Fleur Murphy | Whatever brings you down will eventually make you stronger, and no one knows that better than hairdressing success story Luke Reynolds.
Having built a multi-award winning business and gained a reputation as one Brisbane’s very best, Luke found himself having to start over after a fire reduced his salon to rubble. Shortcuts’ Fleur Murphy speaks with the hair industry icon about learning to embrace change, the value of people over possessions, and how loss can be a catalyst for make positive change.
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Silver linings

They say that whatever brings you down will eventually make you stronger, and no one knows that better than hairdressing success story Luke Reynolds. Having built a multi-award winning business and gained a reputation as one Brisbane’s very best, Luke found himself having to start over after a fire reduced his salon to rubble.

Shortcuts’ Fleur Murphy speaks with the hair industry icon about learning to embrace change, the value of people over possessions, and how loss can be a catalyst for make positive change.

Tucked away in the exclusive back streets of New Farm, Brisbane, Luke’s newly-refurbished salon offers its guests a restful retreat far from the nonstop hustle of the city. The vibe is seductively high-class, bringing to mind the unbridled extravagance of a bygone era, but with a distinctly modern twist. It’s Parisian-boudoir-meets-industrial-chic, and it works.

Luke describes the salon as a celebration of the art of indulgence: sumptuous and serene. Glass pendants cast a soft glow over each gilded mirror and Chesterfield-inspired leather chair, creating an ambient intimacy. Champagne flutes etched with the Luke Reynolds name chink. If it weren’t for the constant hum of hairdryers you might be forgiven for thinking you were relaxing in the foyer of a premium hotel.

“After the fire I was determined to rebuild the salon better than ever before and make sure it was exactly what I envisioned,” Luke says. “I tried to create a place where people feel comfortable and at ease; it’s not a disco or a nightclub, it’s a hair salon. It’s all very luxurious in a high-end kind of way, a bit like walking into a Tom Ford boutique.”

“It’s been interesting to see the shift in people’s attitudes towards the space – everyone seems to have a little bit more respect for it now, compared to what they did before the fire. I suppose when something is taken away from you like that, you suddenly appreciate it in a way that you might not have done beforehand.”

Luke himself radiates effortless warmth, and draws you in with his naturally gregarious nature. His energy is testament to his lifestyle, clean eating habits and his rigorous adherence to an early-morning gym routine. Carefully groomed, clad in a well-fitted white shirt, skinny black jeans and his trademark RM Williams boots, Luke is as particular about his appearance as he is about all aspects of his life.

“I am one of those people who has very high expectations of myself,” Luke says. “If I’m honest it can sometimes be to the point of being a little bit unhealthy. I don’t understand people who sit back and think it will all somehow just happen for them one day. That’s not how you go about achieving anything in life.”

Luke certainly lives by this ethos, and one gets the impression he would achieve success at the highest level no matter what he turned his mind to. Before turning his hand to hairdressing, Luke was a professional equestrian rider, but he always had an innate talent for hair.

“I didn’t start hairdressing until my early 20s, but doing hair was always my party trick. I never thought about becoming a hairdresser until I finished my riding career and some friends talked me into giving it a go. The “aha” moment came when I won the New South Wales State Championships six weeks after starting my apprenticeship. I was then lucky enough to get a job with Benni Tognini. The rest is history.”

In the salon, Luke has assembled an enviable team of skilled creatives and managers, who were named the Hair Expo Salon Business of the Year in 2017. They know what it takes to create a flawless guest experience, and are prepared to deliver on that promise each and every time.

“The fire made me realise that your team is your number one asset,” Luke says. “I deliberately put a lot of energy into building up my employees to be the best they can be, and I have never had such a strong team as I do today, and I want to support them as much as possible. Tools like the Shortcuts Cloud Appointment Book help me create an environment that is fluid and creative, and which provides the flexibility they deserve.”

Watching him work, with his refined approach and exceptionally well-honed ability as both a stylist and as a leader, you might be fooled into thinking that Luke is infallible. But when he speaks about the evening of the fire, it’s obvious just how much it has affected him. His voice takes on a certain rawness, and he struggles to find the words to articulate what happened that night.

“I arrived at the salon as the fire brigade was smashing down the door. I stood out the front watching it burn. It was awful, and I was in a state of complete disbelief. It was the middle of the night and I kept wondering, is this a nightmare?

“I remember crying and yelling and screaming. I felt such a sense of loss – this thing I had worked so hard for all these years was being completely taken away. It was unbelievable.”

Always one to look for the silver lining and find it, Luke says the fire helped him realise what really matters in life.

“I am a big believer that there is always a positive that comes from a negative. There is always an upside to terrible experiences, and that’s what you’ve got to focus on when you’re going through them. The number one thing for was the people I had around me – friends, family, staff. You never know when you are going to need their help.

“The fire really brought the entire team together and taught me a lot of life lessons that I might not have otherwise learned. It has changed me a lot as a person. I am so much calmer now, I have learned to take things in my stride. I have lived it, it’s part of my story, but after a while all you can do it move on.

“After all, material possessions can be replaced, a salon can be rebuilt, but the people in your life are irreplaceable.”

Fleur Murphy heads up the marketing team at Shortcuts, Australia’s leading software provider for the hair, beauty and male grooming industries. She leads Shortcuts’ marketing strategy across social, print and digital, and loves helping salon businesses thrive. For more of Luke’s story visit www.shortcuts.com.au/lukereynolds

An abridged version of this article will appear in Instyle Magazine, September 2018.

Videography and photography: Krista Eppelstun