For some, working in the hairdressing industry is a childhood dream. For others, like Dario Cotroneo, that realisation came in a slightly different manner. Yet 31 years later, here Dario is: a multi award winning hair artist, educator and salon owner who is completely innovating the way artists approach hair.
We had the pleasure of chatting to Dario about the unintentional way he discovered his passion for hair, what advice he’d give to his 15-year-old self, and what inspired his unique cutting techniques. Read it below!
Tell us about yourself!
This year I am celebrating 31 years in the hairdressing industry. Our multi award-winning education company, DCI Education has been operating since 1998, and throughout my career I have educated and inspired hairdressers around the world, demonstrating my unique and singular brand of education. “Not just how to cut hair, but why.”
My ethos isn’t just about great hair education – It’s about supporting passionate people. Creating a supportive and innovative environment is always top of mind.
I aim to constantly elevate the hairdressing industry, encouraging others to step up and adapt to change without fear. With a foundation of high-level education this can be done and I am thrilled to help provide a positive, sustainable, future for the industry’s growth.
How did your career in hair begin?
My two sisters were hairdressers and my father would not allow them to go into the city and watch a hair seminar unless I went with them. I was 14 years old and had no intention of being a hairdresser.
Frank Burgermeister was presenting a seminar for L’Oreal and from the moment Frank walked on stage to present his models, he inspired me into the world of hair, because of his passion and how he transformed his models' hair.
On the way home, I asked my sister's boss to work part time without pay for her, (so she could not fire me), and she said yes. After a few months she recommended I apply for a job with the best salon in the area, as they were looking for a part time assistant. I applied at FMK and got the job. I was trained by the talented Tanya Mancini. My father had built a cellar where I would practice hair styling, cutting and making wigs. I did this just about every night in my apprenticeship when I was getting ready for a competition. I won about 45 awards in my apprenticeship thanks to Tanya’s commitment to my training.
If you could give your 15 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I would say, "You may feel like you are working your butt off but it's worth it". You have to strive for what you believe in and have a passion for what you are doing, and in 6 years time your life will change for the better and you will see the rewards to your commitment .
Tell us about your career journey. At what point did your career lead you to owning a salon and becoming an educator?
I became an educator when I was in my 4th year with the brand TIGI asking me to help launch their product in Australia. This changed my life as it surrounded me with high achieving hairdressers that we're obsessed with being the best. I then moved to work for the first Toni&Guy salon in Sydney. This is where I learnt how to educate.
After 1.5 years @ Toni&Guy I left as I wished to pursue session work within the fashion and beauty industry. Whilst doing session work I then started DCI Education in 1998. I wanted to create an education style that was truly different and one that represented our own Australian style. DCI stands for: Dream Connect Inspire
I bought my shop space in 1999 after returning from a trip to New York. I was offered a job with Bumble and Bumble NYC however I declined the offer to stay in Sydney. I worked in the space for 6 years by myself cutting clients hair a few days a week because I was doing well with session work styling hair on shoots for magazines + TV commercials. Around 2006 I decided to officially open my salon with staff. It is such a beautiful space to work in.
What has been one of the top highlights of your career?
There have been so many….One that really sticks out was in 2016 winning Hair Expo Education Business of the year in Melbourne. I was with my wife and best friend and it was a magical night to be recognised by my colleagues.
From our students, I’ve heard you have some unique, intriguing cutting techniques. Tell us about what led you to explore different, non-typical ways to create incredible hair looks?
I realised early on in my career I was inspired by architecture and the way architects create new shapes around our cities. I wanted to create beautiful and sustainable shapes around bone structure. So I started experimenting with disconnections in hair and how it provokes hair to move in different, beautiful ways. Now I have developed a whole new language and method of cutting hair, which I love to teach to my students. It's all about style currency and knowing you're worth. Having a wealth of knowledge to back you up will allow you the freedom to create.
What do you love most about being a part of the hair industry?
Hairdressing is a fantastic lifestyle, you get to improve the way people feel about themselves everyday and that is truly amazing!!!
Post COVID, what do you think clients will be asking for in the salon?
I find clients will be more open to change due to all the changes we are currently going through. Whether that be changing their hairdresser and/or their own hair. I think clients have woken up to what makes them happy and want people in their lives who contribute in a positive way.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
"The more you learn the more you earn"
If you aren't already feeling inspired already, hear from Dario directly what his advice is for aspiring hair artists here:
Want to study hairdressing? Discover our courses available here!