As he sits in front of the camera, bright lights are angled at him, though he sips his tea, unfazed. He is at ease. I often wonder how people can be so cool, calm, and themselves when in front of the camera. Alan seems to do it effortlessly. Perhaps it’s a confidence thing, something that may come with experience or age.
I commented on his meticulously coordinated outfit, which is complemented not just by colour, but material, pattern and fit.
“I’ve always been fashion-forward, and extravagant in my dress”.
He is a hair stylist, Artistic Director at Toni and Guy, and a man who has unsuccessfully attempted to retire.
We begin by asking Alan to share a bit of background about his career. He explained that as a young black man in the 70s, hair salons weren’t normal place for someone like him. Women wore fur and diamonds and made eyes at him when he entered the room. So when, at just seventeen years old, Alan walked into Toni and Guy inquiring about an apprenticeship, he sounded surprised to tell me that Toni’s response was, “When would you like to start?”
“I think I wowed them. They didn’t see my colour, they saw this fashion(able) person and thought wow, he’s got to be here. He has got to be here. I think I wowed them, I know that for a fact.”
His passion for style has never faded, and he still makes the right impression on those who appreciate good style. “When I get dressed, as you can see I’m always coordinated. In the morning I look in the mirror and I look to see what other people are going to see, and if it makes me smile, that’s it.”
Alan worked his way up at the brand and choreographed all the major first shows for Toni and Guy. By 1996 Alan was the lead … of afro hair, and he still remains an International Artistic Director for the company. He has sported a long and prosperous career with Toni and Guy and has ticked off many bucket list moments along the way, such as working with some legendary worldwide names; From living with the actual Toni and Guy to working with Theirry Mugler and traveling to the islands with Princess Margaret.
When asked how a man like himself, with his big-name career, came about living in a small place like Jersey, he said it was to simply get out of the fast lane. “As far as living, I think this is my last port of call, I’m going to stay here.”
He explains that he feels very safe here, “people don’t stand for rubbish, you can’t discriminate against anybody here and I love that. There’s not many countries in the world that you can say that about, and here people make you feel safe, that’s what I like. I love the fact that I can walk out down the road, and every other person says good morning. That’s community for me, I like that.”
Alan tells me that walking through that door at Toni and Guy in 1976, was the right place at the right time. “I should’ve been there. It was great that they took me in, as a young black man, at the time- it had never been heard of.” It was with that opening of a door, that Alan would forge a space for himself and for other young black men to follow.
There’s a clear sense of pride and satisfaction in the way Alan talks about his work. The natural confidence he has would put anyone at ease “I don’t know anything other than making the client feel good and vice versa, they make me feel good, it works both ways”.
With his wealth of passion, experience and a strong desire to leave a legacy, we asked Alan what advice he’d give to younger people wanting to enter the high-end hair and make-up industry. “It’s very hard to get into, it really is, what you need to do is attach yourself to someone that’s in it and be prepared to not be paid, and to travel to places, and to be what they call a varderer. Varder means looks, to watch. Assist this person, follow this person, the more vardering you do the more people see you, the more you’re in a team, you can’t step into it by yourself”