A Langley stylist with a passion for hair is taking his talent to the global stage.
James Abu-Ulba is one of 10 finalists from around the world chosen to participate in the eight annual Davines World Style Contest for hairstyling in Miami this month.
He is one of only two finalists representing North America— a position he won after submitting an abstract hairstyle of bright reds, yellows, and oranges, inspired by a fusion of ballet and clowns.
While in Miami, Abu-Ulba will have to create an entire look for a model, including hair, makeup, clothing and even runway choreography.
His inspiration for his final piece comes from a trip to Stanley Park in the fall when he became infatuated by the fallen leaves. This will be the base for the hair colour he chooses to use.
“When I brainstorm I start looking for things that inspire me, and I start playing around with haircuts,” he said. “My clients are my best guinea pigs. I don’t do anything that’s out of control on them but I can practice the same technique, just not as extreme. I even have a few clients who will let me experiment on them.”
Abu-Ulba’s career began at the age of 16 when he started working in his father’s salon sweeping floors and washing hair. Although he did not like the work at first, he began to develop a love for hair design.
“I’ve always been creative and into art and it wasn’t until I went to a couple of hair shows that I saw there is a real art to it,” he said. “This is when I decided ‘OK, this is what I need to do.’”
After developing his career in London and Berlin, Abu-Ulba came to Spa Utopia, where he been working for 10 years. Among being director of education for hair at the salon locations in Langley, Vancouver and North Vancouver, he also has a large dedicated client base.
“There’s many different hats that I wear,” he said. “I work 60 to 70 hours per week but to me it’s not really work; what I’m doing during the day is what I love.”
For him, the Davines competition is an opportunity to experiment with new looks and let his creativity go wild.
“Every year I try to work on a collection for myself to put out something creative. Besides my everyday salon work I like to do things that are a lot more progressive and more edgy— things that people wouldn’t necessarily wear but it’s a way to show off my creativity,” he said.
Although he is battling some of the top hair stylists in the world, Abu-Ulba says winning the competition is of small importance compared with the chance to show off his creations to a global audience.
“I love teaching and I love sharing, and for me it’s not really about winning. It’s more about sharing my work and sharing my ideas and sharing my concepts, and this is a gateway to that. Whether I win or not, I’m just doing what I love and I’m thankful that I have this opportunity.”