She has worked with the world’s most glam celebs, but the Great British Hairdresser winner from Lurgan now wants to give women here a brush with genius.
The life of a successful hairdresser is a busy one. It takes a good week and several phone calls just to get speaking to Keris Weir. When we finally do talk, it’s a struggle for the former winner of hit reality TV show Great British Hairdresser to find an hour in her demanding schedule for our interview.
When I arrive at Keris’s salon in Lurgan for our meeting, it doesn’t surprise me to find her running around fussing over several clients at once. I don’t mind waiting, however, as it gives me the chance to see the famous Keris in action and run my eye over her hairdressing salon.
Down an alley, off a side street, away from the bustle of the town centre, is not where you would expect to find this now internationally renowned session stylist. MG Hair Boutique — called after her mum Margaret Gardiner, who has styled the hair of generations of women in the town for 35 years — would not look out of place on a city main street.
It’s classy and contemporary, richly kitted out in natural wood, with splashes of silver and lime green, and the clients are a mix of young pretty model types and glamorous grannies. A shelf by the curved reception desk is groaning with huge silver trophies.
Competing has been a passion for the 33-year-old since she first qualified as a hairdresser in her early 20s and she now has plans to help the next generation of local hair stylists fulfil their potential for creativity.
She has competed all over the world and won the title of NI Hairdresser of the Year and All Ireland Hairdresser of the Year three times. She is also a British Hairdressing Champion, British Bridal Champion, British Ladies Cut & Blow-dry Champion and Goldwell Master Colourist.
But what really propelled her into the limelight and put her among the elite in the industry was her success in winning E4’s hugely popular reality show Great British Hair Dresser in 2011.
It was no mean feat. Keris had to keep her cool while proving herself in highly pressurised environments such as London Fashion Week, while having her every move filmed by TV cameras for six weeks.
She battled alongside nine other high street hairdressers for the chance of a dream job with celebrity crimper James Brown.
Her personality as well as her talent shone through and her one-liners became a trademark of the series, earning her the nickname ‘queen of the soundbites’ from the show’s filming crew.
Back to her family salon in Lurgan and she couldn’t be further removed from her life of the last three years — working on top TV shows such as the X Factor and touring the world to style supermodels like Kate Moss and celebrities like Nicole Scherzinger.
She may be home but life is no less hectic. She is as ambitious and enthusiastic as ever. Her mission now, she reveals, is to help inspire the next generation of stylists in Northern Ireland to excel and reach their full potential.
Dressed in a black leather mini-skirt with a simple white T-shirt and her hair swept into a chic upstyle, Keris exudes glamour and a cool urban vibe.
She apologises for keeping me waiting and immediately launches into her plans for injecting more creativity into Northern Ireland hair dressing: “I’ve done Vegas, LA and London, and worked with top fashion houses, magazines and celebrities and now my mission is to inspire young trainees and apprentices,” she says.
The woman E4 viewers got to know as a straight-talker is to the fore and she pulls no punches when it comes to expressing her views on training standards within the industry in Northern Ireland: “I think there is not a lot of opportunity for young people to be inspired creatively. The colleges need to open the door to creativity a bit more.
“It’s all about text book hairdressing and young people are not being encouraged to be creative and that’s why I’m launching my campaign.
“There is so much talent here and not everyone is getting the chance to express it.
“I’m planning to tour Northern Ireland — and, who knows, hopefully all of Ireland — offering one-day workshops in salons for hairdressers and trainees, covering everything from creative upstyling, bridal hair techniques and vintage looks, to classical cutting.
“Once you learn the classic techniques you never go wrong. I grew up in an old-time hairdressing salon. My mum was an amazing cutter and I still believe that learning the basics is key to your skill as a stylist.”
Keris is keen to tailor her seminars and workshops to suit the individual needs of her clients and so, while there is a comprehensive list of training sessions on offer, there is also a bespoke service.
To ensure it is accessible, she has kept it affordable, charging a reasonable £150 for a full-day workshop, which she plans to offer two days a week, while continuing to run her salon.
She is also tapping into the current trend for hair extensions and has teamed up with a new wholesale company in Newry, Enchanted Hair, who specialise in them.
Keris will be the face of the company and will run courses for students and salons on how to apply hair extensions.
“Big hair is in, everybody wants it, and we plan to bring Towie (The Only Way is Essex) to Northern Ireland,” she says.
“There are so many dodgy brands and we want to show how it should be done. I will be covering everything from chip-ins to flip-ins, micro loops and tape-ins.”
Growing up in the house attached to her mum’s salon in Union Street in Lurgan almost guaranteed her career path. She was helping out in the salon from the age of five.
Her brother Gerald (31) runs a trendy barber shop next door to MG Hair Boutique and her sister Joy (28) also trained in hair and beauty and is currently a full-time mum-of-three.
For Keris, being a hairdresser was was do or die. “I was in the salon every day after school and on Saturdays and by the age of 10, I could have done a cut,” she says.
“My mum is 56 now and just so glad to have a break and plant her vegetables after 35 years working as a hairdresser.
“I’m really happy to come home and take over the family business. Family businesses are a dying trade and because of the recession sadly there are not a lot of us left.
“I still believe in Lurgan and hopefully it believes in me. The salon is my bread and butter and the training sessions will be my hobby, as I’m really addicted to competitions and want now to encourage other young people to go for it.
She adds: “Just the whole buzz of competitions is amazing. There is so much to see — so much colour and technique — and so much to look at that when you are there your eyes are on stalks.”
There was no shortage of buzz during her three years in London when she worked at the very top of her profession as a session stylist. Her CV lists the world’s top glossy fashion publications for whom she styled models and celebrities for editorial features — Vogue, Glamour, Harper Bazaar, Tatler, OK, Heat to name but a few.
She has also worked on advertising campaigns for many international brands such as St Tropez, Shoe Dazzle, Asos, Cloud 9, Big Sexy Hair, Rain and Rimmel.
A mind-blowing list of celebrities includes Teri Seymour, Anne Hathaway, The Saturdays, Alexandra Burke, Meg Matthews, Kimberly Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence.
Then there are the fashion designers whose shows she worked on — Dame Vivienne Westwood, luxury lingerie fashion house Nichole de Carle and London fashion designer Louise Gray. TV work
includes The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, the Clothes Show and 4 Music.
Her last job before returning home was styling Kate Moss for a fashion shoot for Japanese Vogue.
She says: “Kate Moss is lovely; she is just normal and very calm, collected and professional.
“She remembered Great British Hairdresser and told me she loved the show.
“Designer Meg Matthews actually asked if I would get my photo taken with her to show her daughter, who she said was a big fan of the show.
“It does sound like I am name dropping but I was only ever just the hair behind the scenes, it was never about me.
“I had this opportunity to go to London and it has been fantastic.”
Of the many exciting opportunities that she has packed into the last few years, for Keris there is no hesitation in picking her highlight.
During the semi final of Great British Hairdresser contestants were whisked away at a moment’s notice for their last challenge in LA, where they were left speechless by the surprise appearance of Vidal Sassoon.
As well as meeting and talking to the hairdressing icon, Keris was invited to the London premiere of the movie about his life story. It was a star-studded red carpet affair which she says she will never forget.
“That was just the absolute pinnacle for me. To meet Vidal Sassoon in LA and then to be at his movie premiere and be papped on the red carpet, how many people can say they have done that? It was just absolutely amazing.
“I got my picture taken with him and James Brown and to me that’s just unreal, how many people can say they have that photo?”
She may be back in Lurgan but her days of travelling with her job are by no means over.
She also loves to globe trot with her partner, David Stewart (27), a Tayto sales rep who she says has the look of Liam Gallagher and loves fashion and chilling to music.
This week she took her place on the judging panel at the Blackpool International Championships on St Patrick’s Day.
And over the next few weeks she plans to attend the OMC Hair World championships in Frankfurt.
London’s loss is undoubtedly Lurgan’s gain and with her plans to launch a touring masterclass in hair creativity, the industry in Northern Ireland as a whole can only benefit from her unique passion, experience and expertise.
For more information contact Keris Weir at MG Hair Boutique, 153E Union St, Lurgan, tel:028 3832 5543
Styles that are turning heads
Keris’s top picks:
* Dramatic pixie cuts as seen on Anne Hathaway are here to stay as well as the over exercised beach waves that turned many a head at the Oscars.
* Coral coppers and apricot blondes are the palette for hot hair this spring and summer, as seen on celebs such as Kate Bosworth, January Jones and Blake Lively.
Keris’s step by step guide to the perfect blow dry at home:
1. Prep hair and prevent damage by spritzing all over with a thermal protection spray, then separate hair into three parts — a middle section from the front to the nape, and one on each side.
2. Start at the back, working sections from bottom to top. Place a round brush under the roots, lifting at a 90-degree angle and moving through to the ends.
For maximum body, wrap hair all the way around the brush. You want to over direct the hair. After a few seconds of heat, set hair with a flash of cool air. Gently remove the brush, securing the coil with a bobby pin.
For each section, remove the bobby pins and smooth out with a soft-bristle brush.
3. Add extra oomph by light back-combing at the roots.
You’re not trying to tease the hair; you’re just creating some padding and elevation.
The end result? Soft, cohesive volume.