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As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City long before shows about makeovers, fashion, and celebrity styles appeared on television, I was taught to stretch my imagination by using all that I saw around me as a source of creative inspiration.  Walking down a city street could reveal the perfect shade of “putty grey” in a piece of gum stuck to the sidewalk or the next silhouette for a ball gown in the oddly shaped shadow against a building.   People-watching was  great for spotting reverse trends, and of course, the reading of magazines and industry trade publications was also encouraged as a way of keeping up with what was going down the runways as well as going on in the business.

Years later as a student of cosmetology, I learned that the same techniques I used to inspire myself as a student of fashion also applied to hair design.  Hair is after all, a huge part of the fashion landscape.

Ideas, talent and hard-work go hand- in hand- in hand with creating beautiful and interesting designs.  But transforming those designs, whether they are fashion related or hair & beauty related into profits, requires a working knowledge of what is currently happening in your market and a feeling of what is going to be happening next.  And, in my opinion, it has never been easier to follow fashion than it is today with all of the new outlets of information available.

Take television for example.  Shows like “What Not To Wear”, or “Fashion Police” are a great sources of fashion reporting.  These shows not only report- they critique as well.  But remember, you don’t have to agree with the critics.  As you’re listening to what the reporters have to say, form your own opinions as well.  Do you really like Anne Hathaway’s dress?  What about Angelina’s hair, or Nicole Kidman’s jewelry?  Think about why you did, and think about why you didn’t.  Then, try to articulate your positions either way.  Don’t just form an opinion, practice backing it up with substantial comments that add to your case for or against something.

My friends and I actually talk back to the hosts while watching these types of shows.  Or I may actually elaborate on a comment that has been made as though I am actually a part of their conversation.  Such as what Kelly Osbourne said about Christina Aguilara’s hair on a recent episode of   “Fashion Police”.

Kelly said that she really liked Christina’s new hair extensions because Christina didn’t usually have the best ones and that it was nice to see her with good hair for a change. To which I replied, “Ouch!  What a backhanded compliment.”  Aside from that however, I the stylist, thought, “when I do hair extensions on a client, my goal is to make the extensions look exactly like natural hair.”  Most of the clients in my practice don’t want anyone to know that they are wearing extensions.  If someone could tell they are extensions, then I believe that I have failed as a stylist, no matter how high quality the hair used may be.  This was information that I could take back to the salon.

Personally, I think Christina was wearing a wig, and I hate when people call wigs or “clip-ins” extensions.  Wigs are wigs, clip-ins are hair pieces, and wefts are weaves.  In my opinion, because of the intensity of the labor and the technical skill required, only strand- by- strand methods of hair application should be called extensions. (I don’t mean to take away from the skills required to perform the other methods of hair supplementation, because they are valid methods, just not the same as strand-by-strand.)   But that’s neither here nor there.  The point is that Christina was “ousted” on national television for having fake hair, yet almost every other celebrity on the red carpet also had hair extensions (good ones) yet no mention was made of that.

Note to self:  During consultations, make sure to point out all the celebrity extensions to my clients when the pictures appear in magazines.  The “natural” look of these hairstyles should close many deals for me. If I did my homework correctly… Ka-ching!   Ka-ching!

Most clients will ask for hairstyles that are currently “in” and will expect their stylists to know what they are.   By using available resources you can cite examples of those styles, thereby reassuring your client that you know what they want.  What will set you apart from your peers in the salon is to be able to tell clients about what they will want next.  And that will come from your knowledge of what is going on in your industry.  The confidence you exude as a trend spotter will raise your status in the eyes of the clients, to that of a fashion insider.  And everyone wants to know someone on “the inside”.