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Kevin Luchmun Interviews, Charlie Cullen Head Of Men’s Education At Toni & Guy

Not one but two fantastic barbering/hairdressing talents for you today: in this interview, the inimitable Kevin Luchmun stepped behind the camera to take on the role of interviewer. In the chair is Toni & Guy International Artistic Director Charlie Cullen, ready to give an insight into his career…

KL: How long have you been hairdressing for and where did the journey start?

CC: I’ve been a hairdresser for almost fifteen years, I started when I was 16. Initially you start your basic hairdressing career: learning women’s haircuts, blow-drying. For me though, it was when I started to learn men’s hairdressing that I realised this was the thing that I wanted to focus on.

KL: Where did the journey start with Toni & Guy and what is your role here?

CC: I started from the bottom like anyone, doing an apprenticeship in a small salon on the outskirts of London – it was a Toni & Guy. It was about a year into working there that I started to go to their academy one day a week to learn more skills. I started off as an assistant, then worked as a stylist in that salon gaining experience.

That was really until I felt that I wanted to work into London, somewhere that would test me and push my career to higher places. I started working in Toni & Guy in Sloane Square, and did some training to become an art director which takes a lot of time and a lot of evening work. Eventually, though, I became an educator: it had always been a dream of mine.

I really had a passion to specialise in men’s hairdressing, and to fly that flag – although I do now teach men’s and women’s hair.

KL: Now you head up the men’s course within the academy and globally, so can you tell us a little bit about these courses and what makes them different?

CC: I think it’s good for the industry that there are a lot of people out there who want to educate, but also that those same people are open to education themselves. It would be naïve to think that what we do is the only thing that’s out there.

I feel that what we do well is our three-day contemporary men’s cutting course – it’s not a barbering course, although we do deliver elements of barbering. It’s about bringing the student in with whatever level of experience and whatever they want to focus on. We’ll tailor the course to the individual and focus on all the principles of men’s hairdressing. When someone wants to learn something in particular, we try our best to deliver that for them.

KL: At the moment there is a fusion of barbering and men’s hairdressing happening. Could you tell us a little bit about the difference between the two, and where you’d say you specialise?

CC: I suppose it really comes down to where you start your career. My foundation is hairdressing: I think that gives me a good understanding of sectioning hair, the importance of it and the real technical aspect of hairdressing. I try to bring that into men’s hairdressing in a simple way: you don’t want to overcomplicate men’s hair.

What we see at the moment is a lot of barbers, especially from outside Europe, who are unbelievable at fading but want to learn classic graduation through fingers, scissor over comb, sectioning, hand position. They don’t necessarily have that in their initial training – not to say that this is the case for all barbers.

At the same time, a lot of British hairdressers want to learn how to skin fade or do tapering techniques. It works well for us to take the best elements from each one so that you deliver a haircut that has the feeling and technique of a barbering cut but also the hairdressing texture.

KL: Why do you enjoy educating? What is it about that side of things that makes you want to get up on stage?

CC: It’s not for everyone, and I don’t think that it’s a bad thing if you don’t decide to educate. Some people go into the management side of things or become a business owner. But I educate for the feeling of being able to take someone and show them a new skill. As hairdressers we work on appreciation, and when someone appreciates a wicked haircut that you’ve done, or you’ve taught a student and you can see their appreciation that’s great.

It’s also given me the chance to travel the world. British barbering is so big at the moment that it’s sort of dominating Europe and starting to travel the rest of the world. I never dreamt as a 16-year-old hairdresser in Uxbridge that I’d be going to do haircuts on stage in South Korea.

KL: Finally, while we’re here at Salon International and there’s a lot of inspiration happening across the show, do you have any top tips or advice to give to young people trying to move towards the stage?

CC: Take the opportunities. There are a lot of companies out there looking for educators, but you’ve also got to be true to yourself. Eventually, if you work hard, you’ll get noticed and you’ll get rewarded. So put that dedication in to be good at your job.

Salon International is a perfect place because you can see lots of platform artists and how they deliver things. That sets the bar. But you do you: I wouldn’t do something that wasn’t my taste or strength. As long as you’re true to yourself, you’re going to get noticed eventually.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to both Kevin Luchmun and Charlie Cullen for sitting down and recording this excellent interview – I’m sure that Charlie’s words will help to inspire many barbers reading this or watching the clip. Don’t forget to follow Larry the Barber Man on all of your favourite social media channels: regular interviews shared to Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to help you perfect your craft.

 

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Interview: With Kevin Luchmum, One of The UK’S Best Men’s Barbers/Hairdressers

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!

 

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