Home » Q&A: Award-winning hairdresser Rebecca Brent on success, finding inspiration, and the challenges of the hairdressing industry right now
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Q&A: Award-winning hairdresser Rebecca Brent on success, finding inspiration, and the challenges of the hairdressing industry right now

Q&A: Award-winning hairdresser Rebecca Brent on success, finding inspiration, and the challenges of the hairdressing industry right now

Last week, L’Oréal Professionnel crowned the winner of this year’s Style and Colour Trophy, New Zealand’s Rebecca Brent of Wellington’s iconic Willis York salon.

This year’s edition was the first combined Australia and New Zealand hub. The theme, Metamorphosis, focused on the concept of disruptive hair and transformation. Hundreds of entries were narrowed down to a semi-finalist event early August in Melbourne, followed by a grand final in Sydney last week, where eight finalists competed live on stage.

The highly-regarded competition is as an unmatched historic platform for providing international exposure, which can be a transformative opportunity for salon owners.

 L’Oréal Professionnel Style & Colour Trophy 2023 winner Rebecca Brent

Ahead, we speak with the talented Rebecca Brent, to gain an insight into what preparation for Style & Colour Trophy looks like, her hairdressing journey, and what’s next for the award-winning creative.

ProCollective (PC): How did this year’s theme, ‘Metamorphosis’, inspire your finalist look? 

Rebecca: Whenever I think of the metaverse, I am drawn to Tokyo and Seoul or manga graphic comics – coming from NZ they seemed so foreign and futuristic. This inspired the shape of both the submission that got me into the finale and my winning style. The colour came from exploring the metaverse background. Having a story behind a creation helps to craft a complete look. I loved the theme this year for its forward-thinking vibe.

Rebecca’s semi-final winning look

PC: What did preparation for the Style & Colour Trophy grand final involve?

Rebecca: The contestants got just under two weeks to come up with a new concept! So, naturally, it’s all consuming. You are busy in your salon with your day-to-day, then in any spare time you’re practicing ideas. A lot also depends on your model being 100 percent on board with your concept, so when I found my incredible model, things really started to align. 

PC: What advice would you give to others looking to enter the awards in future years? 

Rebecca: In 2014, I won the NZ L’Oréal Style & Colour Trophy – it took me 13 years to achieve this goal! Through that journey, I realised that visualisation was key. After a competition hiatus, due to focusing on my team and their entries in previous years, I decided to give it another go this year. I actually went and got some training from another hairdresser because I had no idea how to achieve the look I wanted to do! My advice is Practice, practice, and more practice. Stay true to who you are don’t create an image you think the judges will like – make one you like and don’t give up. If you really want to win, you will. It might not happen the first try but it will happen! 

In 2014, Rebecca won the NZ L’Oréal Style & Colour Trophy

PC: Talk us through your career journey to date…

Rebecca: I bought Willis York in 2008, which was definitely a career highlight. It gave me the freedom and flexibility to work the way I wanted to and to mentor so many incredible stylists. I have been part of the L’Oréal Pro team since 2004, starting young working for free and working my way up to a L’Oréal Pro artist. This has provided me many opportunities locally and internationally. I was NZ Hairdresser of the Year in 2014, which was another key highlight. Now, to be the 2023 ANZ champion, I feel really proud – hopefully I’ll be representing us at the global final in Paris!

PC: What are three words that encapsulate Willis York?

Rebecca: Someone used the term “iconoclastic” to describe it, which is a pretty good description of this place. Willis York loves hair. 

PC: How would you describe the salon’s vibe and aesthetic?

Rebecca: It is a huge light-filled space on the third floor of a heritage building. The last time we renovated the space, I wanted it to feel a bit like a hair laboratory. A place to conjure and create. Over the years, I have filled it with art and plants. It’s pretty eclectic but in a comfortable way. You can be from any walk of life and feel welcome here.

PC: What is your most relied on hairstyling product and/or tool right now?

Rebecca: Obsessed with the L’Oréal steam pod and metal detox for keeping hair in optimal health in colour services. 

PC: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the hairdressing industry today? 

Rebecca: The pandemic changed our industry forever in both good and bad ways. There are a lot more home salons now, which has created staff shortages of senior hairdressers in salons. Also, the young generation who were unable to travel and do their big OE, are all leaving at once, adding to recruitment woes. This next generation coming through are not going to tolerate unfair working conditions and they want to be qualified as quickly as possible. Salon owners have to keep adapting and adjusting to retain superstar apprentices. Mental health is also a massive problem in our industry, so it’s great to see big companies like L’Oréal building platforms for people to reach out too. It’s been a time! 

PC: What can we expect to see next from Rebecca Brent?

Rebecca: Fingers crossed I make the global final in Paris later on in the year! I am feeling so inspired and motivated at the moment and that energy is infectious. I’m going to ride this wave as long as I can.