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 first part of this three-part interview introduces us to the Pulp Riot brand.
Concept Hair: Can you introduce yourselves and Pulp Riot as a brand?
David: We are the founders of the Pulp Riot colour line, created in Los Angeles. What makes Pulp Riot unique is that it’s created inside of a hair salon, rather than a lab. Having zero degrees of separation between those creating the product and those using the product makes the product better, but also makes us more authentic.
CH: How does the hair community in the UK compare to that in the USA?
Alexis: There’s really not a difference. Hair stylists and artists all over the world communicate through hair; everyone is very artistic and has a love for the craft.
CH: There’s a reason why you’re here – you’re launching Pulp Riot in the UK, tell us about that.
David: The UK is going to be the number two market for us after the United States. When you dive into our 800,000 Instagram followers, most of the UK hairdressing community is following us right now, so it seems natural that we would bring our brand to them. That’s the beauty of social media; you’re able to reach right through the phones and grab people by the hearts, no matter where they live. Now it’s just a matter of connecting our brand to them, so this is just the beginning. It’s an exciting time.
Alexis: We’re already connected to some of the artists in the UK, so now it’s just like a ‘finally!’ – finally we’re fully here.
CH: What has been the biggest learning curve with launching Pulp Riot?
Alexis: The biggest thing is to continually stay authentic. David runs our Instagram, so we’re very connected to the community. We connect with our artists through a Pulp Riot Hair Artists Facebook group that any stylist can join. Sometimes David or I will jump on there and we’ll say, ‘Hey, you get us for the next hour, ask any questions you want’. What other brand can do that? The founders of the companies speaking directly to the artists – it’s just unheard of.
CH: The whole of the Pulp Riot line is vegan and eco-friendly – why is that so important to you?
Alexis: It’s just important by today’s standards, period. It’s not something that we advertise all the time, it’s just a part of today and part of us. We’re vegan and cruelty-free and everything is recyclable. It’s just us doing what we need to do as humans.
CH: Tell us about your salon, Butterfly Loft…
David: Butterfly Loft is massive. There are 70 styling stations all filled with wonderful stylists. It started off with just 25 and we just keep growing and growing, we’ve expanded four times. It overlooks one of the busiest streets in LA and it’s got 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s where we got married! It’s a cool place, it’s got a great buzz and energy. There’s a main salon, and then there are salon suites attached to it. These allow a stylist to basically own and run their own salon whilst also being part of our brand.
CH: Why is it so important to you to encourage the styles and branding of individual stylists?
David: It is very important that hairstylists have their own identity beyond the salon. I think some salons stifle their artists; maybe they’re fearful of them outgrowing their space, maybe it’s competitive. But a salon should be promoting their hairstylists, tagging them, giving them the exposure to shine. Too many don’t.
Alexis: It’s a win-win. The stylist is able to showcase that the salon does great work, which brings people into the salon whether they see that stylist or a different one.
David: We love the salon family concept and it’s often done really well. But within that you have individuals that need to shine on their own.
CH: Alexis – you changed your career from being behind the chair doing blondes and touch-ups to being a creative colour queen – how did you do it and why?
Alexis: I was a very established stylist with a huge clientele and a lot of assistants who I mentored over the years. But if you want to do something different, you have to change what you’re doing. I wanted to do more of the creative clients, so I set aside one full day of my schedule to do people’s hair for free. If I’m only putting out blonde and brunette on my Instagram, that’s what I’m going to attract, so I had to change that. Even though I was an established stylist, I did hair for free. I still do hair for free now! It’s a perfect way to try something new and be creative. It’s freeing because it’s more collaborative between you and the client; you don’t have the pressure of ‘this better turn out amazing’. Sometimes when you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out, that’s when the magic happens. It’s really just changing what you’re doing and putting out what you want to attract.
CH: Who is your biggest inspiration in colour today?
Alexis: I’m constantly inspired by the artists that we work with. We have amazing, talented artists at our salon Butterfly Loft and within our Pulp Riot family who inspire me every day. Kasey O’Hara Skrobe (@hairbykaseyoh) inspires me a lot.
CH: What do you see for the future of creative colour?
Alexis: It’s going to become more mainstream and wearable. You’ll see more lawyers, doctors, people in traditional industries – they’ll have creative colour. We’ve seen it in films. In Star Wars, Laura Dern had purple hair and it was extremely beautiful, it wasn’t shocking! And you see dolls now with beautiful, colourful hair. It’s more of a culture shift, and it will continually evolve and become more acceptable.
CH: Pulp Riot is the fastest growing product line in the history of the industry – how did you build the brand so quickly?
David: We started the company during the digital revolution so we were able to reach people so much quicker. If you have a little talent and cell phone, you can grow really quickly.
A version of this interview appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Concept Hair.