Smart Moves with Darren Lacken

“Ballroom dancing was my thing, that’s what I was going to do forever.” I have to admit, it’s not what I expected to hear when I sat down with Darren Lacken, one of Ireland’s top stylists and winner of the 2016 Wella Platinum World Colour Vision Award, in the cosy snug of his salon, Crow St Collective in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

“I was teaching hip hop and ballroom dancing classes when I started hairdressing with a friend of mine. I moved to House of Colour and I never worked anywhere else! I did courses in Sassoon and travelled to Fashion Weeks.”

Fringe Magazine - Darren Lacken

Now, a day at the office could see him on location for world famous fashion brands like Topshop Unique, Diesel Black Gold, Henry Holland and Sass & Bide, shooting covers for the top glossies among them i-D magazine, Neon, Love, Image, Irish Country Magazine and U Magazine, or catching up with clients on the salon floor.

“It’s nice to get a mix of all three. It’s like anything, If you do something every day, you get pissed off doing it. I still love London Fashion Week, I love Somerset house – it’s mad, it’s mental, the people who go to the shows – they can’t get in, they just go to be photographed. I look at them and think, ‘did you get dressed in the dark! what were you thinking?’ But you have all these people trying to photograph them, just in case they are ‘someone,’ and they are posing away! I love it, walking the streets, it’s like Halloween.

“It’s nice working with the models like Arizona Muse or Alexa Chung – they’re really nice. I was a bit star struck by Isabella Blow. I worked with her on the Philip Treacy show at IMMA. She had this energy, and was so lovely. We were running on time and she wasn’t having any of it. She ordered champagne up to the room and Philip was coming in and out with hats. She was this really cool, tiny little woman.

“I love doing editorials and getting to do it abroad. I’m going to Morocco at the end of the month for Arnotts and I am just back from Barcelona where I was shooting an editorial for Kildare Village. It’s such a good crew and I’m so lucky that I get to work with a lot of the same people all of the time. It builds relationships, everyone bounces off each other and if something’s not working, we can say it without anyone crying in the corner. I think I am the least precious person: if you don’t like it, grand. Let’s do something you do like. At the end of the day, it’s the client’s vision and you’re trying to translate that into something that looks amazing and ticks all of their boxes.

“I love the fact that I can dip in and out, but then I come back to my clients – I know what’s going on in their lives and I motor-mouth talk about everything I’ve been up to. And I get to do what I really love, which is cut and colour hair.”

Darren Lacken - Fringe Magazine

The day-to-day running of the salon is in the capable hands of Darren’s boyfriend and business partner, Mark. “I was offered a job in Dubai and I was considering it when friends suggested Mark and I open a salon together. The idea of living and working together was a bit scary, it was a gamble. We decided we would go for it and it happened very organically, I never got that ball of nerves in my stomach. I would be grey down to my ankles if I had to think about hiring and rotas. He’s so level headed. I wouldn’t have a clue, so I’d panic.”

You don’t have to be a trainee to assist. I think people think you get to a certain point and wouldn’t assist, but why wouldn’t I?

While he is clearly at the top of his game, every day is a school day, according to Darren. “I do a lot of training with Wella: when they have guest artists over, I’m friends with a lot of them so I go along and assist – I’ll blow dry for anyone – and I watch everything they’re doing. You don’t have to be a trainee to assist. I think people think you get to a certain point and wouldn’t assist, but why wouldn’t I? It’s something my Ma would say, but if you think you’re finished learning it’s time to give up.”

The competition circuit, however, is something he is happy to leave to his staff. “I will dip in and out, but I want the girls to experience what I’ve experienced. Because I’ve done so many, and don’t get me wrong, you do get disheartened, but I wouldn’t go nuts if I didn’t win. And you see that sometimes, and you think, go home and scream into a pillow.

“Competitions are nice to do and even better to win, but once you stand back and are delighted with what you have done, at the end of the day, it’s people’s opinions.” ✂