This is what Hollywood hairstylist Jen Atkin wants you to know about building a brand

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24th Jul 2019

Even if you’re one of the few who don’t know the name, you would have seen Hollywood celebrity hairstylist, beauty entrepreneur and soon-to-be author, Jen Atkin’s, stellar work at some point when scrolling through your Instagram feed. Atkin is one of the most in-demand, multi-talented stylists working today and has the type of successful career any stylist or beauty entrepreneur would dream of.

Not only does she jet around the world for fashion shoots (including to Sydney with Kendall Jenner for Vogue’s June 2019 cover) and tend to the tresses of some of Hollywood’s biggest names and most famous families — specifically the Kardashian/Jenners — she also has a haircare brand, Ouai, pronounced “way” (“In French, you’d say, ‘oui’ if you were being proper, but like, the cool kids in Paris would say, ‘way’,” Atkin told Vogue), is the ambassador for silk brand, Slip, and is currently writing a “big sister” business advice book. A book which is set to be a must-read for any budding stylists and beauty entrepreneurs out there.

On a recent visit to Sydney as part of her ambassadorship for Slip, among other responsibilities, Atkin shared with Vogue what it really takes to build a brand, the career advice she ignored and the down-to-earth ethos she believes is the secret to her success.

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You have made your success look effortless, is that the case?
“I really just want to paint a clear picture and what it means to really like build yourself as a brand. I think it’s important for people out there, who are like, ‘Oh, it’s easy, you just put everything on Instagram. And then it’s [success] done.’ It’s so much work. It’s so difficult. It’s almost harder now, because the world is just moving so fast. It’s moving as quickly as we scroll in Instagram.

But I also want to paint a picture that’s realistic too, because there’s days where it’s really hard and I sacrificed a lot. I think it’s important to kind of paint that full picture of what it is like.”

What qualities do you think have been instrumental in your success as a celebrity stylist?
“I think it just comes down to being nurturing. I think as a woman it was a little intimidating when I started out, because there were no female hairstylists really to look up to.

It’s different here in Australia. You have Renya [Xydis], you guys have female hairdressers, but back in 2006 when if first started it was just Sally Hershberger. So, that was a little discouraging to me, but I also realised that from a woman’s perspective, I knew on an emotional basis, that like, yes, these are celebrities, but they also are women that are working really hard and they have the same struggles that we do. And, I think, I’ve never lost the sense that I’m in a service industry and in there to take care of them.

And, it’s not really about me, when I’m with my clients. That’s something that’s really important, to just know that if you want to be in the service industry, don’t forget that you’re in the service industry. With Instagram, I think, people tend to like, you know, get a little caught up and forget that.”

What is the best and worst career advice you’ve received?
“The worst career advice I’ve ever was given, was by my old agent who said not to work with the Kardashians. And then the best advice I’ve ever gotten is by Serge Normant, the hairstylist. He actually wrote this in a magazine and I remember putting it in my locker at the salon. It said, ‘Don’t be jealous of your peers, be inspired by them.’

And that was pre-Instagram, so it was before the movement of just like, everyone supporting each other. It was very forward thinking of him.”

You’ve been working with the Kardashians for nearly a decade now and they all achieved phenomenal success, what has it been like being around that?
“Honestly, Kylie Skin’s moisturizer, I was so shocked. I tried it on camera actually for a YouTube episode I was doing, and my reaction was… I just couldn’t believe… the formula feels so thick, like La Mer. It’s so nice. She works so hard. She’s amazing. That whole family, I just think, they’re so hard working.

So many of my friends are doing such incredible products and, coming out with so many amazing brands and it’s just a really, it’s really fun. It’s like a revolution happening. We call it the democratising of beauty and I think it’s definitely happening.”

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