Hairbrained Up-Close: Jeremy Davies-Barbala

Jeremy Davies-Barbala believes that craft trades – hairdressing included – are of real value. ‘Craftsmanship,’ by definition, is obtaining a skillset through commitment. Most often, these are a set of principles and techniques handed down from a teacher or professional, and can lead to the creation of something individual – something unique – but based, of course, on the original methods. 

And Jeremy would know – because at the age of just 15 – he left the world of academia behind to pursue his chosen craft, hairdressing. Although it was by chance that he fell into hairdressing, he quickly realized that he had a natural aptitude for it. Read on to get up-close with Hairbrained, and learn about Jeremy’s decades-long career – plus discover how he’s taken all of the right steps to elevate his skillset, and become a master craftsmen.  

Q. Share a few words in regards to your background as a craft hairdresser.

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A. I wanted to learn from the best, so I trained at Sassoon and worked my way up to Senior Creative Director, first in London and then in LA. I then went on to hold the role of International Creative Director for product brand Joico. Now I have my own hair education brand as well as an academy, based in Norway. 
     
Q. Your work is strong – arguably some of the strongest in the world – but you lack a social media presence, which many say is paramount to success in today’s changing market. Share your thoughts on the evolving landscape of the industry, and how it’s affected the quality of the content being released.

A. Firstly, thank you for your kind words! Regarding my social media presence, I believe in quality over quantity. When posting something on social media, I like to stick mostly to hair related content. I also never have had the need for constant feedback or approval from others in my work. There is nothing wrong with that, but it seems like these factors are the driving forces behind many people's social media use – they get addicted to constant "likes" or obtaining new followers. I also don't feel that being slightly anonymous in the social media world has been a hindrance to myself personally, on the contrary it has allowed me to be more focused on my work outside the social media spectacle, which oftentimes estranges us as hairdressers from our work as craftsmen and women, to instead be caught up in camera angles, filters, etc.

As a creative person, I believe that it’s important to follow your instincts and not create only what you think others want to see, but staying true to what you believe. This really helps keep the vision clear and usually leads to a purer result. Feeling the need to post all the time can result in the overall quality being diluted; it's impossible to post pictures every day and still reflect your values and standards. I don't think any of us need to see another shoulder length bob, slightly curled with an iron, mirrored image on Instagram ever again. The hair industry is a changing place, much due to the impact of social media. It will be exciting to see which direction it is going.
      
Q. You released your latest collection, Wabi-Gami, at Federico Advanced in Sacramento, CA. This was a bold and unexpected move. What prompted you to make this decision? 

A. This was a ‘no-brainer.’ I was due to come out to Federico Advanced to deliver a 3-day Fundamental Principles course, and I made the decision very easily on the grounds that Adam Federico and Davies-Barbala Education share the same values and vision for the industry: To elevate the standard of craftsmanship within our trade. 

Federico Advanced is also quickly becoming an important institution for showcasing the talent of today's hairdressing industry, and we want to be part of supporting that! 
     
Q. You’ve created your own educational company, Davies-Barbala. Can you share your motivations for striking out on your own? 

A. I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and worked with some amazing people through those years. Working at a certain level in the industry demands a lot of your time and I have watched others through my career, and taken note of the commitment it takes and the sacrifices that are made. 

As soon as my wife [and partner, Astri Barbala] was pregnant with our daughter, that was our focus. We have created our brand around our life to ensure we have the best balance and never lose excitement for our work. 

My passion has always been in educating hairdressers; some of my favorite years at Sassoon was running staff training teaching cutting along side color legend Annie Humphries. There's just something so special in seeing people create and develop their own style of work, and that feeling is further elevated when I am fronting a curriculum I have developed personally.

Q. The independent movement is strong – some might say rampant. How do you plan to set Davies-Barbala apart from the rest of the companies striking out on their own?

A. Keep the ego out of it and be true to what we believe in.

Our focus is to give people the knowledge to develop their own style of work. We want to teach the language of cutting hair so people speak it fluently, and feel empowered to move forward and develop. Also, we believe in collaboration over competition, and have no intentions of ‘stepping on the toes’ of other independent brands. Rather, we want to make sure we are cheering on others who have also set out to do their own thing.

Q. What direction do you hope to take your company in the next five years? 

A. Growing in an organic way is important to us, as well as being consistent in all we do. Our combined backgrounds in hairdressing, as well as in fashion and cultural theory on an academic level, has informed a lot of our future plans. So, as well as continuing to create shoots and educate hairdressers, we are working on some writing projects and a series of seminars built on the culture of hair.

Q. Share your thoughts on the downfall of craft trades.

A. Craft trades such as carpentry, pottery and hairdressing (to name a few) have seen a downturn in credibility and skill-set, globally. I have spent a lot of time over the past years thinking of why, and my conclusion is that young people [are now] heavily encouraged to get a degree and take an academic route, rather than starting an apprenticeship tradecraft over this period. This in turn has seen the standards slip in all the trades through lack of investment and participation, and a drop off of seasoned and skilled professionals. 

All of the above is one of the reasons that we started ‘Davies-Barbala Education.’ One of our core values is to elevate the craftsmanship and value of being a hairdresser, to the level of respect it deserves. This is only achieved from the ground up! Trades and crafts (such as hairdressing) have so many levels of education and skill-sets to teach, including human touch. 

[I know because] I started hairdressing as an apprentice at 15, having left school, and don't regret anything. I owe everything to our craft.

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