We caught up with Damien Carney, professional and creator extraordinaire! As Creative Director for Schwarzkopf Professional North America he oversees the creative content and image for the brand. Damien is known around the beauty industry for his thought provoking beauty/style images, his photography and also his education. He is innately expressive, adventurous and exceptionally committed to his creative ambitions and portraying his personal brand. With over 100 salon locations and a large number of hairdressers that create magic for the Chatters brand 7 days a week, we had a keen interest in learning just a bit about Damien Carney and what makes him tick.
It’s clear you’ve had a lifelong passion for the beauty industry. How and where did it start?
Its true, I’ve been interested in the beauty industry since early on in life. First of all, I was one of 8 kids. I watched my siblings choose good careers and I felt I might get bored with the routine of an every day job. So from early on I just always felt I wanted to do something I loved
I remember being fascinated when I got a haircut in a barber shop, and eventually I upgraded to a unisex salon. I was intrigued by the environment and it looked like everyone was having a great time working there. People left the salon looking amazing and I was simply blown away by what you can do with scissors or colour, and how you can transform a person’s image.
It sounds you were destined for the beauty industry. Did you have to overcome any obstacles?
You know at the time when I was just jumping in, the career advisors were trying to plug people into jobs. I just found that wasn’t my style at all. I remember feeling like I wanted to “tell them what I want to do” and not the other way around. As it turned out I chose the hair industry and I’ve never looked back or regretted it. I was fortunate in that I listened to my calling.
Can you tell us about your first big “break”?
My first big break came a little later in my career. I was around 25 at the time, working in a salon and I remember it vividly. We often went to hair shows to either watch or to work at. This one in particular was a Wella Vogue photographic competition. A certain hairdresser named Trevor Sorbie was there. The hair and presentation of his models just blew me away. I knew I had to be part of his company. That evening seeing the show was just enough to persuade me about what I wanted to do. I wrote Trevor Sorbie a letter asking him what did I have to do to become a part of this team. He contacted me back and invited me to bring in three models for a test session. I was so nervous seeing someone that I idolized checking my work. It was a great lesson. The things I thought I was good at doing weren’t as good at Trevor’s level. He saw my flaws and still gave me a chance. It was like opening windows of my mind that were never opened before. I’m so grateful for this opportunity that came about because of that one night. It bolted me forward in my career and took my work to another level.
If you could rewind time and give yourself some advice, what would that be?
I’d preach it! Listen more, practice more and just get on with it. Absorb everything like a sponge. Don’t get programmed into doing the “same things.” Shortcuts are not good enough. See the opportunities all around and be sharper. Don’t get distracted with the things that wont changes your life or make a difference. Pay attention to style that will keep reinventing themselves. Keep educated and by the way that doesn’t always mean sitting in a classroom. See flavor going on in fashion or see what’s on the streets. Discover your best way of learning and stay current because routine can be the worst thing in the world. I think it creates boredom and can make you stale. Make sure you choose what you like or love and go do that. You don’t know the full details of what a career will look like until you actually get involved. Sometimes you don’t feel the “passion” instantly as you are “learning” the job but the “passion” comes a bit later.
What do you want to be remembered by?
I’d love to be remembered as a nice guy and a good person to be with. A guy who had good energy and helped people at all levels. I believe that being a nice person and sharing a bit of love is powerful. A little push, a little shove and some encouraging words can elevate anyone.
Tell us a little bit about your vision for creating your styles.
I have strived to create a certain look which is distinctly “my look.” At the end of the day if I choose to not do what everyone else does, it helps separates me from the crowd and the style “looks” like a Damien Carney style. Self discovery comes from a lot of practice and the confidence in branding yourself. This is what makes me happy and what triggers my creativity.
When it comes to photo-shoots do you go into it with a well planned concept every time?
Like anything else you have to have an idea in order to make it happen. Sometimes the shoot does not go as planned and I’m a believer in chemistry of ideas. But if there’s something better, with more impact I’d say go for it. A lot of people have learned this over the years – you can’t force something or it will look like it. If you have the wrong hair and makeup it will show and look like it’s lacking direction. Or too many ideas and you’ll end up with creative chaos. I believe a great photo has to provoke something in your mind. The more you do it the more it works.
Can you tell us something you’re very proud of?
I’m very proud of my photography and I’ve had some amazing mentors in this industry. I’m a great believer that you need to be a photographer with a balance of strong technical skills and creativity. If you are too technical your images will feel wooden If you are too creative it will appear that you don’t have structure in your work. Photography is special because it’s allowed me to express my work
What is your philosophy about how social media is used in the industry?
Social media is where we live our lives now and in future. It’s extremely accessible. Some amazing things go on social media and some are not so great. I’d tell stylists to be careful and not bombard social media because that will not leave a good impression with a client. If the style doesn’t look like it will create a good reaction, then simply don’t share it. I’m concerned about the quality of images and how the photo is created. It needs to be done well if you’re going to share it, period. Just remember, we attract what we project and what we put out will bring more coming back. I believe that average work will attract average fans.
What’s some key advice on building a career?
Be careful about falling in love with your own ideas. You don’t have to be a jack of all trades or master of everything.
Tell us about one of your most interesting guests!
That would be Tabitha Coffey. She takes over when she is around! I know her hair really well. She’s beautiful and funny and I love her down to earth philosophy.
What have you learned and observed about the way stylists can really make a difference with their guests and impact their confidence?
Your customers will have many different personalities. Some will be clear about what they want and for others it will be a very grey area and they will have no clue. They may need to wean themselves out of a look and take the change in stages. People can be sensitive to change and don’t want to spend time extra time blow drying. Take the time to explain the maintenance of their new hairstyle and remember, simple things can make people feel beautiful. Build that trust and confidence with your guest. Don’t be shy of saying that may not work here is a good solution.