Stephen Marr talks business, hair and growing the iconic brand

As one of Auckland’s most popular destinations for cuts, colours, blow drys and styles, ultra-luxurious hair salon Stephen Marr has built an aspirational brand with a devout client-base. Established in 1994, Marr has remained at the top of the hair industry with his namesake salons.  Zara Overton spoke with the legendary hair stylist and business owner about all things Stephen Marr in the October issue of NEWMARKET. Magazine.

N.Tell us about how you got started in hairdressing….

I kind of fell into it, but I have definitely always been creative. I originally planned to study Fine Arts/Art History, and ended up doing a Liberal Arts degree in my early 20’s once I had completed my hairdressing training and spent some time traveling the world. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university and even thought I might want to embark on an Honours degree at one point, but I also realised I loved the craft of hairdressing, and the education and culture aspects of the business of hair.

N.You brought The Marr Factory, an iconic institution showcasing up and coming and top NZ designers (such as Workshop and Kate Sylvester) to life, holding rock and roll fashion shows in unexpected and edgy settings. Where did the idea come from to start The Marr Factory?

The salon has had a long creative relationship with iconic Kiwi fashion brands like Karen Walker, Zambesi, Nom*D, Kate Sylvester and Workshop over the years. After a long history of ‘happenings’ and shows that we hosted (we had 18 Karen Walker X Stephen Marr shows in the Newmarket salon over 9 years, alone), the original Marr Factory shows were held in 2005 in a car park, helping launch super creative brands like Miss Crabb. The idea of rejuvenating Marr Factory several years later came about when many of the fashion brands we worked with stopped doing New Zealand Fashion Week as it has become less relevant in the digital age. We thought it would be fun to put on a series of in-season shows that felt more like a party, but with fashion. They delivered more attitude, with a strong emphasis on photography and digital content. The Golden Dawn was the perfect platform for such an event, and the rock n’ roll feel that it helped deliver.



N. You opened your Newmarket salon in 2003. What was your brief for the interiors/ design of the space?

I like strong spaces for salons, lots of steel and strong lines, with sculptural objects and cast concrete pulling it all together. The space has evolved over the years, and we now have large living green walls to lend more of an organic feel for our clients.



N. Education and training is a big part of your business, mentoring young staff from the outset into their senior careers. Do you have any mentors that have helped shaped your personal career?

Yes, I have several mentors who I meet with regularly.


N.You spend time during the week on the floor between both of your salons, why is this important to you?

Hair is my passion. It keeps me connected with my team and my clients, and I genuinely enjoy human interaction. I have always maintained time on the floor, while dabbling in my other ventures.


N.How do you think hairdressing has evolved in the past 5 years?

We definitely have more informed customers due to the digital world. There has also been huge innovation in the area of smoothing and treatment products, for the better.


N.What are your top hair products that you would recommend?

I love O&M’s Conquer Blonde range, which is incredible for our blonde and silver clients. The luxe offerings from Oribe are incredible both in the areas of care and styling, offering great alternatives in terms of texture and volume that are far from traditional hairspray and the like. Cezanne treatments are brilliant as a permanent smoothing solution, and are life changing for so many of our clients.


N.How do you start each morning?

With a gym workout or a meeting, although I try to aim for both.


N.Do you have any favourite hair style icons?

There are so many historic classic industry icons such as Vidal Sassoon and Trevor Sorbie that I often reference when educating. There are so many influencers now doing interesting things too, not just in the business of hair but across many different creative industries.

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N.Stephen Marr and your stylists are often involved in editorial shoots for a number of magazines and fashion brands. How do opportunities like this benefit the wider brand?

It never fails to offer vital experience for our stylists who then bring so much more to their craft and knowledge into the salon atmosphere. Stephen Marr has a history of creative collaboration with other brands and it definitely benefits us all as a whole.


N.Favourite holiday destination?

I don’t think I could name just one destination… I like diversity when it comes to travel, a good mix of the intrepid and the luxe. I recently visited London and Greece and loved both for their contrast.


N.If you could style the hair of anyone in the world, who you would choose and why?

Donald Trump, just to ask the question: ‘is it hair, is it not?’ Actually, I would hope to be fired before starting.


N. Name the last book you read.

A friend lent me a fantastic book which I read on holiday, ‘Death and Disaster – the Rise of the Warhol Empire and the Race for Andy’s Millions’…..great holiday stuff!


N. You have a strongly loyal following and customer base. What do you attribute this to? An unwavering commitment to ongoing education, excellent individualised customer service, great energy and experience. Editorial shoots, fashion shows, regular clients, multiple businesses and a family – how do you manage to keep on top of it all?

Regular fitness. I work out or do something active everyday.


N.What hair trends are you loving at the moment?

More volume and a slightly deconstructed finish… a naturally sexy look.


N.How has social media influenced the way you work?

So much. It is an instant way to connect and express our brand message, as well as a way to access creative innovation and constant inspiration, as it happens.


N.What is Newmarket’s best kept secret?

Room Nine, which is just upstairs from the Newmarket salon and the go-to for all of the team when they need a skin treatment, nails, a lash lift, great brows and more.


N.Do you have any advice for budding hair stylists?

Work hard and develop the fundamentals of the craft. The rest will flow from there.


N.What’s next for Stephen Marr?

Watch this space! Keep looking forward!


16 Morrow Street | 09 524 6702 | @stephen_marr

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