Valerie Salembier, the current fiftysomething publisher of Hearst magazine Town & Country, wears a bright pink strip in her otherwise classic, layered, blonde bob. “It’s been hot pink for three years,” she says.
Calgary Avansino, the 37-year-old executive fashion and digital projects director of British Vogue, has long blond hair – with a very dark layer underneath. “I thought my hair was looking a bit prim,” says Avansino. “So I had the idea to let my underneath part go back to it’s natural light brown, and [colourist] Josh Wood said, why don’t we do it black instead?”
And lest you think this is all a niche movement limited to the fashion/media industries: “A recent client of mine who has a green dip dye is a secretary in the House of Lords,” says Alex Brownsell, founder of Bleach, a salon in London’s East End.
In other words, hair colour is having a creative moment. Now the question is: just how far can you go?
“My assistant has a dip-dyed fringe,” says Avansino. “It looks amazing, but I could never do it. There are different ways women feel they have to dress to be taken seriously and there are certain limits.”
“I am not seeing successful high level women coming in and asking for pinks and the pastels,” says Jack Howard, a colourist at Rossano Ferretti just around the corner from British Vogue headquarters. Still, he has become sought out for using balayage, which is a subtle technique wherein the contrast is less marked and highlights are painted on by hand (no foils), and combining this with a subtler version of the dip dye called Ombré. Case – or client – in point: Catriona Blampied, managing director, Europe, for talent agency Platinum Rye Entertainment.
“We lighten up the ends freehand, as well as some of the pieces, especially around the face, close to the roots,” he explains.
“As I’m a full-time working mother of two, I need the flexibility that this allows me,” Blampied says. “If it grows out a little too far and you can’t be as high maintenance as you’d like, it doesn’t leave a horrible road down the middle of your head. It allows you some leeway.”
Christophe Robin, the man behind the hair tints of Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni and Tilda Swinton’s recent pink, is sceptical over just how much older women are willing to experiment. “After 40 my clientele’s concern is to cover the greys, not turn brassy,” he says.
Nevertheless, he persuaded L’Oréal, for whom he is creative colour director, to go with his idea for a DIY ombré kit, Préférence Wild Ombrés, and (coming up in January) a DIY pastel rinse. “Pink is kind of crazy,” he says, “but flattering. In the old times in the movies they put pink filters [on the camera lens] to make the skin look like porcelain.”
Jane Harper, 32, an account director at PR agency the Communications Store, has tinted her platinum bob pastel pink. “It’s always commented on,” she says. “You see so many with golden highlights that if you have them you blend into the crowd.”
It is for this reason, says Josh Wood, that one of his clients, who runs a bank, “has had the whole of her hair bleached. In that work environment it is very experimental, but there are women out there who escalate through organisations by looking different.”
Similarly, for Valerie Salembier, her pink strip serves as a signature. Not to mention an icebreaker. As she says, “I was publisher of US Harpers Bazaar when I did it, and the fashion business can be very complicated; there are a lot of egos. I just wanted to lighten up, and wanted those around me to lighten up. And I think putting a bit of flash on your person is one of the ways to accomplish that.”