Vernon François is a hairstylist and educator, most known for being a pioneer in the natural hair movement. Vernon was born and raised in Yorkshire, England, in a Rastafarian household. He champions the versatility of afro and curly hair, and loves hair of all textures – kinky, coily, curly, wavy and straight. He specializes in curly hair and afro textured hair. In 2016, he founded his very own haircare line, The Vernon François Collection. He learned how to braid in a way that we could have never come up with, ourselves. The Hollywood Reporter named Vernon as a top stylist in both 2018 and 2019. You might have seen his work on the tresses of Lupita Nyong’o, Amandla Stenberg, Solange Knowles, Serena Williams, and Willow Smith. Vernon has an aura of positivity that makes it obvious that he would encounter such success. While he has accomplished more than is imaginable, his influence and artistry are ever-growing.
Happy: You are someone who, very transparently, is completely passionate about what they do. Your point of view on hair, I’m sure, has changed the lives of so many people. What is it that made you interested in hair in the first place?
Vernon: My interest in hair was first sparked as a young child because having my hair braided was always painful for me, I knew there must be a more comfortable way of doing it. Every Sunday me and my four brothers would have our hair done while chicken, rice and peas cooked – I can smell it now… Not only did it really hurt, but the result didn’t even look that great – sorry mum! When I said as much, Mum said I should try doing it myself, not exactly in those words! From that moment the challenge was set. At age eight I taught myself to braid, loc and twist using anything tasselled, like the fraying on my jeans, the untangled rope on the mop, grandmas beaded curtains, fringing on our living room rug and so on. Doing hair in a pain-free way that looked good was like an equation to be solved and it quickly became my obsession, my world.
Happy: You were raised in England, in a Rastafarian household. Is there anything about Rastafarianism that played a part in your perspective on hair?
Vernon: One hundred percent, being raised in a Rastafarian family helped to shape my perspective on hair in many ways. If there was one thing my brothers, sister and I knew was that hair is to be worn with pride, confidence, taken care of and groomed well at all costs. No excuses! This was at home and in the wider world at events like carnival and so on. A lot of my family have locs and having respect for hair and haircare was part of my upbringing. I installed locs for one of my brothers about twenty years ago which he still wears today, they reach his ankles now!
Happy: You have worked with Lupita Nyong’o, Serena Williams, Willow Smith, Solange Knowles, and so many more acclaimed figures. What have you learned about the relationship that women have with their hair throughout working with so many amazing women?
Vernon: What I have learned along the way is very simple: everyone wants to feel their most beautiful. My job is to go on clients’ hair journeys with them, helping them to find their way and arrive at their destination with clarity. I am forever grateful to work with incredible individuals willing to explore the full scope of their hair’s versatility. Clients who are unbothered by convention or other people’s expectations of what their hair should look like, or what is should do. These collaborations are fruitful because we’re shifting mindsets around how women should present themselves in certain spaces.
Happy: I think it’s so amazing that you are such an influential hair stylist, and you are also the Global Consultant for Redken. How did your connection with Redken evolve?
Vernon: Being a global consultant, celebrity hairstylist and educator for Redken is something that I still pinch myself about today. Working with this brand, I kid you not, has been an ambition of mine since I was an assistant. I’m not sure exactly how it happened but am forever grateful to have come onto their radar. Redken and I are authentically aligned in speaking to all hair experiences, advocating for full inclusivity, in front of and behind the camera, at all costs, in an industry that is layered and complex.
Photo: Jesse Fiorino
Happy: You have an adorable three year old daughter, who’s hair I’ve seen you do in videos on social media. What is it that you hope your daughter will grow up knowing about her hair?
Vernon: I hope for my daughter to grow up knowing that while hair is a part of who she is, and something that she can express her personality through, it’s not who she is. Hair does not define you. Doing as much or as little as you can be bothered with it is OK. My role is to guide her in very clearly knowing that the hair texture she is born with is not a nuisance and nothing to be ashamed of, no matter the circumstance or time of day. Like first thing in the morning if the hair’s knotty, instead of getting frustrated, I’ll help her to realize this is just a personality trait of the hair’s texture. She’s learning about maintenance, how to be respectful of if, and getting comfortable in the perspective of “it’s fine”.
Happy: Have you always known that you would be so successful in your field? Or did success come as a surprise?
Vernon: Success means different things to different people. For me, it’s about achieving ambitions, operating in incredible spaces, and seeing my work make a difference to individuals the world over. Being dyslexic, facing many hurdles along the way, I have never for one moment taken success as a given. I have always been true to myself and worked hard with consistency and determination. Taking craftsmanship seriously and having a vision will set you up for succeeding in whatever field you operate in.
Happy: I’ve seen you do mind blowing hairstyles on artists like Willow Smith, Amandla Stenberg, Tinashe, and many others. They are hairstyles that I genuinely have not seen anywhere else. It seems like there is a lot of creativity going into the ideas for these styles. Do you consider doing hair to be an art?
Vernon: Doing hair is most definitely something that I consider to be an art form. Looking up the meaning of art, it is, “the expression of human creative skill and imagination typically in visual form… appreciated for its beauty or emotional power.” I developed my own hair cutting technique, which is a creative skill that considers hair’s shape, density, movement, feel, appearance, and texture whether kinky, curly, coily, wavy or straight. Creating hairstyles that are beautiful and interesting, that complement the personality, intentions and lifestyle of the individual, as well as the vibe of the occasion – this is craftsmanship, it’s art. .
Happy: The first time we met, you were immediately so positive, friendly, and kind. Considering your level of accomplishment, I imagine that is the way you are with everyone. What is a secret to positivity and happiness that you feel other people should know?
Vernon: One of the secrets to positivity and happiness is to remember that people never forget how you make them feel, no matter the time, place, or context. Being an educator and a hairdresser involves sharing personal space with others, physically and emotionally. It’s my duty to make each experience comfortable, enjoyable, and memorable for all the right reasons. Genuinely, I am happy in these spaces and joy is what individuals respond to. I’m always grateful that I get to do what I love, and know that here is where I am meant to be.
Happy: You have executed your vision and have truly done your rounds in the world. If today was your last day on earth, what is it that you hope people would remember about you?
My hope is to be remembered as a force for good in helping humans the world over to turn any fear into courage when it comes to loving, knowing and showing up with their hair’s true texture – be it kinky, coily, curly, wavy or straight – however much or little hair an individual believes they have.
Happy: What is next for you?
Vernon: There are great things happening that will be announced soon, as well as a lot of work that I do behind the scenes. I’m most active on Instagram send me a DM @vernonfrançois