The Limerick hairdresser has worked with every A-list celebrity you can think of - and he's bringing his ambitions home again
You’d be forgiven for not knowing Gareth Bromell's name just yet.
Heidi Klum does. And so do Michelle Williams, Dakota Johnson and Bella Hadid. Taylor Swift definitely does after he gave her that headline-making post-breakup haircut in 2016 when she split from Tom Hiddleston. He is a big deal in Hollywood and yet, he doesn't have the same mainstream recognition as some of his peers but, of course, that's about to change.
Until he shaped Swift's blonde bob into a shag and fringe - which she wore for two more years - he had been an in-demand editorial and celebrity hairstylist, but the Swift effect catapulted him to superstardom.
Bromell (38), from Castleconnell, Co Limerick, left Ireland at the age of 20, bursting with ambition and confidence, with the skills to back it up. He left school at 15, originally with the aim of becoming a chef but when that plan didn’t come to fruition, his mother introduced him to her hairdresser at the Hugh Campbell Hair Group, which gave him a taste for the career which would afford him so much long-term success.
“First off, I wanted to be a chef. Being a hairdresser never entered my mind,” he tells Independent.ie Style. “I left school when I was quite young. When being a chef didn’t work out for me, I didn’t want to go back to school, so my mother introduced me to her hairdresser and that’s where the career started. I wanted to get involved more creatively, so after that, I started working for Toni & Guy, then I moved to Dublin and followed an opportunity to work in London when I was 20.”
The harder you work, the luckier you get, and Gareth was working his socks off. His end goal was to work in fashion - although he even says himself he couldn’t have dreamt up the success he enjoys in the industry today - and strategically carved out a career that would allow him the opportunities to pursue that.
“I got offered a job with Daniel Hersheson [an iconic British hairdresser] and that’s where my career really took off. From them on, I started assisting Paul Hanlon on Gucci campaigns and I worked with him for a few years. Then I started working with the royal families of Saudi Arabia, the British royal family, celebrities and runway shows in London.”
Pretty soon, he was established all his own and his work assisting two of the UK’s top hair talents led to him creating a name for himself, one which would allow him the chance to travel stateside and take his already thriving career up another notch.
“I wanted to go to New York. I was offered a job but he pulled out a month before we were due to move but I couldn’t afford to move on my own, and I ended up getting offered a job with a guy in LA who I’d met previously. It was a weird way to approach the fashion industry because the fashion industry wasn’t there yet,” he says.
“The success started to manifest in Los Angeles after I’d gotten through the tough times of the first couple of years. I was offered representation and the celebrity work started to come in - everyone like Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr - they were all recommended to me by mutual friends. It happened very organically.”
He has agencies in Paris, New York, London and Los Angeles. And he is bringing this wealth of experience back to his native Limerick with the launch of a new concept beauty bar under his brand Henshin at Castletroy Town Centre. He and makeup artist Mandy O’Loughlin have launched the two-pronged business which gives women the opportunity to enjoy both sides of the beauty coin, and for affordable pricing (each service takes 30 minutes and costs €35 each).
“I’m a big lover of where I come from and so the right choice was to have our flagship in Limerick,” he says. “I’ve been away for 17 years and I work on all the shows in New York, Milan, Paris, I’ve worked with A-list clients; I shoot for Vogue, Elle, etc. It’s where I’m from. I love where I’m from.
“I love that I’m from Ireland. I haven't lived here for a long time, but I still have my accent and this is who I am. I want to make a change wen it becomes to the beauty industry and move Ireland a step forward with it as well, using my experience. I saw an opening in the market when it came to hairstyling and how the industry was missing the wearability factor when it came to hair in Ireland.
“We’ve got a curated menu of 10 hair and nine makeup looks. Everything is tailored to the individual in consultation - we work with what the client wants. What I’ve noticed in Ireland recently is that for an updo, they tell you to wash your hair the night before and you’re coming in the next day paying €80 for an updo and they don’t provide a full service. I want to give a full service to my client like I give my clients globally," he adds.
Big product and service launches tend to remain in Dublin and the outskirts and smaller cities around the country tend to get ignored, which was one of the deciding factors to return focus on his home city.
“That’s why we did the first flagship in Limerick, we’re expanding this year to Cork and Dublin as well. It’s very exciting. We’re very talented as a nation. There’s so much talent that comes from Ireland. That’s why, for me, I’m still global and work on a global level but I want to bring it back to ireland. I want to make Ireland relevant globally in beauty. For me, you can do anything once you put your mind to it. That’s why it’s happening here.”
The Henshin property aligns with its ethos: it’s built using reclaimed wood and recycled materials, complementing the all-natural approach to it service and products. They only use vegan friendly, sulphate and paraben free products and want to enhance the client’s natural beauty and makeup is “anti-Instagram”.
His attitude towards clients is one rooted in respect and self-acceptance, he wants women to feel good in their skin and is investing in this belief on a larger scale, starting from his locale with global aspirations.
"When I’m asked by beauty press about 'what’s the trend'. I say the trend is the inidivual. The trend is the embracing what you have and everything that you have."