It’s impossible to pigeon hole Kevin Luchmun: rather than defining himself as a barber or a hairdresser, or pinning himself down to one particular style, he’s simply ‘someone who loves to cut hair’. His career has seen him working with some of the biggest names in the industry, but now he’s set off on his own. Of course, with the Kevin Luchmun name already synonymous with excellent technical ability, he’s set himself up for success. Still, I wanted to find out what drove him to leave Toni & Guy:
“Yeah, so as you know I left back in February last year. It more or less got to the stage where you start to think about what is it that you want in life. I’d been with the company for 11 years: I was with them for six years in London, where I reached the level to become an international art director. So, I had my dreams and my ambitions within the company, I achieved them and then I just said to myself, do I want to stay and do exactly the same thing? Of course, they could push me in a different direction, but my personal own goals were achieved.
“Then it was just a case to really take that leap of faith and go for it. Because I always think to myself, I don’t want to live thinking ‘what if?’ I’d rather just do it and just see what happens. And we’re here now at Salon International to tell the tale.”
Taking that step into the unknown can often be the thing that propels a great career forwards, so it’s exciting to see where Kevin’s new path will take him. At the same time, making a dramatic step in your career is always going to feel unusual for a while. I ask Kevin how life has changed:
“A lot of people ask me: ‘how’s life now, what’s it like, is it good?’ and I just say the best way to describe it is it’s just different. Because now especially, I don’t work for such a massive big corporate company and I’m independent. I have to go out find those opportunities.
“And I think it’s like anything, having been with the company for such a long time you know I gained my experience, I made the mistakes, I learned from the mistakes and got the education. Not just how to educate cutting hair, doing shows, but also the education on how to become a better educator as well. So, it’s good, it’s just different. A lot more challenging, I’d say, and there’s still pressure – probably a bit more pressure – but the pressure comes down to me, which is good because it’s like everything I do now is for myself.”
Going it alone, then, has made Kevin the master of his own destiny – and as much as that can mean extra work, it also seems t be something that he greatly enjoys:
“If I don’t give 110% then that’s on me. If I mess up on something, it’s on me. I don’t have anyone to blame. And I don’t have anyone to just think: ‘oh, don’t worry about that. Someone else is going to worry about that.’ Everything I do now, from bookings, from liaising with clients, from show-work preparation… that all comes down to me.”
While Kevin has certainly built up a huge reputation in his own right, it’s still different from the name recognition that comes alongside working with a company like Toni & Guy. With that in mind, I wonder whether people treat him any differently these days:
“I think now it’s probably got its ups and downs. Being an independent name now, all I am representing is myself. Where I’ve liaised, met people along my journey and had the experience of doing shows, seminars and of course competitions, people still respect me in the industry. You know, I’m probably getting more opportunities, and more different opportunities. Like to judge different competitions and work with different brands. There’s a lot of freedom.”
This is the positive side of being independent – but Kevin also acknowledges that there can be downsides:
“Like I said, everything now comes down to me. I’m a one-man band, more or less. So, if I don’t want to wake up in the morning, have a lay in, then I have potentially missed that opportunity to go meet with people or reply to emails, whatever else like that. Everything comes down to me and I have to have to motivate myself.
“If I did need something that I’m sure I could reach out to someone, but I don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off. And my head’s always going crazy, like a hundred miles per hour and now I don’t have anyone to say hey, I’ve got this really cool idea. I tell myself, but I don’t have anyone to say: ‘yeah that’s a cool idea, or what about doing it this way?’”
When I caught up with Kevin last year, he’d just been named one of the Men’s Hairdresser of the Year finalists for the 2017 British Hairdressing Awards. This certainly wasn’t the first time that he’d been in that position, but I wondered whether achieving it now, as a lone wolf, gave it special meaning:
“It does actually mean a great deal, because it was the first year that I’ve entered being a solo individual artist working for myself. But I think you know what it means to me this year. It means a lot because it’s all my work: it’s Kevin Luchmun from Kevin Luchmun, it’s not Kevin Luchmun from another brand. I just cut my friends hair and I just want to take a beautiful image – and that’s what I’ve done. And to me it means a lot because this year especially because it’s like yeah, I’m still in the game.”
Based on Kevin’s hairdressing success, I had to ask him how he sees himself: is he a barber or a hairdresser? In reality, Kevin’s love for cutting hair goes beyond these industry divisions:
“I’m neither. I’m just someone that cuts hair. It’s not a case of are we barbers, are we hairdressers… we’re people that just cut hair, who want to make people look good. Hair is hair at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with clippers or scissors. They’re just the tools and the instruments that you use. So do I call myself a hairdresser or a barber? Neither. Do I call myself Kevin Luchmun? Yes I do.”
I also wanted to talk to Kevin about education. The drive for more, higher quality education seems to be one of the big things that’s pushing the hair industry at the moment. I asked Kevin to explain why he feels that education has become so important:
“People want to go to shows and seminars, like Salon International because they want to learn. And I think that’s the great thing about our industry is that it is such a creative industry. There’s so many creative minds out there, and so many people that really want to express their creativity within someone’s hair, you know.
“I think education is needed because there’s so much out there that you can learn, you know, why would you want to just carry on doing the same thing. And the thing is I’ve got the experience with barbers and I’ve got the experience of working for such a massive hairdressing company. For me, is about giving back because I remember when I couldn’t do it. I remember when I struggled. I remember when I struggled how to hold a pair of scissors and a comb. I want to give back to the people that actually genuinely do you want to learn. I will give them so much more than that someone who can’t be bothered. And that’s what I love to do, because it’s about inspiring the youth of our industry.”
Of course, simply being an excellent barber or hairdresser isn’t necessarily enough to cut it as an educator, and if you want to branch out into education then there will be more skills to master:
“I know the most talented hairdressers and barbers out there, and they can’t educate. I know the most amazing educators out there and they can’t cut hair. It’s a balance, knowing how to actually combine the two together. It’s not an easy thing. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of time and a lot of making mistakes.
“I feel experienced enough that anyone can ask me why I’m doing something and I will be able to tell them exactly why. There’s so many people that say what they’re doing when they educate. I don’t want to know what you’re doing. I want to understand what’s going on in your head, and that’s what makes me different.”
Very good advice for any barbers or other hair professionals who do want to make that jump from cutting hair to educating others. I also asked Kevin to share some broader inspiration for barbers who might want to follow in his footsteps on other ways:
“Really understand: what is it you want in life and what is it that you want in your career? Do you want to be on stage and doing these trade shows, in the limelight? If that’s what you want to do, cool. If you want to be better hairdresser and perfect your craft, cool – do that. If you want to make more money, do that. You need to understand what it is that you really want to achieve and then set yourself that goal. And then literally just go for it.
“If you don’t set yourself little goals how are you ever going to progress? That’s what I personally do. I said to myself I wanted to travel to over 10 countries this year when I left Toni & Guy, and I’ve done it. I wanted to become a finalist in the Men’s British Hairdressing Awards – I’ve done it.
“I always say in life, you’ve got take baby steps. If you’ve just started and you want to be on that massive stage, it’s not going to happen. You literally need to take those baby steps and then you’ll be able to get there. But if you have the vision that you want to be up on that big stage, then you’re going to be there. Along the way, stay humble and stay true to yourself. Keep doing what you love and just trying to just be a better person.”
Thanks once again to Kevin for sharing these thoughts with me. There’s some strong, practical advice in there that I think all of you barbers and hairdressers at home can really do a lot with, just remember to keep setting those little goals! And for today’s little goal, why not follow Larry the Barber Man on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook? You’ll be able to keep up with all of the latest inspiring videos… You know it makes sense!