After a 30 year career at Vidal Sassoon culminating in his renowned role as International Creative Director Tim has left the corporate world to concentrate on his own stunning visions of hair design.For over 30 years he’s been inspiring generations of young hairdressers with his passionate approach to hair, cutting edge aesthetic and technical expertise.
His rise to the stratosphere of international hair design has been a remarkable one starting in the city of Manchester in the late 1970s, one of the centres of avant-garde punk style and ending on a global stage. Having qualified as a barber at, of course, Sassoon’s Tim was already experimenting with hair using the look of Manchester’s underground scene at night as inspiration for the haircuts he was creating by day. By 1981 Tim had moved into women’s’ hairdressing and was already turning heads with his cuts. The New Romantic scene was sweeping Europe and stars such as Boy George and Grace Jones introduced a gender experimentation into fashion that overturned the accepted rules of dressing up. A Tim Hartley haircut was an integral component of the look, in particular, the stunning Kabuki created for the model Julie Woodhouse, and singer Marc Almond of Soft Cell hit the number one spot with Tainted Love and an asymmetrical wedge courtesy of Tim. This exemplary work was recognised by mentor and friend Sassoon Creative Director Christopher Brooker and Tim was made a regional art director. It was around this time that Tim began to develop his signature style – a series of pared-down looks which reflected his love of twentieth century design from the Bauhaus, the cradle of modernism in the 1920s which spawned the chair designs of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, through the genius of Italian designer Gio Ponti in the 1950s to the work of architect Rem Koolhuis today. Haircuts such as the ubiquitous Wrap of 1986 which had interlocking sections over a clipped undercut prefigured the minimalist aesthetic which was to dominate the 1990s in the catwalk shows of Helmut Lang and Prada and put him at the forefront of modern hair design. His reputation was such that by 1987 Tim was chosen to play a leading role in the re-styling of Hollywood legend Faye Dunaway for a key campaign for jewellers Butler and Wilson. He remembers creating a cut that was ‘ a simple one-length line, slightly raised at the back and let to dry naturally. The results were fantastic and she used them for her press shots for a long time.’ Since the late 1980s Tim’s place in the pantheon of hairdressing has been assured and he continues to travel internationally to great acclaim courted by professionals, picking up awards and inspiring hairdressers with his genuine passion for the craft and his innate understanding of the cultural significance of hair.
Recent work has been inspired by the most diverse of influences: Man Ray’s Surrealist fashion photography, Gilbert and George’s performance art, 1920s cabaret and low fi street style. And his advice to the next generation? “Be open-minded, seek out diversity, find a great mentor, work hard and love what you do, love it every day.”