Businesswoman, mother and mentor, Lucy Vincent-Marr talks to Lucy Slight about her collaborative approach to life.
Living fearlessly takes courage. The trouble is, not many people do it, which is what Lucy Vincent-Marr discovered when she established her natural beauty brand Sans [ceuticals] 10 years ago. Lucy likens starting out in the ground-breaking chemical-free beauty world as embarking on a journey blindfolded.
“I can remember going to people and wanting advice, trying to find answers to questions and I just couldn’t get any. It was a really hard road,” she says. No one wanted to open the doors she was knocking on – it was a bit of a shock for someone who is a natural collaborator and mentor. “I think sometimes people have this inherent fear of being generous and sharing because they feel it might overtake what they do but, if anything, it enhances it. You just get so much great energy from being open with people, rather than having that perception of being fearful and keeping it to yourself.”
Lucy, 42, began working as a hairstylist 20 years ago, around the time she met business partner Stephen Marr. The pair went on to establish Stephen Marr hair salons, Lucy and the Powder Room and Auckland shopping destination, The Department Store. This year, Stephen Marr celebrates 21 years in the industry, a milestone that reflects the brand’s creative standing and the enduring work environment that the pair has created. Their collaborations are not confined to the beauty industry – they’ve worked on film projects with Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali of multidisciplinary production studio Special Problems. They also conceptualise the Marr Factory shows, the first of which was a performance and video projection by Special Problems in a grungy car park in central Auckland. These have since evolved into highly anticipated fashion shows that take place annually at Golden Dawn, Stephen’s bar in Ponsonby.
The mother of two and collaborator extraordinaire sits at the large communal workspace of her Ponsonby Road office, which is located above the Stephen Marr salon, as she recalls a time when running a business without borders was considered, well, a little foolish.
“I can remember when I was younger and operating like that was seen as naïve,” she says. “But it’s also about identifying how you work. I’m not a lone soldier and I don’t enjoy working on my own. I recognise that there needs to be other input to create something. And there needs to be tension at times to create something unique. It’s good to also work with people who have the confidence to come up against your own ideas and question you, which makes your ideas stronger. The thing is, when you work with other people, to work with them successfully you have to really remove your own emotional stuff from the equation and be really curious about their perspective, the way they work and why they think what they do. It’s a really great way to work, rather than being defensive. It’s just my nature and who I am. ”
In our selfie-obsessed society, the authenticity of Lucy’s business ethos is refreshing. Much like the play on the word ‘Sans’ for her all-natural products, Lucy is also ‘without’ – she’s free from pretension and, when we meet, makeup. Another surprise from someone who works in the beauty industry is that she’s devoid of the ability to smell, a sense which deteriorated over time. What’s more, she’s developing a perfume. The new venture is a leap of faith and trust in the people Lucy works with.
“I have no sense of smell, so I have to work with a pretty amazing team of trustworthy people. I know the vibe that I want to create and the last two notes I could smell were vanilla and lemon verbena – those are two notes of the fragrance for Sans. The perfume is based on natural, high-grade oils, but the idea and the way it’s presented is really, really unique and environmentally sound. We are really super excited about it,” says Lucy, of the range that is due for release early next year.
“Lucy is always developing new techniques before everyone else and implementing them into the business,” says Olivia Crighton, who went on to establish Glasshouse Salon in London after working with Lucy at Stephen Marr. “She’s a strong influence and there are now creative talents dotted throughout New Zealand and the world who have been shaped by Lucy’s ethos and ideas. Her mark has undoubtedly been made on the industry and in the way I run my own business,” says Olivia.
Art director Veronica Crockford-Pound also counts herself lucky to have worked with Lucy since her early days as a model. “Stephen and Lucy are known for finding up-and-coming models with personality and a unique look… young people who go on to do cool shit,” explains Veronica. “There was and still is such a vibe on their shoots – it’s rock ‘n’ roll and personality driven, not like the usual shoots when someone is fiddling with your hair after every shot and it feels very composed. Nothing is taken too seriously, but their references are ‘serious’ from a cultural point of view.
“Lucy, Stephen and the Special Problems guys always had something they wanted to show you and get your feedback on,” says Veronica. “There was this energy with lots of projects happening and everyone collaborating. I’d end up hanging out up there with my hair colour still processing. I loved that coming from art school they didn’t treat me like I was 19 with nothing to say. They valued everyone’s thoughts on things and –more than that – wanted to foster young creative talent. They still do,” she says.
A huge believer and supporter of other people, Lucy believes being curious and learning are key to personal development: “I’ve seen people fulfill roles that they thought they would never do. It’s that classic saying from Henry Ford: ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’”
Photos: Kelly Geddes, Veronica Crockford-Pound, Yasmine Ganley.