Hairdryers at dawn! A year after they styled her for the Royal Wedding, Kate's favourite crimpers are at war – and it's all getting a bit hairy
22:15 GMT, 27 April 2012
Girl with the curl: Kate reveals her latest look on Thursday
How bewitching Kate’s hair is!
The depth of the gloss, the bounce of the curls, the rich conker colour.
It’s no surprise, then, that the competition to style the royal locks is hotter than a pair of curling tongs.
And even though the lady herself appears too supremely well-mannered to get involved, the battle of the Duchess’s ‘do’ has gone to hairdryers at dawn and beyond already.
In the blue corner is celebrity stylist Richard Ward — handsome, publicity-loving and extremely successful.
And in the red corner is his former employee James Pryce, 33, a young man with a slightly rock ’n’ roll swagger who is the son of a hair salon owner himself.
It was into Richard’s salon in Chelsea that Kate first waltzed as a shy 21-year-old, fresh out of university back in 2003.
And he was on hand, wiping away a tear, as she stepped out of her suite at the Goring Hotel in London and into the global spotlight on her wedding day, a year ago tomorrow.
Pryce, meanwhile, left school at 17 to train with top hairdresser Trevor Sorbie before going to work for Ward and cutting Kate’s hair for eight years before the wedding.
Not only was he the one to style it on the big day itself, he joined her on a royal visit to Canada a few months later.
But now he has parted company with Ward most acrimoniously and the hairdressing world hums with talk of legal action and other unpleasantness between the two men.
Pryce now has nothing to do with Kate’s locks at all, and operates out of a small rival salon behind a discreet black door in nearby Holland Park.
Instead Kate’s hair is cut by Ward himself, coloured at his salon, and styled by his staff. (They also take care of her mother Carole, and sister Pippa.)
So where did it all go wrong The two men met while working on a tour with the hair-styling company GHD. Ward was by then a well-known hairdresser and burgeoning media personality (he is the hair expert on ITV1’s Lorraine show). Pryce asked him for a job.
Stunning: The Duchess has turned to celebrity stylist Richard Ward and James Pryce in the past to do her hair
He rose to the senior level of ‘creative director’ at the salon, which serves 1,000 customers a week, and his big break came when he was asked to cut Kate’s hair.
Already dating Prince William and eager to look good in the spotlight, she became a loyal customer.
One of Pryce’s friends tells me: ‘He had a great relationship with her, a personal relationship of which he was very protective.’
Pryce was called to Clarence House to
style Kate’s hair ahead of the engagement announcement in November 2010
and was delighted to be asked to do her hair for the wedding less than
six months later.
For the big day, he was part of a team
of ten from the Richard Ward salon who attended to the hair of Kate,
Pippa, Carole and the bridesmaids.
Partnership: Richard Ward (right) and James Pryce, who have both taken their scissors to Kate's hair, worked together for years before acrimoniously parting company
After trying out several different styles on Kate, they opted for a demi-chignon — very much the style she wore even more flamboyantly on Thursday night at a fund-raising reception at the Imperial War Museum in London.
In a diary of the wedding, written for Hairdresser’s Journal, Pryce talked about his ‘great relationship’ with Kate ‘built on trust and discretion’.
He revealed: ‘Kate asked if I would look after her on the day and if the Richard Ward team would style the bridal party.
‘It was all very low-key and Richard and I knew we couldn’t talk about it to the Press. We sat down and discussed how the day would work — how many stylists we’d need, who would do what, and how it would all happen without anyone outside the salon finding out.
‘[Kate] wanted a romantic feel and her hair had to complement that. Richard and I worked on three [different styles] — hair down, hair up and half up-half down styles.
‘Kate was considering flowers in her hair, so the look needed to take that into account. Once we’d presented the ideas, Kate selected a few she liked and we started to work on those until she opted for the version she wore on the day.’
The two men secretly practised the demi-chignon on Richard’s PA — wearing a 5 fake tiara to stand in for the stunning Cartier ‘halo’ headpiece, loaned to Kate by the Queen, that she wore on the day — in a back office, morning, noon and night.
On the wedding day, it took James two hours to perfect Kate’s look.
Richard, whose salon and hair product range turns over 6 million a year, was happy to let his young employee take the credit.
‘Usually the pressure is on me, but that day was all about James; he did so well. I was there passing the pins and loving every moment,’ he said.
Seven months later, though, that team spirit had evaporated.
Some say the tensions between the men were inevitable — they are very different and Pryce was ambitious to strike out on his own.
Flawless: Kate Middleton's hair is often at the centre of attention and for year's she was going to Pryce and Ward for a cut
At the time, one of his friends said his departure had become inevitable because he was spending so much time attending to the Duchess: ‘He was sad to leave, but I think that looking after Catherine has become a full-time job in itself’.
Whatever the cause, there was an eruption in November last year when the stylist left the company. Richard Ward took legal action over a Press report of the reasons for the departure.
At first it was wrongly speculated that Pryce had taken his most famous client with him and there was ‘fury’ over his perceived gall.
But instead he disappeared for a long coast-to-coast tour of the U.S., having discovered that women from Seattle to Miami were willing to pay handsomely to have their hair cut by Kate Middleton’s stylist.
To publicise the tour, Pryce described himself as ‘London’s most celebrated hairstylist, with a deep list of notable clientele.’ Nudge, nudge.
And now, after a lucrative interlude, he has returned. He arrived three weeks ago at the Josh Wood Atelier in Holland Park. There’s been no sign of Kate, though.
Celebrity: Richard Ward is a stylist to the celebrities and is often on ITV1's Lorraine show
She has simply kept going to the Richard Ward salon in Chelsea.
Pals explain that it is a place where she can trust everyone, from the reception team up. Discretion is assured. Her family also continue to frequent Richard Ward.
A spokesman for James Pryce confirms: ‘At the moment, it’s not James who does her hair.
‘There is basically a non-competition clause [in hairdressers’ contracts] which means that when one hairdresser goes elsewhere they cannot take their clients with them for a certain amount of time.
'We are coming up to the end of that period, and we will see what happens. James did her hair for a long period, and at the wedding, too.’
Friends of Ward are not too worried by such assertions. One said: ‘Richard has suspected that James has asked many of his clients to go over to him. If Kate wanted to get her hair done by someone, she would simply do so.’
In any case, I am told: ‘She is not a fussy or vain person. Very often she does style her hair herself, which surprises people. She asks people to come to Kensington Palace fairly rarely — just for the big occasions.’
Ward himself is discreet on the subject of the Duchess. He won’t say what he does for her, or where.
He did tell me, though: ‘She first came to the salon when she was 21 and the cut has evolved since then although not in a drastic way. The layers are cut in a different way.
'She has very good hair and it doesn’t take much to make it look that way. Her hair always looks so shiny and so beautifully groomed.’
Has she ever, in all those years, flirted with the idea of cutting it all off. ‘No!’ cries Ward. ‘She has never been tempted.’
But whether it will be Mr Ward or James Pryce tending those luscious locks remains to be seen.
How you can steal her style
The hair-do Kate sported at an event at London’s Imperial War Museum on Thursday will undoubtedly become a High Street hit, but how easy is it to recreate Here, Marcio Oliveira, a senior stylist at Jo Hansford’s celebrated Mayfair salon, shows the Mail’s CLAIRE COLEMAN how it’s done . . .
1. Blow-dry 2. Tong the ends
After shampooing, rinse really well, because unless the hair is very clean, you won’t get the same bounce and shine as Kate. Smooth through a little lightweight oil (I used Illuminoil, 29, johansford.com) to give a bit of gloss. Divide the hair into sections and blow dry from the bottom up. To create volume, use a large barrelled bristle brush under each section and pull the hair up. For the ends, use a medium barrelled brush as you dry.
To give definition and movement to the hair, use a pair of tongs to create curls at the end.
Take large sections (around six altogether) and wrap the final two inches of hair around the tongs and hold for a few seconds. Vary the direction that you wrap the hair so that the curls go in different directions.
Tonging the hair now, rather than after you’ve pinned it, makes it easier to pin, because the hair is already forming the shape you need.
3. Backcomb 4. Pin up
Kate’s do has quite a bit of volume in the centre. To get this look, you need to gently backcomb the hair. Work from the front, taking sections half-an-inch thick and no wider than your comb, and use three strokes of a comb on the inch closest to the scalp, brushing towards the root. This gives volume at the base while leaving the ends smooth and glossy, and means pins will stay in place. Work from the front to behind the crown, using hairspray to keep in place. Then smooth the hair back off the face and spray.
Take a section of the hair from one side of the head and pull it back, pinning it in place with a Kirby grip. Then twist that lock of hair and pin it again with another grip.
Repeat on the other side. Spray to hold.
It’s not a bun, it’s just that Kate’s hair is so long and thick that it stands proud of the head and looks like one.
– Jo Hansford, 48 South Audley Street, London, W1K 2QB; johansford.com; 020 7495 7774