There's a lot more to hair styling than just colours and cuts. Millicent Howe of Schwarzkopf, Sydney, elaborates on what actually goes into the making of a great look.

Dressed in a smart LBD, teamed with accessories for those hints of red, Millicent Howe does not carry the air of somebody whose resume spans pages: runways, hair shows, magazine shoots, image consulting, colour concept execution…

Currently the Creative Director, Colour Technician and Stylist, Schwarzkopf Professional, Sydney, Millicent is working on conceptual hair designs, including new looks, colours, trends and techniques that play a key role in hair shows, fashion shows, commercial photo shoots and personal styling.

For someone who got into the hair dressing industry from fashion as a way to stick around the industry she loved, Millicent is extremely passionate about what she does. “I really like my industry so I don't find it challenging. If you have to stay on top of it you have to stay interested. Also, I really like talking to people, doing up women's hair and being with girls. And it's not just the hair, I love make up, clothing…all of it,” she says excitedly.

Trends

Millicent's experience in the fashion industry and her understanding of it comes to light when she tackles the question ‘Who/what defines trends?' “I actually think trends come from everywhere. Not all trends are derived from fashion shows. I think a lot of movement in the last five years has come from the economy. Especially in West, people are looking for new ways to shop because they find big brands and hair dressers are expensive. So, now it's become fashionable to shop at markets, to go green, to find and support up and coming designers. Also, because of the economy, people who want to be fashionable are getting more creative and being thriftier about it.” Everybody loves their brands, but people don't desire them as much as six years ago.”

Speaking of current trend in haircuts, short is in. Millicent feels that music has got a lot to do with it, as most upcoming pop stars sport short hair styles. Television too is a big influence. “When people saw Jennifer Aniston on ‘Friends', everyone wanted a Jennifer Aniston hair cut. Popular culture has got a lot to do with trends, especially with youngsters being extremely impressionable.”

Coming to the specifics, colours and cuts are looking back in time; late 1970s and early 1980s to be precise. People are veering away from the colour works. A few foils around the face and underneath are what they are going in for. Long hair, wavy hair, and straight bangs are back for good. “I find that some classic Hollywood looks are back as well, even with make-up; red on the lips, neutral on the eyes and glossy polished wavy hair.” In short, just go back in time for a fashionable inspiration this season.

No matter how experienced or professional one is, a little help from the client is always required for that perfect look. Millicent makes it a point to talk to and understand her clients so that she can give them the right style not just in terms of physical appearance and personality but also maintainability. “When meeting my client first, I make sure I understand what they do with their life, their profession and their daily grooming programme. Some just wash their hair, twist it in a bun and are ready to go while others have time for a more elaborate grooming routine.” Millicent categorises her clients as high, medium or really low maintenance or the wash-and-go girls.

It's all about giving the client some thing to suit their lifestyle. It wouldn't make sense to give a woman holding a corporate job wearing tailored suits a fancy hairstyle. In Millicent's experience they always go in for chic, structured silhouettes to go with the silhouettes of their suits.

Indian hair

The Indian hair type is as varied as its culture: thick, thin, wavy, frizzy, curly, in all possible combinations. But its variety is not what baffles Millicent. It's the use of henna. “It's really hard for hair to absorb the colour with henna on. So in workshops, we teach them to remove the colour and re-tone it. I also find that when people want lighter shades they go in for shades that are way too light for the Indian skin tone.” Guys need to groom themselves more, feels Millicent. Using styling products on their hair makes their hair look more polished and sharp. Also, she finds that for most men in India, hair is flat at the crown, which makes their head look flat. “Get a little bit more creative,” she urges.

Personality counts

Personality has everything to do with a look. “I am good with people so I can easily gauge if they are conservative or a bit more playful. I always try to ease people into trying new things.”

A new look need not mean a brand new haircut or colour, feels Millicent. Just drape the hair differently or put it up differently; even curl it or blow dry it differently... “That way I have something different to offer my client every time. That's why my clients keep coming to me because I am genuinely interested in what I am doing and also in their hairstyles. I just feel like I play dress up all day long,” she laughs.

Colours for Indian tones

Reds

Violets

Copper

Chestnut brown

Nutty brown

Warm golden tones

Blonde that's more like sandy, biscuit colour

Pastel colours are a big no-no.