Internationally acclaimed hair stylist, Vernon François, has brought his passion and creative flair for hairdressing from his hometown of Huddersfield in northern England, to the global stage. Vernon’s personal mission is to empower a generation of people with textured hair, giving them the techniques and practices to help maximize the potential of their own hair.
Share with me your story on how you got interested in hair.
I have always been interested in hair, for as long as I can remember. Since I was a young child it’s always been my genuine passion. I am self-taught and would practice all the time; three strand twists on my grandmother’s beaded curtains, two strand twists on the fringing of my living room rug, box braids on the mop, you name it. I was completely fascinated by this whole world of creativity and possibilities. My first job was at a salon on Oxford Street in London when I was aged fourteen, my first industry award was aged seventeen and that set me on the path to where I am today.
What is your philosophy when it comes to hair?
My philosophy is that everyone’s hair is unique and embracing your texture is a wonderful way of expressing your personality.
I read that your collection is aimed at anything but straight hair. Is this political or personal?
My collection is for all hair textures and does have some products that can be used on straight hair. The reality is that so many people, for so long, have suppressed instead of expressed their true texture; not just with heat and chemical straightening, but also colouring, perming and so on; and this can be very damaging. Today, more and more women, but also men and kids, of all ethnicities, are wanting to learn, or re-learn, how to embrace the kinks and curls that they naturally have. I passionately support this and believe that how you wear your hair is an expression of your personality. All kinks, coils, curls and waves are beautiful, each one is unique and my collection is here to help everyone to make the very best of them.
You’re at the forefront of a hair revolution as women with curly, kinky, wavy, braided and dreadlocked hair now have products that are specifically designed for them by you. Was that your mission from the beginning?
My mission is and always has been to encourage women, men and kids to understand and embrace their natural hair texture. To give people confidence in allowing their beautiful kinks, coils, curls and waves to flourish and shine. I do this by sharing knowledge about the best tools, tips and techniques for every individual’s hair. It’s about much more than simply the products. This is why the learn section of my website is important.
You’re from England. Is there a difference between how black women from England and African Americans look and identify with their hair and specifically naturally textured hair?
People do embrace textured hair in the U.K. but on a different level compared with the U.S. I think that textured hair is approached a lot more directly, positively and confidently in America; with more brands talking to kinky curly hair consumers in the mainstream, greater choice, more positive cultural influences and influencers leading by example. The ‘curl conversation’ is very much alive in Europe but on a smaller scale; although it is catching up and social media is doing a great job of helping to bridge the knowledge gap.
Your client list has some strong and confident group of women, from Lupita Nyong’o to Tracee Ellis Ross and Kerry Washington to make a few. What is your mission for your everyday client to give them the confidence to celebrate whatever ‘crown’ God or genetics has given them?
To anyone lacking the confidence to celebrate their ‘crown’ I’d say; Imagine, loving your natural hair and not wanting it to be something else. I promise that this is possible. The solution lies in re-setting your expectations about what can be achieved with your hair type, knowing how to properly look after your hair and understanding the realistic possibilities. I am all about, Love what you have. Get to know your curls, kinks, coils and waves, treat them right for their type and enjoy the rewards of a beautiful part of YOU. Know that every day is different with hair, it’s a journey. Kinks and curls will behave differently depending on when you last shampooed, how it has been treated, your diet, the weather and lifestyle factors. Listen to it, be patient, have flexibility if a style isn’t working out the way that you planned, go with something else.
I hope you know how major it is to have your line out of the gate on Net-A-Porter! How did that come about?
My collection being available at Net-A-Porter at launch and beyond was, and still is, significant beyond words. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for people with all types of textured hair to feel at home and loved in the high-end beauty space; it had been massively lacking. When we first approached Net-A-Porter, they were instantly excited by our vision for the brand. I remember, we met before the collection wasn’t even one hundred percent complete, but they stopped me half way through the meeting with ‘When can we take you?’. There couldn’t have been a better signal that the VERNON FRANÇOIS® Collection is genuinely different.
Which product is the hero product in your collection?
Each of my products are heroes! Every formula is bespoke, designed for a different purpose, tailored to specific hair types and they all deliver on what they promise. One of the stand-out features of the collection are my spray-on rinse-out conditioners. The spray gives you maximum control for an even application that’s less likely to over-saturate the hair. Natural oils and actives moisturise and support the hair, but each of the formulas are incredibly light, like rich milk, so they’re easy to thoroughly rinse out. Dazzling-Spritz Shine Spray is another favourite with lots of people, so much so that it sold out just after last Christmas! It’s a dry finish spray which gives hair a delicate subtle shimmer, with baobab oil which contains vitamins A, D and E and mongono oil which is known for its sun protection properties.
What inspires you?
I am inspired, creatively, by texture in the world around me. If you scroll through my Instagram there are pictures of trees, bark, water, buildings, bridges, seaweed, things with interesting textures. I also find people watching and problem solving inspiring. I love trying to work out how people created the hair style that they are wearing; also, working out how to overcome challenges. I suppose that’s partly what’s led me to where I am today; teaching myself how to braid in a less painful way to how my mum did when I was a young child!
How do you unwind?
I like to unwind by spending time outdoors, either going for walks or roller skating. Also, braiding or blow drying hair; doing hair is my true comfort zone where I am most relaxed.
What is your favourite hairbrush, diffuser, etc.?
My favourite hair brush is a vent brush which allows air to circulate during heat styling and best diffuser is the Diva XL Pro. I really like Babyliss’s electrical styling tools, they do a great ceramic curling tong. Good quality accessories that you can rely on are always part of my toolkit, things like crocodile clips and combs that won’t break, which is why I decided to add these to my collection at vernonfrancois.com It might surprise you that my all-time favourite hair accessory is a basic U pin. I always have at least one of these in my pocket, they are perfect for helping to shape and hold so many styles.