When Brian Suhr works with New Zealand women's hair he sees damage and dehydration. He also sees a lot of colour that looks like it has been laid on with a trowel, which is not the sort of technique the international master trainer for Italian company Davines demonstrated here in a recent visit to New Zealand.
"The trend now in Europe is that the client wants to look natural," says the lanky Dane.
Colour choice may be strong, but application is aimed at making it look seamless. Obvious dip-dyeing has had its day, except for fun fashion statements. Instead subtle panels of colour can be under-laid in hair and then styled to show. Graduated colour, lightening at the ends, is still popular, but should be done subtly. Intermingling tones throughout - such as dark chocolate with warmer browns for brunettes or ashy shades on blondes - can give a stunning result that doesn't shriek "dye job".
Suhr says this emphasis on having hair look healthily full of light and shade has led to the development of a new colour tool called Flamboyage. Davines' respected artistic director Angelo Seminara came up with Flamboyage Meche and it was shown by Suhr to New Zealand hairdressers in Christchurch last month. Around a dozen models were used to demonstrate a variety of colouring effects, with Suhr explaining that using Flamboyage could cut a third of the time it took to do a classic head of foils.
The tool goes beyond balayage, the "beachy" technique which when done badly can look heavy handed. Flamboyage allows for a more random and fine selection of hair strands to be coloured. It works by using a meche - the Davines' version is a peel-off sticky sided strip - to drape sections of hair upon before the colour is painted on. Each section of hair can easily be subdivided by using a tail comb to lift off strands at will, so that only some strands are treated. Once colour is applied the strip is folded back towards the roots and the hair processes with the see-through strip making monitoring easy.
Results were impressive. Colour graduation lines did not show and hairdressers found the application techniques easy to pick up. Natural reflects are enhanced by blending bright and saturated tones with natural bases. Work on several male models provided the sort of colouring most guys might go for, being virtually undetectable.
For fair-headed females looking for highlights and lowlights, European-style subtlety was delivered, meaning regrowth is less of an issue than it can be.
Suhr recommends New Zealand women put more effort into ensuring hair health to get the best results from the money they spend on colouring. This could be in the form of salon keratin treatments and the use of masks at home.
"The hair here, is honestly just finished on the ends," he says. Sun acts like bleach, drying it out and with New Zealand women's hair tending to be coarser and curlier than that in northern Europe, it is already prone to dehydration.
Another difference he has picked up on during several trips to this country is that while women aged 30-plus in Europe favour their hair longer, with shorter cuts seen mainly on younger women, here he has noticed the reverse. He wonders if the middle-aged chop - not always the most flattering look - is not only down to our casual lifestyle, but also in response to the rigours of dealing with our UV-soaked atmosphere.
Suhr said Davines had some new products in the pipeline to help with hair health. The family-run company, while a relatively small player in New Zealand in around 200 salons, is known in Europe for promoting sustainable beauty practices. It is also an industry innovator. One of the simple clever ideas it has come up with is a biodegradeable plastic transparent shield for tidy fringe trimming.
Flamboyage services are exclusive to Davines salons, including Killer Hair, Newton, and Elysium, Three Kings, or ph 0800 252530 for your nearest salon. (At Killer Hair an indicative price for a full-head service is from $240, with creative meche in short hair from $140, including blow wave).
* Check out Viva's brand new Facebook page, the place to find out what's hot in fashion, beauty, food, wine and design.