14 Sep 2011

Cyber styling is a virtual reality

BY-Kara Dolman
I settled back into my chair as our hair consultation began. As I described which celebrity's style and colour I fancied, the hairdresser listened carefully before taking in my appearance.

"A deeper red would suit you but I'd recommend building up a base colour first, to stop it washing out quickly," she said, her voice reassuring - even through the computer speakers.
Yes, you read that correctly. Rather than rushing across the city after a long day at the office, tonight's hair consultation was happening from the comfort of my front room, at my specified slot of 7:15pm, over Skype.
"In our increasingly hectic lives, people don't have time to go into the salon for a consultation or advice. This way you can get that from your sofa in the evening, or another time which suits you," explains Josh Elliot, founder of hair and beauty "e-tailer" Clay and Blossom, the brain behind Skype hair consultations.
The company currently does five Skype consultations a day where experts advise on colour, cuts, hair-care and products, for free.
Demand is so great it is fully booked until November. The hair world, Elliot says, is going virtual.
"It's definitely the way forward," agrees Karine Jackson, former London Hairdresser of the Year.
"Online consultations allow you to get a clear, visual idea of what people want and what will work for them, even before they've stepped into the salon."
Jackson offers free "e-consults" where clients email in pictures of themselves and the styles they are considering. She plans to begin offering Skype consultations soon. Celebrity hairdresser Jamie Stevens does the same over Twitter, often from his smartphone.
In fact, if you have a smartphone or tablet, an array of hair services is available at your fingertips.
While most of the apps which allow you to "try on" different styles are best avoided, the Hair Color Booth is a good guide for experimenting with bold colours.
For fashion trends, check out TIGI's Catwalk range app. It brings you the latest looks from international shows and helps you recreate them with step-by-step shots of TIGI's session stylists in action backstage.
"In the current climate, people want to find ways of saving money and they expect easy access to information that will help them recreate looks at home," says Samantha Chapman of beauty blog Pixiwoo. Its YouTube channel features hundreds of easy to follow make-up and hair tutorials - and boasts more subscribers than Obama, BeyoncĂ©or Britney Spears.
The following day I take my Hair Color Booth picture and Skype advice to my own hairdresser, who agrees with their prognosis. Then, a few hours later, I walk back into the real world, newly dyed red and looking very much like the virtual version of myself.

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