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The secrets to success in the bridal styling industry

Capital customer Annette Bradford’s hairdressing career has spanned over 40 years and in 2011 she followed her dreams and opened her first salon exclusively for brides! With various industry awards under her belt, such as Wedding Industry Awards 2014 – Regional Finalist, Annette seemed the perfect person to ask what it takes to make it in the bridal styling industry.

Bridal Styling models

How did you get into bridal styling?

As an apprentice I loved watching stylists putting hair up. Not all of my own clients had long hair, but even if they didn't, I used to practise with any length to make it look like it was an up style.

I found that this was the part of hairdressing I really loved. I'd work with wigs, hair pieces and style for clients going out for special occasions. The other stylists I worked with preferred regular hairdressing so after a while I was often given the opportunity to work with long-haired clients. I loved creating and being artistic, and in the various salons I worked in, after that I became the "chosen" one for hair ups.

How did you go about opening your own bridal salon?

After buying my first salon I decided that I really wanted to specialise in long hair so I attended my first wedding fair. I took my mirror, hairspray, brush, comb and grips and offered brides-to-be a hair trial. I ended up with queues around the fair! (And I was always the last to leave too). Trying to juggle regular hairdressing with bridal sessions was becoming difficult. The regular clients had to come first out of loyalty.

This lead to my decision to open a salon exclusively for brides! It was a big step, would it work? Would I make enough money to cover the bills? I took the plunge and Elegance Bridal Coiffure was born.

I wanted to create a romantic space for brides, where they could begin their wedding day preparations and leave totally excited for their big day – a place where their dreams would become a reality. For the interior I chose ivory porcelain floors, huge ornate mirrors from floor to ceiling, chandeliers and chaise longues. Everywhere you look you’ll see wedding accessories, from exclusive hand-made tiaras to stunning floral displays.

The theme continues to the beauty room with perfumed candles plus sparkly couch covers and cushions. My favourite part is the floral archway which sets you in a tranquil mood; very peaceful and serene, immediately calming to a bride.

Hair make up model

What does a typical day entail for you?

For my client’s big day I can be up as early as 4am, particularly if I have a long drive to the venue. Some weddings start as early as 12pm, and if there are 8 bridesmaids plus a mum and mum in law, an early start is essential! My daughter joins me to assist with hair and make up and we’ll be ready to go by 5am to ensure that we are finished by 11-11.30am. We are then on hand to help with the brides and bridesmaid dresses - this can be a tricky business and we sometimes have to redo or touch up their hair (particularly the young bridesmaids who have been doing handstands after you have just finished curling their hair!). But it is so important to stay calm for the bride and I always walk away feeling very happy, knowing that they’re happy. It is a demanding but beautiful job!

What is your favourite bridal look to create?

I specialise in up styles. I love creating movement waves and curls, generally making a statement with hair. I don't force the hair, I go with the flow. This way the style will fall into place which is much easier and creates less stress on the hair. It will look natural and pretty.

What is the most popular look that your brides ask for?

There have been a few popular styles so far this year; vintage looks with the 40s & 50s victory rolls, waves and curls, classic barrel curls placed low in the nape as well as on top, and Audrey Hepburn style with a pleat. Today’s brides are more daring and more aware of what you can create with a bit of imagination and a can of hairspray!

Tell us about your favourite bridal session?

Every bridal session has been a favourite. It is lovely to see their smiles of delight in the practice runs as well as on the day. I love it just after a make up trial, even with a small amount of make up and a few cluster lashes – it really makes their eyes look "wow"! I’m happy knowing that I've made them feel special and look good.

Hair make up model

What are your essential tools?

My essential tools are my comb and brush. I like to use the Comare Dressing Out Comb, plus a small brush. Nice, strong clips are essential for holding the hair in place all day, (try Hair Tools Waved Grips). And I always carry both flexible and strong hold hairsprays, my favourite is Schwarzkopf Silhouette.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the variety and the chance to create, but most of all, I love making my clients look and feel like a princess for the day. Making people feel happy and good about themselves is important to me, which is why I also offer beauty treatments in my salon. These include microdermabrasion, eye treatments, enhancements, waxing, tanning, manicures, pedicures - the whole package!

What advice would you give to stylists starting out in the industry?

My advice to any young stylist is to love what you do, work hard and watch the way that different stylists work. This, along with lots of practice can really help to develop your own skills. No one can ever recreate a style exactly, but this is how you build your own individuality, by letting your creative juices flow. It is your chance to stand out from the crowd.

Annette Bradford’s salon can be found at:

Elegance Bridal Coiffure
6 Westbrook Centre,
Grassmere Way,
P07 8SE

Twitter: @BridalCoiffure
Facebook: Elegancebridalcoiffure