Credited with creating the wedge bob, Vidal Sassoon wasn’t just a master stylist, he was a groundbreaking entrepreneur, who also launched the first chain of worldwide hair salons and his own product line. It seems fitting that Tabatha Coffey, a stylist who’s made her name as a positive agent for change on Bravo’s long-running show “Tabatha Takes Over,” trained at Vidal Sassoon in London. Representing the continuation of Sassoon’s innovative and pioneering spirit, Coffey has shown that hair can be about so much more than a great style. A candid writer, a successful businesswoman, and a master stylist, Coffey gives others the tool to go forward with confidence, whether it’s with one of her ready-to-wear wigs or some solid advice.
Working in the industry did you ever have a chance to meet Vidal Sassoon in person?
I did on a couple of occasions, but perhaps the one time that stands out most was at a hair competition. Coming up as a young hairdresser, Sassoon was everything to me; he was the role model I emulated and the hairdresser I wanted to be, and he was one of the most charismatic men I had ever met. At the competition, it was another stylist and myself. He was one of the judges and he was standing there scrutinizing what I had presented. Then he asked me where I had trained. Of course, I said, “I trained at your academy, Mr. Sassoon.” He stood back and said, “Well, I haven’t seen work like this since Roger Thompson [Sassoon’s well-known protégé and second in command].” Even today, it still stands out as one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever been paid. He loomed that large.
How were you introduced to Sassoon’s work?
Honestly I can’t really remember the first time I learned about Sassoon, it was probably from reading about him in a magazine. Once I started in the industry, it was hard to not know him. He was a legend . He was, and still is, the pinnacle of what a lot of people wanted to become. My dream was to go and work at one of his salons, but I think his example went beyond just hairdressing, which is something I try to continue with my work. He had an amazing work ethic and the work he did was revolutionary. He changed an industry. He broke with the tradition of big bouffant hair, and it went from being all about the styling to being about the cut and the shaping. It was remarkable.
How has his legacy inspired your work?
Vidal inspired pretty much everything, especially the way I conducted myself professionally. He was very disciplined and had a philosophy about how to approach clients that I really respected. His haircutting and his work ethic had a huge impact on the hairdresser that I became, and the other avenues I’ve pursued. I haven’t limited myself. I’ve written books, I have the show, I’ve launched a wig line. I started hairdressing when I was 14 in Australia, and then I moved to London when I was 19 to study at Vidal Sassoon. They re-train you in the Sassoon way, you learn all the techniques, but I also took more from that.
My philosophy is every client deserves an experience. Whether it's their first visit or their 200th, every time you should have a consultation, and give them the hair they always wanted.
What projects do you have coming up?
Right now I’m working on my second book. The focus is on people who would like to start their own business and take control of their life, not necessarily related to the salon industry. It’s advice on deciding what’s important, identifying priorities,coming up with a business plan,and prioritizing yourself. It covers everything from how to deal with clients to turning an idea into a reality and how to brand yourself. I’m also focused on my wig line, which is also about empowerment but from a different angle. Many people struggle with hair loss or thinning hair. My line is about having the hair of your dreams, so you can get on with pursuing other dreams confidently.
How do you hope to inspire the next generation?
I hope to show that the sky is the limit for whatever direction you want to take. You can be an entrepreneur or you can work for someone else, you can have a TV show and write books to reach thousands, or you can transform one person’s life in an impactful way. In my work, I try to keep encouraging people to elevate themselves, elevate their businesses, and elevate their education to be successful at all levels. You just need to work hard and have the passion for what you do. I’m in this industry because I love it and I respect it. Like Sassoon, I hope I’m remembered for holding people to a higher standard.