Expert Advice for Creating Competition Winning Looks

By | August 26th, 2021

As Keune proudly announces their first annual Hairstylist Awards 2021 — a hair competition with four categories open to 39 countries worldwide, you might be thinking, is this right for me? If you are looking for a project to motivate your career, competing is that spark for fresh inspiration, a way to build one’s resume, and increase brand awareness. Keune’s George Alderete, Jessica Bartolucci, James Helton, Gareth Palmer, and Vice President of Education Jessica Mills lend a little expert advice about creating competition-winning looks below!


Finding inspiration: 

Competition work asks stylists to harness concepts and inspirations and turn them into a successfully executed look that is your own. No matter your specialization, you can find inspiration in unexpected areas of life. Be open to all sources! As Academy Trainer George Alderete notes, “You might think you have a palette and a direction, but then you see something painted on the side of the road or see flowers blooming, and that can totally redirect you. Everything is a source of inspiration. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. The more you do, the more inspiration will come.”

Educator Jessica Bartolucci adds, “I like finding inspiration from the Pantone Color of the Year and New York and Paris Fashion week. Elements of Fashion Week always filter down to everyday styles. I love creating mood boards on Pinterest.” The more you experiment with your sources of inspiration, the more the possibilities open up to create an incredible and award-worthy entry!


How to Build a Team:

While some stylists wear many hats, others rely on a team of individuals to bring the idea to life. Specifically, for hair competitions, photography, styling, makeup, and wardrobe are the most common elements that need scouting. Therefore, to bring the look from conception to completion, planning is a key ingredient. 

Vice President of Education Jessica Mills says, “Start with a vision and determine the end goal, then backtrack. Step one for putting a team together is partnering with like-minded people that have different strengths so that everyone plays off each other well.” She adds, “Our job as the stylist is to create the feeling; the job of the team is to bring that to life. Find people that push each other professionally and constructively.”


Where to Find Your Team:

Suppose you’re not sure where to find these key people. Begin by accessing the resources already available to you. Contact friends within your styling network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those in competition work and ask for their recommendations. Alderete seconds this by adding, “I find photos I like online, and I try and find who did the makeup, who took the photos, etc. I start to find their IG’s and make calls. Explore through your own network, through recommendations, and friends. One lead will lead to another.” 


If you’re new to competition work:

Whether you’ve just graduated or have years of experience under your belt, this might be your first time competing. The bottom line is; you have nothing to worry about! We all start somewhere. Competition work is about letting your imagination run wild and pushing your creative abilities with experimentation. However, this does not mean the work needs to be overly complex. Design Ambassador Gareth Palmer emphasizes, “Less is more.” One can easily become bogged down with too many elements. Find your center and focus on that. There is beauty in simplicity.   

For those are that are a bit timid or unsure where to start, Junior Design Ambassador James Helton adds, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if you have your ideas, finding a mentor helps with that breakthrough.” Those that have been in competition work have experience and although it may seem like a risk to ask for guidance, you might be pleasantly surprised at what they offer! You will not know what opportunities there may be unless you ask.

Keune product must-haves on set:

Depending on the project’s scope and the finished look you’re going for, you will want to have a wide range of styling products on set. Whether you’re changing the finished style or run into unforeseen circumstances, the right products make all the difference. Alderete loves working with the direct-dye Color Chameleon line for creative color. Prepping the hair for color is just as vital as he states, “Color Brillianz Shampoo and Conditioner are must-haves for wigs and extensions. If the hair doesn’t feel right, I don’t have the right base for anything else.” Bartolucci raves about the Style range and especially loves Style Forming Wax for braid work. What Palmer loves most about Keune styling products is that “there are so many alternate uses with each, you can use them in other ways than intended.” 


Photography tips:

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a professional photographer to enter competition work. Keune Hairstylist Awards accept both professional images and those shot on an iPhone. To get the perfect shot on your phone, Alderete exclaims, “Indirect lighting! Get on Amazon and get a ring light and play with the settings. The camera will focus on different areas, so shift positioning and focus to allow different levels of exposure. Also, experiment with portrait mode!” Another way to maximize your camera’s capabilities and editing skills are by researching tips and tricks online. As more and more people use their phones for photography, an entire wealth of advice is out there in articles and videos. 


The competition:

Keune stylists are invited to enter in the following four categories — True Beauty, Barber Boss, Unlimited Creativity, and Color Explosion. Each stylist should enter in their country of residence, with one entry allowed per category. The competition is open now and accepting entries until October 10th, 2021. For official rules, more information about each category, the judging process, prize details, and rules, click here!

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