Alexis and David Thurston are not only incredible colourists, salon owners and educators, but also the creative powerhouse behind Pulp Riot, the punkiest colour line in the hair world.
Insanely popular all over the USA and on Instagram, the time has come for the Thurstons to finally launch the brand in the UK. We had a chat with them all about the Pulp Riot journey, education, and why creative colour is so important for young stylists.
The second part of this three-part interview covers Pulp Riot education and their own trainees and apprentices. Read Part One here.
Concept Hair: Education is a massive part of the Pulp Riot brand – how do you carry this out?
David: Digitally! We have a website called Pulp Riot Television. Think of it as the Netflix for hair; we’ve got a bunch of different original content. Some designed to educate, some to inspire, and some is pure entertainment. What’s cool about the stylist community is that they don’t leave their jobs at the salon. When they go home, they follow hair stuff. It allows you to see education from the top hair stylists in the world. Each episode is ten minutes or less and it’s free.
Concept Hair: What are your plans for the future of Pulp Riot education?
Alexis: We have all sorts of different shows that we’re adding to the channel. Right now we’re focussing on semi-permanents, toners and bleaches. We’re also going to continually do more education on Faction8, our permanent colour line.
David: In the UK we’re doing a bunch of shows around the country, as well as big shows like Salon International and Colour World. We’ll be bringing over our US team to start the ball rolling, and then we’ll be developing a UK team of exceptional hair stylists. A lot of them don’t realise it right now, but their lives are about to change.
Concept Hair: How have you carried on learning and growing throughout your careers?
Alexis: Constantly trying new things and not being afraid to take risks. Fear is something that paralyses a lot of people. Fear of ‘I don’t know how to do creative colour’ or ‘how do I get started’. If you just get over that and take a chance, the reward is really fun. It’s so creative, and being able to collaborate with others is so rewarding.
David: I surround myself with people smarter than me. It’s crazy how, as you have success, the brand starts attracting such amazing people. I have my jaw wide open at what we’re able to accomplish together.
Concept Hair: Do you have any apprentices or students? What do you look for in an apprentice?
Alexis: At our salon we have quite a few assistants – that’s what we call them in the States. People go to beauty school, then afterwards you assist somebody to learn more. A lot of beauty schools don’t teach today’s modern techniques.
David: We help them build a clientele and provide them with the keys for survival – learning modern techniques. These days, you build your clientele through social media. A lot of schools don’t teach that, but they should. We make sure they get the exposure that they need to build a following. When we opened our salon eight years ago, we’d teach stylists that you take your business card into stores or malls, which is now archaic! It’s a complete waste of time compared to learning how to Instagram.
Alexis: It’s still useful though. For anyone who is looking to practice creative colour, go to the coffee shops, to those who are constantly around other people – they will advertise for you for free. They’ll naturally get compliments on their hair colour and they’ll tell everybody where to find you.
Concept Hair: When you were a young hairdresser, did you ever envisage that you would get to this place?
Alexis: No, absolutely not! That’s the beauty of the journey. Life is like a spiral staircase – choices come to you and you get over the fear and take that step. You don’t know where it’s going, but if you trust in it, it’s amazing what comes into your life. If I didn’t get over the fear of blocking out my schedule to do creative colour, then I wouldn’t have evolved into creating colours and this brand. You don’t know where it’s going to go, but getting over the fear is the biggest thing.
David: As you get older, each time you think you’re on the last step. When I created my first product line I thought ‘this is it, I’m creating a product line’, and then it’s opening up a hair salon – ‘okay we’re hair salon owners’ – and then it’s creating Pulp Riot. You just never know what’s next.
Alexis: If it weren’t for taking those risks, David and I wouldn’t be a couple, Butterfly Loft would never have happened, Pulp Riot may not even exist!
David: And we wouldn’t be sitting here today!
Concept Hair: Why should young hairdressers learn to use creative colour?
Alexis: It’s not going away. It’s not a trend, it’s a culture shift. Maybe they will create the next big thing.
David: I think it gives you variety. It’s like looking at a menu –after 20 years of going to restaurants and only ordering chicken, the idea that you could eat sushi will be alien, so you should learn it while you’re young. It’s also fun! You push yourself more when you’re being more artistic. It’s a good reason to live, I’d say.
Alexis: When you really get to understand semi-permanent colours it helps your colour knowledge across the board. When you move on to permanent colour, it gives you that basis. It’s the foundation of the colour wheel.
Concept Hair: What is your best tip for young hairdressers coming into the industry?
Alexis: Really learning social media. Open an Instagram account and start taking pictures, and make sure that people know how to find you.
David: Like in your bio, put your town or city. If someone sees a picture that they love, they need to know ‘is it even feasible for me to see this person?’. Learning modern techniques, learning how to use Instagram and social media, I think that really sets up a stylist for success.
Alexis: Also continually getting educated. You can go to classes, you can watch our digital education. It irks me when seasoned stylists say that they’re a master at this or that. Nobody is really a master; if you’re not continually learning then there’s something wrong. We are always, first and foremost, students. We may know more about something than somebody else, but you need to share that, and constantly be upping your game and getting educated.
Concept Hair: In the future, do you think stylists will be working differently to the way you do now?
David: I don’t think hair salons are going away. A lot of industries get destroyed completely, but you can’t actually colour or cut hair through a computer. I can see more hair stylists building a following and travelling, paying for it by doing hair because people know them across the world. It’s happened in the tattoo world, artists come to Los Angeles from England and book up. I think hair stylists will be able to do that more and more.
Alexis: It’s a skill that you can do no matter where you are in the world. It never goes away. We also saw when we went through a mini financial depression recently, hair was still a service that people paid for. It was a field that’s always going to be relevant because it’s a way to feel good, to feel better about yourself. It’s a win-win.
A version of this interview appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Concept Hair.