Hairstylist Rebecca Brent on buttery blondes, the modern Rachel, and creating award-winning hair

31 January 2024
By Louise Dunn

We speak to Kiwi Rebecca Brent who recently wowed the judges by achieving third place in the global L'Oréal Professionnel Style and Colour Trophy.

Rebecca Brent, owner and founder of Wellington’s Willis & York salon recently took home the sought-after bronze at the global L’Oréal Professionnel Style and Colour Trophy which saw 35 countries and 105,000 artists enter. After winning the Australia and New Zealand competition with a pink layered look she took on the rest of the world with a new grey inspired palette – manicured flyaways included. We speak to her about her challenges, creative process, and inspiration for the look. Plus we find out what cut and colour trends we should be looking out for in the year ahead…

Rebecca Brent, owner and founder of Wellington’s Willis & York salon.
Rebecca Brent, owner and founder of Wellington’s Willis & York salon.

Congratulations! How does it feel to be recognised for your talent in such a prestigious competition?

After 25+ years in the industry it feels super inspiring to be recognized for my talent, especially on a global scale. Definitely a pinnacle pinch-me moment standing on the stage in Paris for L’Oreal! You can’t get any better than that.

Can you tell us about your finale entry and the inspiration behind it?

I was inspired by sculpture and the word space soldier which was a look from the 2023 runway shows. I thought to myself everyone will be creating big upwards looks, maybe you should try to create armour.

What was the creative process like for you?

I am a bit of a psycho to be honest, it is all consuming especially at this level. I do not stop thinking about it, researching and practising – especially with hair colours.

Were there any specific challenges you faced during the competition, and how did you overcome them to secure your spot in the top three?

Jet lag! I arrived on Tuesday lunchtime and we worked from that moment on until I left on Saturday afternoon! The competition itself was incredible, we were looked after like royalty and had everything we needed at our fingertips. Even though there was a healthy amount of competitiveness between the finalists, we have all become lifelong friends, united by our love of hair.

You were the only one in the top three from Australia/New Zealand, how did it feel to be representing hairdressers from Down Under?

You can’t describe the feeling of representing your country at something. So many emotions – you want to explode from pride.

Rebecca Brent and her award-winning look for the Australia and New Zealand L’Oréal Professionnel Style and Colour Trophy. 

How did you prepare for the competition? Did you have a specific strategy or approach to showcasing your skills and creativity?

My skill set lies in colour work. I chose grey tones because they are hard to achieve and look metallic but also as a nod to grey-haired women. I am not an avant-garde hair stylist so I had to really mentally prepare myself for the style part of it. There isn’t a lot of time to practise or work your look, and we don’t get to see our model until the day before so you have to be organic and adaptive too.

Were there any particular trends or themes in hair colour that you noticed among the entries, and how did you ensure your submission stood out from the rest

The colour that won was really interesting: a dusty dark rose gold pink. That palette never goes out of fashion. I had already done pink for the ANZ win [prior to the global competition] and had a feeling it would be a hot colour. The 2nd place did pastel pinks as well so I chose greys. Maybe in hindsight I should have stuck to the pinks!

What role does hair colour play in expressing individuality and creativity in the hairstyling industry, and how do you incorporate this into your work?

Hair colour is what brings a haircut to life! This year we saw huge changes with celebrities and their hair colours, especially with reds. This brings confidence to the general public to start changing up their looks (which is fun for us hairstylists, too!). As a stylist you aren’t doing your job unless you encourage change in your clients. They might say no but will go away and think about it and might say yes next time.

Can you share any advice for aspiring hairstylists or colourists who aim to compete in similar competitions in the future?

Do it! As a young stylist and solo mum I couldn’t afford to go overseas, so I set my eyes on winning L’Oréal Professionnel Style and Color Trophy because first prize was a trip to London and Paris. It took 13 years to do it but I not only got my trip but it also elevated my platform as a stylist. I have travelled all over the world as a stylist thanks to L’Oréal and this competition. This year the theme ‘Meta-morphosis’ was challenging, the metaverse is so new for a lot of us.

What are your future goals and aspirations within the hairstyling industry?

This year is full of bittersweet but exciting changes for me. I am closing the door of my salon Willis York [in Wellington] at end of February and relocating to the Auckland region, to be with my love. I will be freelancing as a stylist and creating time for my other love ceramics. I want to be more of a mentor role in our industry.

What hair colour or cut trends do you think will be big in 2024?

The C cut (or the modern Rachel from friends) is my pick with cuts. Bobs are always cool they just change lengths (chin or shoulder). Colours are warmer and softer, for example bright coppers are now a softer cowboy copper. Platinum blonde is now buttery blonde.

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