Local hair ‘designer’ enters Canadian competition Clayton John’s studio a hotbed of photo this summer By Paul Andrew In the world of fashion there are hair dressers, hair stylists and then there are hair designers. Among the half dozen or so hair salons in Whistler, there seems to be only a few of the latter. Clayton John, who is in the middle of doing a series of photo shoots and film sessions to enter a competition in Canada called The Contessas, which are the Canadian Hair Dresser’s Awards, said he’s been around the industry long enough to be considered a hair designer, and he will enter five presentations to the Contessas before the Aug. 31 deadline to prove his title in the industry is not self-serving. John, 44, who owns Clayton John’s hair studio in Whistler Village, said he has owned some 26 hair salons in his 25 years in the business. His recent tour of product line companies in Canada and the U.S, after an April world convention of 35,000 hair stylists in Toronto, was a warm-up for the competition, of which he intends to win at least one category. "There’s seven different categories and I’m entering five," John said. "There’s ladies short and long, men’s, colour, perms and multicultural. I’m using my clients as models so for the shoot we did last night, we used Angie Patterson, a very attractive girl in Whistler who also body builds. And another girl named Rhonda from the Amsterdam Cafe. These aren’t simple little photo shoots though." John says in order to be considered for the Contessas, which are broadcast on national television in late November or December, the film and the still photography must represent the designer at his or her finest. Because of that, he has contracted Insight Photography in Whistler to do the stills, is using a professional film-crew from Vancouver, hired a top-notch make-up artist and clothier, and has scripted and choreographed each session. He’s also added a team of three-dimensional computer animators for good measure. "The film itself will be my film if I win the competition. If I lose I’ll give it to my product companies for promotion." John says it’s important Whistler becomes recognized for its high level of professional hair dressers, along with its sport heroes such as Rob Boyd and Ross Rebagliati. He has been doing hair design in Whistler since 1987, but entered the Contessas last year for the fist time. Out of 600 entries, he did not place in the top-10, which are the only results released from the national competition. "I entered last year just to see what it was all about — to get my feet wet," John said. "This year I intend to win. But it’s for the whole industry up here. No one I know has ever entered from Whistler and our industry up here is damn good. We’ve got good boarders and good skiers. I want people to know how good this town is for hair dressers." John says he got his start as a hairdresser while in his early 20s, when he was a cop in Hanouver, Ont. His wife at the time had won the title of 1976 World Cup Hair Styling and agreed to teach him the trade. Day school training and a trip to Italy completed his world-class schooling. "I went to Italy for three months after I finished school and trained with the Italian Artistic Team. I learned a lot and went from one end of Italy to the other. But I was basically a fly in the corner — a shampoo boy — since then I’ve owned 26 salons." Even if John does not win the coveted Contessas, he said the exposure coming from the expensive and elaborate photo sessions may give Whistler the attention it deserves. "If nothing else it will stabilize my career," he added.