Sam Su'a was born and bred in Whanganui, but it was in Auckland where he made a name for himself - in the world of hairdressing.
After a decade working for Steven Marr, and styling for some of the biggest names in New Zealand fashion along the way, Su'a decided to return to his hometown last year and open The Studio, a loft style salon in the heart of Whanganui's CBD.
What's your favourite thing to do in Whanganui?
Taking my family down to the Saturday markets on a nice, sunny Whanganui day to grabbing a coffee and a snack.
The other thing would be going for a bike ride around the river with the kids when we get the chance. It's beautiful down on the riverside.
What is one fashion decision you made growing up that you look back on and think "oops"?
I think I made a lot, but at the time I probably felt pretty proud about them. There was a stage of wearing really retro shirts. Looking back, I don't know what I was thinking.
They were pinstripe, but tight fitting and shiny. It wasn't even "op shoppy" really, it was just bringing back the disco era and the true 70s.
How has Whanganui changed in the years you were away?
It seems like more of a destination option, and more people are talking about it. I don't think Whanganui itself has changed that much, the shift has been in the mentality of the people and the national perception around this place.
We've always known that it's a hidden gem, but now everybody else does too. For example, I was talking to a pretty high profile client in Auckland the other day, and they were genuinely interested in Whanganui as a place to move to. I'm not sure that would have happened back in the day.
What do you and your clients chat about while you're styling them?
Families, pets, work, stuff in the news, what we're watching on telly.
The big thing in the last year or so has obviously been Covid-19. There's a bit of excitement around Whanganui itself too, especially when they come to the (Studio) space, which is new and fresh.
Then I've got to fit in educating my clients as well. That's in the hair-sense, not in any other sense. I wouldn't be too pushy on any views or anything.
People say you know your hairdresser more than some of your family members. It's fun to be able to chat about anything and everything.
If someone wants to cut their own hair, what would be the first piece of advice you would give them?
Don't do it. Is that a good enough answer? If you really have to, I'd say don't go too short. Take the ends off. You should probably Youtube it beforehand as well. I'd recommend coming to see me after you've finished, so I can fix it up.
Who is one person you would like to style? Anyone in history.
From the past, I would say Audrey Hepburn. She was a fashion icon and had a few different styles. In this day and age, someone completely different aesthetically is Billie Eilish.
Both would be really intriguing to style. I like diversity and working on different types, so those two would be cool.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I'd say stay true to yourself, and stay true to what you want to achieve in life. Be confident, and try and do everything well. Don't be afraid to try new things. I would say don't wear shiny pinstripe shirts that glitter in the sunshine, but I guess that was me being true to myself at the time.
Do people in Whanganui want different hairstyles to your clients in Auckland?
When I first moved back I was hoping I wouldn't be doing stuff I used to do back in my Palmerston North (hairdressing) days, and things had moved on. They have. I think people everywhere are aware of global trends thanks to things like social media. It all depends on the person, really. It's funny though, trends are all over the show these days. It's kind of a mixing pot of all the eras we've come through.
What is the soundtrack to a day of styling hair on Victoria Avenue?
I make my own playlists for The Studio, and it's a real mixture - from low-fi beats to jazzy stuff to chill hip-hop and soul. There's a bit of everything, and it changes through the day. In the morning there'll be something more relaxed and in the evening we'll go upbeat when there's the need for a bit more energy. Moonchild is a band I've been listening to a lot of recently. I'm really into soul, right from the 60's to now.
Which event from history would you most liked to have been at?
Any Michael Jackson concert. It would have been great to see him live, because he was one of my childhood music icons. I've got to see a lot of artists I really look up to, but I never saw him.