Sophia Hilton is the art manager at Brooks and Brooks and a former winner of both HJ’s Newcomer of the Year and the L’Oreal Colour Trophy. She educates for L’Oreal Professionnel and works on hairdressing shows and shoots across the county. Here, we find out more about her career so far.
When did you decide you wanted to be a hairdresser?
I’m from a family of seven hairdressers, but surprisingly I didn’t want to be one to begin with. Instead I studied fashion and business. When I mentioned to my career adviser that I was thinking about leaving my course, she was disappointed as I’ve always been both creative and academic. Even my mum was a little disappointed at first.
After I became interested in hairdressing, I remember telling my mum how I wanted to create a hairstyle to look like a parrot. I remember her saying, “oh but darling, you don’t make money from stuff like that.” Well, guess what? I do! I do all kinds of weird stuff and I get paid for it now! Though I must admit, I haven’t done a parrot yet!
Where did you train?
For most of my training I went to collage two days a week, worked in a salon for one day, and converted a room in my house into a mini salon for the fourth. The fifth day was spent working on competitions. By the age of 21, I’d won 19 medals in traditional competitions all over the country. I was obsessed. I lived by myself from the age of 17, so for most of my training it wasn’t viable to be an assistant full time.
What was your first job like?
It was alright, nothing too exciting. To be honest, I went through six salons before I found the right place here at Brooks + Brooks, which was six years ago. I finally found a place I loved, a place that would challenge me. I got frustrated at how slow the training was in other salons, I always wanted to run before I could walk.
Why did you decide to enter for HJ’s Newcomer of the Year?
I actually entered the year before I won and made it to the finals. I had just taken a sabbatical off work to volunteer in Madagascar teaching hairdressing and Sally, my salon manger, said that she would understandably not be willing to put up the full budget if I was running off to save the world. So I had two choices; to take full budget for the shoot and stay or take a grand and go. I chose the small budget and don’t regret it for a second. I got to live my dreams in Madagascar and have a good practice run.
How did winning Newcomer of the Year help your career?
It has been huge to be honest. People are more aware of who you are, especially as I won the L’Oreal Colour Trophy in the same year. I’m very aware of those that didn’t give me time before winning though, and think everyone deserves the same respect, trophies or no trophies. I now spend a lot of time helping other people. I love education and I love mentoring. I have conversations with young hairdressers I’ve never met through Instagram, text and email, often helping them through the things I was struggling with five years ago. It’s quite time consuming but we all must remember we were in the same position once.
How important is it to work with a salon that are understanding of your work outside of day-to-day clients?
For me, it’s very important. But it takes time to earn respect and to get a salon to be more flexible in this way. You can’t expect to have that straight away. These days I spend my mornings in the office co-coordinating our creative department and the afternoons working on about five clients. At least once a week, I’m doing some sort of teaching, seminar or show and I still get to go abroad a few times a year. I worked hard to be in this position; I used to do everything in my day off. Sally is very fair when it comes to my creative work because it benefits the business.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
A big highlight at the moment is teaching a young boy called Adam. He’s only 11 years old and has been doing hairdressing of dolly heads at home for two years already. His mum came to me after a show feeling completely lost because she didn’t know what to do with him. So now he’s coming every summer holidays to train with me on my days off. He’s astounding and I’m very proud to be working with him.
What’s your next career goal?
Secretly, I’d like to do Noise. But I won’t rush it, I’m going to wait until I feel I have something fully formed and worthy of such an epic event.
What piece of advice would you give your student self?
Don’t rush your training like I did. You only have to relearn stuff again and its never the same. Do it right, learn it well and become a good stylist. Oh – and be nice to people.
Thank you again to Rachel Gibson from HJi for this post.