Rod Anker is an internationally-acclaimed celebrity hairstylist. Born and brought up in Melbourne, Australia, Rod is this year’s “Alfa Parf” India ambassador. Besides being the Vogue Colourist of the year 2012, Anker has a substantial tally of plaudits attached to his name, including the Preferred Salon awarded by Harpers Bazaar Editor 2012, the Cosmopolitan Beauty Jury 2014 award, Hairstylist for Kingfisher Super Model Hunt award in 2013, and Hairstylist for Wills Fashion Week 2014 and 2015 awards. Today, he is among the most sought-after hairstylists not just in the West, but also in India. Anker speaks to Guardian 20 about the challenges of being a hairdresser and about the how the personal grooming industry is gaining ground in India.
Q. You have worked with famous personalities both in Bollywood and Hollywood. How have you manage to stay so far ahead of the competition in this industry?
A. I think the best way to stay relevant is to be constantly on the search for new and better ways in doing things. Fashion changes so fast you need to be ahead of it. Globally, as things change you have to see how they can be adapted to the Indian client.
Q. What is the most important part of your job?
A. The most important part is stay connected to our clients and the people we are trying to attract.
Q. Since you’ve worked with so many fashion shows, what is the most challenging part of being associated with such big events?
A. It is fun but it’s always a challenge when you’re a part of any show or shoot. The most challenging aspect is to make sure everyone is happy. When you have to create something for multiple people there will be a chance that one or two will not feel completely happy and in order for them to feel fantastic they need to feel comfortable.
Q. Which, according to you, is the most stylish and fashion-aware city in terms of hairstyling?
A. I’m based in Delhi but I think in Mumbai people as a general rule are a little more relaxed with the style and own it without being associated with any particular designer. When it comes to hair there is very little difference in India as to who is more experimental.
Q. Who is the most stylish celebrity you have come across till now?
A. The coolest by far is Aditi Rao Hydari.
Q. Hairstyling is all about trends. How do you manage to come up with so many different hairstyles that become part of the trend?
A. You have to be current and stay relevant. The worst thing any hairdresser can do is get stuck doing the same thing over and over again. You have to stay growing or someone else be doing what you wanted to do. Hair industry is just like fashion and is constantly changing, it’s not about what they are doing in the salon next door, in the same city or even in the same country, it’s about what is happening on the other side of the world and making that relevant to this city and to the audience.
Q. What skills does one require to become a successful hairstylist today?
A. To be successful in hairdressing you should have good communication skills, while I don’t claim to be the best at it and I certainly I am not. But it’s a people business and you have to be able to communicate with many people who come from different walks of life and find a common ground to be able to make them feel comfortable.
Q. What would be your one advice to young hairstylists?
A. Focus on what you are doing. You should continually strive to be the best in everything you do, continually strive to find out what’s new, what’s relevant and how you can be better. Don’t stop thinking as you have made it to the top, when you have so much more in you. I feel a lot of people get too happy with a certain amount of success and end up being satisfied rather than thinking that if this is what I can do then I have so much more in me. Patience, persistence and honesty with a lot of training and passion are needed in this job.
Q. Do you think India is flourishing in terms of the personal grooming industry?
A. I think that the industry is just taking off now. I feel there is a lot of people doing the same things and getting the same results. To catch up with international standards and performance we are growing at a fast pace. And we all have to adapt with the saying, “If you do what you have always done, you will always get what you already have.” Education for both the industry and the consumer is important so that we can all grow and develop into a sustainable business. Sadly there are some who think by opening a salon they know better than those brands that have been doing this successfully for years.
We have to be humble enough to be able to grow as one industry. It’s a challenge that many salons have instead of focusing on the core business they get distracted to other areas. I believe that the only way forward is through training and development of our people. Training is the only way we all can benefit, it’s not just about technical skills, it’s also a lot about people skills.