Our ongoing Q&A series features Leonor Greyl brand ambassadors and superfans who share our passion for luxurious, healthy hair. We talk about their career paths, celebrity encounters, style secrets, and more.
What’s a bridal hair designer to do when a pandemic postpones the wedding scene?
We’ve been big fans of hairstylist Trace Henningsen for a while now, following her red carpet adventures on Instagram and admiring her elegant line of bridal hair accessories. Her aesthetic is decidedly old Hollywood, influenced by Golden Age beauties like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Brigitte Bardot. Soft, feminine, fabulous.
From cuts to color to special event styling, Trace’s skills are highly sought after. Before the pandemic hit, Ramirez | Tran Salon in Beverly hills served as Trace’s home base when she wasn’t traveling around the world, following her brides wherever their weddings took them.
The last big event she participated in was Paris Fashion Week. Since then, COVID-related restrictions have stalled her gigs – as well as her plans to settle in London to nurture her couture bridal accessories and jewelry line, Henningsen & Co.
We caught up with Trace by phone in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the 34-year-old is staying with family. She is enjoying her first long break since launching her career at age 24.
LG: Trace, how have you been spending this unprecedented amount of downtime?
TH: I have worked nearly seven days a week, almost every weekend, for over a decade. It’s hard to slow down! But at the same time, it’s nice to take a moment to enjoy my family. I am staying with my aunt, who is like my best friend.
It’s also a good time to focus on transitioning my brand. I’ve been giving my line of bows, accessories, and new jewelry collection some love.
LG: What are your post-pandemic plans?
TH: I think I will end up in Europe, possibly London. I lived in Paris a year ago. I worked Fashion Week and worked with Koji Tatsuno who is a fashion designer based in Paris. I also met a designer based in London who suggested I move to the U.K. to focus on my accessory line.
I actually was getting ready to move to London when my grandfather passed away. I came back to the States. My uncle also passed. The last year has been a lot of love, life, death.
LG: Tell us about your background. Did you grow up in Arizona? What led you to become an upscale stylist?
TH: I grew up in a very small town in Montana with about 1500 people.
Everyone always assumed I’d be a hairstylist. I started braiding hair when I was six years old, and in middle school I was getting detentions for doing hair during class. It was something that came very naturally to me.
But I told everyone I was going to be a jewelry designer. I’ve always been headstrong and ambitious and love change. So, when I turned 18, I moved to L.A. to start a jewelry collection. I found an internship with a designer. Of course, that’s where I learned you need A LOT of capital to launch a jewelry line, so I went back to school for business.
At Santa Monica College, I took both business and cosmetology classes. I did very well in cosmetology, and that’s how I started with hair. Hair chose me.
I began working as an assistant at high-end salons in Beverly Hills for one of the top colorists in L.A., Sheri Roman who taught me techniques I still use today. She also taught me how to nurture a client base. By the time I was 24, I had a very loyal and high end clientele.
LG: How did you become a Leonor Greyl superfan?
TH: Eclat Natural was the first Leonor Greyl product I tried, and I instantly fell in love. I literally thought, “what is this magical pomade?!” You can get multiple styles with it. You can use it on wet or dry hair. It’s great for bringing out texture on air-dried hair, which everyone is living for now while we are spending so much time at home.
LG: What LG products are staples in your kit when you are behind the scenes at runway shows or weddings?
TH: I love Serum de Soie Sublimateur. A lot of people think it might be a heavy product because it’s luxury. But I use it on my fine hair with frizz – and it smooths my frizz without weighing it down. I like that I can use the styling serum on wet or dry hair. And Laque Souple is a terrific light hair spray that is flexible.
LG: Why did you start specializing in bridal hair?
TH: I literally fell into it. I was working on a music video, and one of the models asked if I could do her hair for her upcoming wedding. Then, while we were getting ready for her wedding, she asked if I could create a custom veil. I was happy too! My mother sewed a lot when I was young and made my clothes, so I was familiar with sewing.
I fell in love with the idea that I could create updos and accessorize them with something custom.
LG: Your first commercial success in bridal accessories was a simple yet sophisticated velvety bow. Tell us about that.
TH: I love how the the bardot bow is more accessible to everyone! I produced my first 25 bows to sell at the front counter at Ramirez | Tran Salon. The salon promoted the bows on social media, and the next thing I knew I was waking up one morning to emails from all over the world inquiring about the bows.
LG: You also created breathtakingly detailed bridal crowns made of 23 karat gold, a bespoke collection inspired by Grace Kelly.
TH: Around 2017, crowns and tiaras were trending. Brides wanted the luxury, but something lightweight. I designed a crown by gilding French lace. My brother (Robert Henningsen III) helped me research materials and artisans in Italy. Each crown takes two weeks to create.
LG: They are gorgeous pieces of art! You must be missing your brides right about now, with one wedding season basically canceled because of COVID, and the upcoming season filled with uncertainty. What do you miss about weddings?
TH: I love, love, love being part of these intimate moments. To be part of their special day is more satisfying than working any runway show. After the wedding, I feel like I have clients for life.
I especially love getting to experience each family’s culture and traditions. Many brides are inspired by the veils of their mothers and grandmothers. They want to know how to modernize and customize it while honoring its history. To modernize an heirloom is always so inspiring to me!
I love traveling, and I love learning about new cultures, so doing bridal hairstyling has opened many doors to me.
LG: What are some notable destinations you’ve been flown to?
TH: South of France, Bahamas, Paris, San Miguel de Allende in Mexico… I have a wedding booked in September in Marrakesh. It will be interesting to see if people still do destination weddings. If they do, I think they will be smaller and more luxurious.
LG: With COVID restrictions still in effect, what can brides-to-be do to prepare their hair for their eventual weddings?
TH: I have found that some women have unrealistic expectations about what we can do with their hair on their wedding day without any prep. So, I explain they need a base of healthy, strong hair whether we are doing an updo, adding extensions, or changing the color. I always recommend a six-month prep to get the hair to the point of health and effortless beauty.
My motto is “happy hair, happy life.” With all this downtime, brides have great potential to get their hair there.
LG: What’s involved in the six-month prep?
I also recommend they nourish their scalp with Leonor Greyl’s treatment collection since healthy hair starts at the scalp. Régénerescence Naturelle is a wonderful stimulating oil beneficial for anybody.
When it comes to styling, I tell them, “less is more.” Don’t blow dry it unless you have to.
LG: What is your next career move?
TH: In 2022, I’ll be launching my hair and jewelry collection, which includes custom wedding rings. I hustled my way back to jewelry. I’m really excited!