Max Coles Interview

My Man of the Month for June is Max Coles, Creative Director of michaeljohn Hair Salon & Spa’s flagship in Mayfair. Max has a background in styling models’ hair for magazine shoots and has since become known as the best and the fastest blow-drier in London! Additionally he is known as being the stylist who created American Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour’s iconic and current bob. His speciality is natural, feminine cuts that create a style. Classically trained in Paris, he has honed his expensive-looking blow-dry technique to perfection. He is usually fully booked by those wanting a sexy, glossy and groomed finish or a textured, on-trend pony-tail. We met for lunch at Zuma near michaeljohn’s Knightsbridge salon.

Max, what a career to date! I am always intrigued to know how successful people’s careers began. Do tell us your story.

I am French by birth and I always believed from a young age that in order to be successful, it was essential to believe in myself. That mantra has stayed with me to this very day. I was classically trained in Paris and when I came to London at the age of 30 I started out as a session stylist working with the likes of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, The Face and Tatler. I also did high profile ad campaigns and learned from some of the most talented people in the hair and beauty industry. Even to this day I am eager to learn and build my knowledge. I am never under the illusion that I know all there is to know. I always try to mentor young talented junior stylists and colourists. I think it’s really important to give back especially when you are doing well. You should never forget where you came from and the struggles or challenges you faced when trying to establish oneself in a deeply competitive industry. I like to think that I can lead from the front and set an inspiring example to the younger trainees.

Great hair, like great clothes, can give a woman such confidence. How do you ensure your clients feel super-confident?

I bring a smile of satisfaction to my clients’ faces which is the most rewarding moment of my styling experience. When the cut and blow dry is complete, and the client leaves happy my job is done. Nothing says confidence more than a smile. I want my clients to float out of the salon when I am finished doing their hair. They should feel renewed and at the risk of sounding like a cliché like a new woman. The same woman but walking taller more sure of themselves and with inner confidence obvious on their face and in the way they walk and carry themselves.

What has been your most creative project to date?

I am currently restoring a house on an island in the South of France as a yoga retreat and I have been very hands on in the renovation. I have been doing the designs and choosing the décor which I find inspiring and creative. I am enjoying doing everything myself from choosing the wood, constructing the layout, building the rooms, designing the décor and choosing all the materials is very exhilarating for me. I am using inner talents that I did not realise I had. I am enjoying it so much and find it is stimulating my creativity in ways I never experienced before. It has been very rewarding so far.

Styling Amal Clooney’s hair for her high-profile Venice wedding was clearly a high point. The Telegraph even called it “glossier than a copy of Vanity Fair”! How did that come about and what products did you use to ensure her hair remained “unflappable”?

Anna Wintour recommended me to Amal. I used Philip Kingsley products including Maximiser for volume and Preen Cream for smoothing the hair. The secret to Amal’s wedding hair was that the blow dry was intense and the hair was really over worked to achieve the perfect shine.

I know that the michaeljohn team created the sculptured, defined hair worn by Elizabeth Debicki of the Night Manager – that signature gamine crop is a real trend now. What type of woman would this style suit and is it easy to maintain a cut like this?

This cut suits a busy woman who wants a distinct style but with low maintenance. The cut itself however must be maintained every five weeks and is most suitable for someone with angular features and a good jawline.

What are your top 3 tips for maintaining gorgeous hair?

Good diet, good hair products like Philip Kingsley’s and love and trust in your hair stylist. Good communication with your stylist is key also so they can manage your expectations and give you a realistic assessment of your hair. If you are planning on changing your style than pictures and images help guide your stylist and they can help determine if the style is suitable to your hair type.

You must lead a hectic lifestyle – I know you love Ashtanga yoga. How does practicing yoga keep you focused?

Life is busy — an early morning session of Ashtanga at the crack of dawn helps me to focus on the day ahead as it clears my mind and reprioritises what I have to achieve in my day. I feel balanced and focused for the day. It also brings an inner feeling of compassion for others. It is a very humbling activity and detaches you from materialism. It also keeps the hustle and bustle of London at arms length.

I know you love cashmere – what cashmere pieces do you wear and, were Winser London to launch a menswear collection, what styles would you encourage us to launch?

I love cashmere and its cosiness. Luxury fibres like cashmere and the textures and feel of them are a sensory experience. It takes me back to the time when I was a free spirit and travelled the world. Each country seemed to have their own signature fabric such as silk in China or cashmere in Tibet. Local fabrics and fibres are a way to both engage in the past and the present — of a place new to you.
They are rich in colour and history and I always seek them out when I travel. If Winser London launched a menswear collection than I would look for a sumptuous and luxurious jumper in midnight blue (my favourite colour) and matching scarf for winter. My main method of transport is cycling so a warm scarf is essential in the winter months. I also like colourful cashmere socks as nothing feels more luxurious and indulgent. Coloured socks also make a stylish statement which I love. Perhaps it is the French man in me. We are always a bit more flamboyant which I think is part of our charm. We do like accessories and finishing touches - that is what is special about our personal style. Je ne sais quoi!