Whenever I receive an email from a bride-to-be asking me if I can recommend a hair stylist for her wedding day, I always have just one answer: the wonderful Ondine Cowley, who offers a full suite of wedding day hair styling services all stamped with her trademark artistic British flair.
She’s styled the hair of Kate Beckinsale, Courtney Love, Kevin Spacey, Jenson Button, Royals and BAFTA award winners, and I’m delighted to be interviewing her today as part of my Wedding Smashers series.
Ondine tells us about how she worked her way up at Nicky Clarke from apprentice to Style Director, lets us in on 2014’s essential bridal hair trends and shares some valuable snippets of business advice.
So Ondine, what’s the ‘Ondine Cowley’ story? How did you get into hair styling, and what’s happened between then and now?
I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do since the age of 11. I used to spend my weekends watching a particular hairdresser style hair near to where I lived and I was totally fascinated by the transformations.
I got a weekend job when I was 13 at Toni & Guy and one day my father said to me “Ondine, if you really want to take this seriously you need to train at the best salon”. He was right of course so once I’d completed my GCSE’s I applied for a position as an apprentice at Nicky Clarke and 14 years later I’m still there! I trained for 3 ½ years and have worked my way up to Style Director where I specialise in wedding hair.
I realised quite early on that i had a passion for ‘hair-ups’ and weddings. Nicky himself is incredible at sculpting hair as was a stylist called Jo who is no longer with us. I learnt my artistic skills from them both.
What is a ‘regular’ day for Ondine Cowley like?
I love starting my day with a healthy breakfast, then I walk to work and get stuck into hopefully booking after booking! I love the days that are inter-mixed with male and female clients and if there’s a wedding trial too, it’s pretty much a great day!
What’s your favourite bridal trend this season?
2014 spring/summer bridal hair has the words floaty and soft written all over. Don’t overdo your hairstyle and keep the accessories simple. Flowers work best!
Whose wedding hair would you love to style?
I would love to style someone like Scarlett Johannson, however she is already married. How about Cressida Bonas?
What do you prefer: head piece/hair accessory, veil or both?
When it comes to accessorising your hair, it all depends on your character. Some brides can get away with having everything especially younger ones, but the older we get, the more simplistic and elegant I feel a bride should look
Do you have any advice for women who are in a dilemma about what hair style to go for on their wedding day?
Absolutely! It is important to express who you are to your hair stylist so that they can capture just the right style to suit your personality
Can you give some examples of celebrity wedding hair styles that you’ve loved?
I adored Kate Moss’s wedding it was totally her – very natural and boho. I wish i had done it! I also loved Milly Mackintosh’s wedding – so very 2013!
What are you most proud of to date?
Well this interview has made me realise how long a journey it has been to get to where I am now. One forgets about all the years of hard work so I would say that I’m proud of achieving my passion as well as working at the BAFTA’s and styling many celebrities. Added to that, to have a bride ask you to style their hair for their wedding day is a huge honour.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! Stay focussed and don’t become a jack of all trades.
What valuable lessons have you learned over the course of your career and what advice would you pass on to aspiring wedding hair stylists?
I have learnt that ultimately, truly listening to your clients is the most important element. The best advice I could give to an aspiring wedding hair stylist would be “don’t do it for the money, do it for the passion”
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I would say my grandmother, Marguerite Wolff, who taught me a lot about life. She was a famous pianist who deservingly was awarded an OBE.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love making people feel confidant, sexy, and happy all day long!
…And the worst bit?
Early starts and standing on your feet all day can get very tiring.
I am not just a wedding hair stylist I’m also…
…a 29 year old living life to the full! I love theatre, socialising, music, walking, sunshine, friends, art and restaurants.
Finally, what’s next?
Who knows but I hope to be flown around the world working on fabulous weddings all year long. The icing on the cake would be to meet the love of my life one day too…