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Respect For Hair takes Runway Ready

Aspiring session stylists are making the most of a fabulous opportunity to learn skills specific to working backstage at shows, and then join a fashion week team with Unite. This hair brand is leading the way in building confidence and know-how for anyone wanting to work a show! We’re talking about the Runway Ready courses held at Unite’s UK partner Lacey’s twice a year. The Lacey’s HQ  is a sleek showroom and workspace close to Reading – drawing people from all over the UK as it’s easy to reach and very friendly. Lacey’s are great hosts and the vibe on site is dynamic but not overwhelming. We joined the most recent edition in July, and it was an absolute blast. Do read on to find out why.

Gary Baker demo at Runway Ready

What we got up to

Our Respect For Hair editor attended the 2-day Runway Ready Summer course (there’s another held in January) and caught up with stylist and course leader Gary Baker. She wanted to learn more about how he’s helping hairdressers become session stylists pretty much overnight. She also chatted with freelance stylist Emma Hunt who was attending the course for a fourth time… there must be something magical about it, and we want to discover all. Here’s our reportback:

Gary Baker demo at Runway Ready

What we learnt

At Runway Ready, Gary Baker, creative director at Unite Hair, talks and demos enthusiastically as he covers essential aspects of session styling at fashion shows. Using time to the max, Gary runs through trending looks, sharing tips and tricks for making things work. Students also learn about salon-kits and the tools required backstage…think about every type of brush, says Gary.  The point is to give you a great indication of what to expect while working backstage, from how to prep your kit bag, to behaviour and skill expected, how to work products to best effect, and keep pace with a fast-moving show. 

Gary Baker demo at Runway Ready

Respect For Hair: Where does Runway Ready come from? 

Gary: It was my idea. A response to years of being asked by students on our other courses, how can we assist you at fashion week or at shoots? I thought the quickest way is to create teams that have fundamental training so they aren’t shocked or under pressure when they first go to a fashion week. Devising a two-day bootcamp gives them experience beforehand. Runway Ready shows them the tools they need, and how to work in pairs, because that’s the most important thing. I guess it’s a sharp-shock treatment for two days; in a nice, controlled environment.

Respect For Hair: What surprised you most when you first got into session work?

Gary: The most surprising thing for me was discovering the discipline and the precision that is needed. Even if it’s an uncomplicated hairstyle, you must change your perspective and think about what was going to look good on camera. 

Session styling hairdressing fashion
Model line up

Respect For Hair: What is the most challenging part of session styling? 

Gary: The most challenging part is what goes on internally in your head. You can second guess yourself. When you first start out you have the mentality where you think you’re a bit of a fraud, because you don’t know enough. Overcoming that is a challenge.

Respect For Hair: What is your favourite part of session styling?

Gary: The most rewarding thing is seeing the people who train underneath you. You bring them along and they suddenly become a star in their own right. When you’re in your early career you see things, you get publications that come out with your work in and you love it. But that joy is surpassed by the feeling of actually bringing people through yourself.

Lacey's runway course learn fashion week models
Runway Ready

Respect For Hair: How does Runway Ready help you find the right hair hair team?

Gary: Very quickly you find out what people’s strengths and weaknesses are. This means that when you go to fashion week you know you’ve got six people perhaps who are really good at braiding, four who are really good at leading a ponytail team, and so on.  

Respect For Hair: How did you ignite your relationship with the Unite brand?

Gary: I was a session stylist in London and I knew the distributor of Unite who’d brought the brand to the UK. They invited me to try the products and give them my feedback from using them at fashion week and on shoots. This was 12+ years ago and I’ve not looked back.

Backstage hair show
Runway Ready

Respect For Hair: Do you miss working in a salon?

Gary: I definitely miss the day-to-day involvement with hairdressers, being one of them! I love being back with other hairdressers during Runway Ready. I’ve been a hairdresser for 42 years now, and had 30 years based in a salon. Who knows, I could end up as an old man working two days a week in a salon somewhere. Never say never!

Respect For Hair: Is it difficult managing your work schedule?

Gary: No, the great variety of working with Unite is that it’s not the only thing I do. I work in product development and we have a huge digital education system, so I’m working in the studio doing film and videos. It’s relatively easy to manage. 

Respect For Hair: Has education always been something you’ve wanted to do?

Gary: I’m naturally drawn to it. I started teaching relatively early in a salon environment. I also worked in a college for a period of time. And even when I’ve tried not to do it, it finds me anyway. You are a product of the people who have taught you so I believe that whatever you’ve learned, give it all away, share all of it. Bring on the next generation! 

Thanks Gary.

Trending look by Gary Baker for Runway Ready

Interview with Emma Hunt

Our Respect For Hair attendee also took the time to catch Emma Hunt, a freelance stylist and hair-extension specialist. She was taking the Runway Ready course for the fourth time. Read on to hear about the many benefits and opportunities Runway Ready creates whether you’re taking it for the first time…or becoming a repeat attendee!

Respect For Hair: Emma, what opportunities have you had since your first course?

Emma: After my first Runway Ready course I went to work at London Fashion Week, for the first time ever. I also got the opportunity to assist Narad on Barry M and Burberry shows. We then did hair for the dancers and choir for a Sam Smith concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I also went to Miami for Miami Swim Week…and that was after doing Runway Ready just once!

Respect For Hair: What made you choose to take the Runway Ready course over again?

Emma: There is always more to learn. There’s different techniques and you see different things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. You learn from watching others as people do things a different way. You might think the way you do something is the most efficient, but then you see someone doing the exact same thing but in a different way and you realise their way works better. 

Respect For Hair: What is the most important lesson on the first time you took the course? 

Emma: Eye to detail. The small details make a big difference. For example, making sure your parting is the same as everyone else’s!

Respect For Hair: What do you hope to learn this time?

Emma: I enjoy working with different people. Some are returning people again and again, but equally there’s always someone new to meet. I also want more practice and on Runway Ready you create different looks and trends every time; perfect as fashion changes constantly. 

Respect For Hair: Are the session styling skills you learn here on Runway Ready transferable to other aspects of your work?

Emma: Yes, one million percent. For example, today we learnt that splitting a ponytail into two sections helps to make it look perfect. I can use that in the salon, for bridal or prom hair. The key details that you pay attention to in Runway Ready, transfer into the salon, and on camera make your images look even better. If you get those little details in your work right, you stand out from everyone else. It makes your work different.  

Thanks Emma.

For more news from Unite click here
Respect is a hub for UK hairdressers of all ages and stages to find out what We LoveWe Hear and We See as the best product launches, styling advice, hairtools, education training and seminars and hairshows! Sign up to our newsletter which is sent fortnightly direct to your email, so you stay up-to-date with salon styling information, trends in session work, advice on presenting on stage or progress in educating – whatever your interest, whether you’re a trainee or creative director, an educator or team leader, you’ll find all the opportunities and ideas on


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