Delving into the archives to browse the collections and footage of Darren and Jackie Ambrose it’s obvious they are two of the most creative souls we’ve come across in hairdressing. Darren won Newcomer of the Year at the British Hairdressing Awards 1992 and over the following 20 years, has gone onto become a member of the BHA’s Hall of Fame and is recognised and highly regarded master of our craft both in the UK and international. Jackie is a collaborator, supporter, influencer and invaluable partner to Darren’s visionary mode of hairdressing. As husband and wife, Darren and Jackie have built the D&J Ambrose name to be more than a salon hub of great hairdressing and a place to display their many awards!
From opening their doors in West London in 1996, the D&J Ambrose name label now signifies a brand of hairdressing which is both polished and adventurous, a meld of fashion and art with hair. Over a coffee and a Zoom call recently, Tribu-te publisher Nicky Pope chatted with Darren, quizzing him on his view of creativity and how important it is to modern hairdressing.
Nicky: You recently appeared as a guest artist on a show broadcast internationally by the new Wella Company and called ‘We Create’. With tens of thousands of viewers, that was quite a strong statement about the concept of creativity at the moment. In the Oxford Dictionary, ‘creativity’ is described as ‘the use of skill and imagination to produce something new or to product art.’ What’s your view?
Darren: “That definition is true. But I believe we’re all unique as humans, and every baby born is like a blank mental canvas; we can all be creative as we’ve each got the ability to use both sides of the brain, it’s a question of sparks you to use the part of the brain that sparks creativity.
Each of us is blessed with the ability to define and fine-tune, to see certain things in a detail that others don’t. But yes everyone has creativity, whether you regard yourself as academic or artistic. Creativity can be developed by role-playing as a child, making things up, having to make-do and mend. These things can make your imagination come to life.”
How did you become so creative?
Darren: “For me, it was through studying art. The teachers were probably hippies and smoking joints! I just loved that they were true to themselves. I learned that in art you can let yourself go and that’s truly inspirational. I learned that what we like is subjective. What some people love, others don’t, and I learned that’s life. You can’t get hung up on it.”
How do you develop that creativity?
“The first time I put to pencil to paper was something that I naturally felt connected with. It was the same with textiles. As school children we had to do sewing and textiles and learn life skills – I found anything of that nature where we were creating shape felt comfortable. And I found it challenging to better myself. To get praise from a mentor.”
In hairdressing, how creative are we? Is it authentic creativity?
“In Britain, we’re known as one of the best countries in the world for hairdressing; I think that’s because we are creative. We have so much diversity in all walks of life. We’re experimental. Our designers are cutting edge. We have to be careful that we remain unique and true to ourselves, ever-evolving and challenging. If we get too hung up on the meaning of digital showcases, and social media, we will become carbon copies of what we’re seeing.”
How can we safeguard our creativity?
“Don’t lose momentum – remember it’s always key not to give 50% but to give 100%. Challenge yourself. Try and be somebody that creates something that’s unique in some way. Of course we see history referenced in fashion everywhere, recreated in a 21st Century stance. That’s okay – it’s right to be looking forward to the future and at what’s happening.”
What do you think we should focus on coming out of the Pandemic – social media and what we can share on line, or do we need to be live again?
“Yes. Digital is constantly changing and fast. It’s very quick. Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok… they change so fast. These days, photographs are too static so it’s all about videos; movement can hold attention. But it’s important to be live. Even my [teenage] daughter says scrolling online can consume your life. She understands the importance of achieving for yourself.”
Do you see people measuring creativity in different ways today compared with 20 years ago?
“I think there are some people out there that would take followers and likes as a measure of importance. But really when you think about it, it’s only a game-plan that has meaning within that social media realm. Yes, I think it’s great for business, but I don’t think too deeply about likes or reaction. There is still great importance of doing actual live events. You don’t even see things correctly if not live. Seeing film and photography is great but certain details, colours and tonalities are different on screen than to a naked eye.”
Is creativity necessary to hairdressing?
“I think creativity is hugely necessary in everyone’s life. Creativity is another way to relax, to stretch your imagination. Everyone has an inner essence of creativity that’s important; this is the reason art and architecture for example are part of our lives. And the way the world has become, it’s vital to have creativity. And it’s there in everything around us. Everything we see has a shape and has colour. It forms a creative, mathematically balanced world we live in. Nature is creative. Animals, birds weaving nests… it’s a work of art!”
Is it possible to label your creativity at D&J Ambrose?
“I think it good not to label. You just have to do something you feel very strongly about. We like to story-write – to build characters who are uniquely different, believable. Some people see us as avant-garde, but you get a stigma with that – as if you can’t do anything else. Across the journey of our career at D&J Ambrose, we’ve tapped into so many different fields like music, fashion, art… whatever you’re putting over in print or digital needs to have some form of connection to the viewer and be believable whether fantasy or not.”
Does creativity have to be costly? Financially and emotionally?
“In UK hairdressing, some people find that cost stops them from going forward. But I think the budget is your oyster! It’s up to you what you feel is necessary. On a shoot, you can spend under £250 to get a set of images. Why not use an iPhone 12… get friends or a good looking friend to help, and create a vision. You can spend from nought to thousands – whatever you want to pay. This is a personal preference, but I do advise you don’t get carried away and find your bill exceeds your budget!
“Emotionally, as creatives were are highly strung. We are our own worst critics. You question what you’ve done and emotionally that’s draining – it’s a roller coaster.”
Is that useful to have that level of self criticism?
“It’s useful to have a little bit of that ability to be critical because that’s advanced training and you can use it to learn to better yourself. I’m good at leaving things in the past however. There are things you might look at from when you were 18 19 and you think, Jesus, what the hell was that?! But that was then. Live for today and go forward, don’t get hung up on the past.”
Coming out of the Pandemic… going forward this year, do you think it’s important to go back to being creative?
“We’ve learned something in this Pandemic. The last Winter was the hardest mentally. Now, for businesses we reflect on what we’ve lost. But we’re getting back into the game now, getting clients back into self-respect… we’re lucky to be creative every day, transforming people every day. So I say, if you’ve got budget and are lucky enough to have the funds, then have no qualms in going forward in making yourself happy if you want to do a shoot, do it. We’re in a world where life is very short. You’ve got to do something that’s for yourself. People want to get back to being normal and free.”
Back to normal or different?
“Hmm! We’ve seen a change – the digital world has come to the fore-front.. but it’s not really a change because we already had it. Maybe the change will be more about how we are to each other? The community in our industry is so close, we need to stick together, be mindful and be respectful.”
Thanks for your time and reflection. Plenty there to mull on!
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