for a long time and so I get to develop a look and go on a bit of a journey with my client’s hair.

You go through periods of working crazy hours and then sometimes not at all, and this can be hard to get used to.

You are with other people for long periods of time, so you have to be open as a person – the more present and switched on you are the more you will get out of your job.

 What’s the best bit about working in hairdressing for media? 

The best thing is my clients and the relationships we build. I’m often the last person they see before they go out on stage or present live TV. I take it as part of my responsibility to make sure they are in the best head space and feel as supported as possible. You can see when someone you are working with knows they look great – they shine. That’s an amazing feeling.

 And what about the downsides? 

I’m a very positive person and very lucky to be in the position I’m in with my career and clientele, but at the beginning I wanted everything and everyone and sometimes people just don’t click. You have to get used to that.

Life can get incredibly busy and you’ll miss out on special events and family occasions, so you have to manage that personally.

 Any TV set gossip you can share? 

Ha ha! Nice try!

 If I wanted to get involved in hairdressing for media, what advice would you give me? 

You’ve got to really know your craft to understand hair and what it’s capable of. Find yourself a team – a photographer and make-up artist – that want to shoot pictures with and get stuck in and play, so you know what you like and build confidence in your taste. Be willing to live and breathe it, and it will be one of the most rewarding jobs you have ever done.

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