How did your career in hairdressing begin?
I got a cleaning job in a hair salon in Barnsley as a student, and I quickly realised it was the right environment for me. I took the plunge and left college to start a young training scheme at the salon, but after a year, I was told I wasn’t good enough. That negativity only spurred me on, and I got a job at a well-known hairdressers in Leeds in the 1980s. I began training to specialise as a colourist, and as soon as I was qualified, I was offered a position in London, which was my big break. I thought the capital was crying out for an exciting new salon, so I opened my first salon there in 1999.
Do you remember your first customer?
Not really, it was so long ago. Funnily enough, my very first clients still come to get their hair done with me now in London, so I couldn’t have been that bad if they still come back 30 years later!
What led you to specialise in colour?
It’s a funny story – when I was training in Leeds, I was blowdrying a lady’s hair in the salon. One of the professional stylists I worked with turned to me and asked if I’d done my colour training yet, and when I asked why, he said “because you’re really bad at blowdrying!” In a roundabout way, it made me realise that colour was my forte – so I just played to my strengths, I guess.
You’ve won multiple awards, worked at some of the world’s most prestigious fashion shows and coloured the hair of some high-profile clients – but what achievement in your career has made you most proud?
Creatively, I love all of the backstage environments and the glossy photoshoots, but creating a community and a team is what I’m most proud of. I come from a council flat in Barnsley and have built a solid business that employs and supports around 100 people, which is amazing.
And the most challenging job you’ve been faced with during your career?
I had to colour 40 girls’ hair for Prada’s Spring/Summer show at Milan Fashion Week in 2014. The sheer volume of work was exhausting, and you’ve got to keep going which is always a challenge. It was pretty amazing to work with David Bowie – I coloured his hair red for his Earthlings album cover. I’m so fortunate that the richness of my career has given me a lot of really amazing opportunities, which are still happening today.
Now you’re CEO of Josh Wood Colour and create amazing products. Does your job still involve colouring clients day-to-day?
Yes, I’m in my salon in London at least two days a week. Hearing what client’s worries are, understanding what they want, giving them a confidence boost, I’m never ever going to let go of that. Plus I just love the craft, I love being hands-on.
You’ve been described as the best hair colourist in Britain and the King of Colour, how does that make you feel?
I don’t know whether it’s my Northern roots, but I don’t get too caught up in those labels. It’s incredible to have reached the top of my career, but I’m a firm believer that staying there is another challenge all together, so I just roll my sleeves up and get on with it.
What is your absolute must-have hair product?
My new Shade Shot Gloss is a conditioning treatment which colours the hair semi-permanently. We’ve sold out in Boots, and we’re getting incredible feedback online, so I’ve got every intention to expand that range. I believe in simple products that do what they say on the tin.
You’re originally from Barnsley, do you return home often? If so, where do you like to visit?
South Yorkshire has completely transformed since I was here in the late ’80s. I like to visit the Hepworth museum in Wakefield, and I often go out for a few drinks in Sheffield on a weekend. It really feels like a trip down memory lane.
What’s your favourite tipple?
I used to love a pint, but those days have gone. I like a large glass of Pinot Noir – or two!
What song gets you on the dancefloor?
It depends where you are, but when I’m up North, anything that’s got a good ’80s or ’90s beat to it. I love to let myself go and get the moves going!
What would you say is your signature style?
I don’t think it’s about a signature colour, it’s about unlocking the colour in the individual, and tapping into what’s really going to suit them. Colour should be fun – it’s not for life, you can always fix it, and that’s the artistry that I love about hair colour.
For the full interview, visit www.livingnorth.com