Tending to Tinsletown’s most famed tresses (Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman are both staunch loyalists), Renya Xydis is Australia’s Queen of Hair. With piercing sapphire eyes, the softest, most youthful skin we've seen on a 49 year old (can you believe it?) and a certain quirk and panache, Renya owns, runs and works in three of Australia’s top hair salons: Valonz Haircutters, Renya Xydis City and Salon X and oversees her two beauty salons: Miss Frou Frou Nail Bar and Miss Frou Frou Beauty Parlour. Editorially, she is a creative virtuoso, her work gracing the covers of everything from Vanity Fair to Vogue. Bold, brave and hilarious, she rocks a candy coloured do' like no other with refreshing candour and flair. She is the Monarch of the mane and with each masterful plait, braid and curl further cements herself in the upper echelons of Australian hair history.
The warm, gorgeous and vivaciously candid Renya welcomed us into her Sydney home with typical 'Greek Hospitality', chatting about travel, Instagram, wigs and hair (naturally); all whilst we scoffed down some of her Auntie's freshly baked, hot cheese pies.
"I wasn't always fascinated with hair.
I just wanted to do something creative. I had a friend who was a hairdresser and I was like, ‘wow, she’s got the best life. She’s got a car!’, but this is in 1979 and then my dad said, ‘if you’re going to do it, do it right, go to the best’. So I went to work in the best salon back then, a guy called Pierre La Fou, and then it became an editorial adventure. I’d be doing covers of Cosmo and Cleo for him at the age of 17 and 18 and I didn’t know what I was doing. La Fou was standing back in the salon, then he sent me off to do the shoots and I was like his little apprentice, and that’s what got me into the editorial world. After I got our salon, I gave up editorial for about ten years because I couldn’t take his contacts, so I had to work on my own. But I had that editorial background in my heart. Then I had my kids and everything...
The person I first did a show for was Collette Dinnigan
When I went to do her show I got to meet Sam McKnight and Eugene Souleiman, and that’s when my world just went “BANG” – that was about 18 years ago. So I had to go and work on the [international] shows, that’s what helped me with my career. But sometimes in your career you can say that you love it, but you don’t know how it can get you further, and you get really stunted. Fashion week was the epiphany of “gasp”, and even sometimes with my staff they go through that and I try to help and be like “I’ll give you a trip overseas" but then it’s up to them to keep it up. I can give them the chance but then they have to be the ones to do the networking.
I love my salon more than editorial…
Which is weird because I’ve had the best of both. I love doing covers and editorials but my heart is with my team. Because I’ve seen them grow and I start to think, going to a new place every day can be annoying. Imagine having to lay out your office every single day, and you have to find a new position for your office every day, and you have to find a new person to work with every day, and that person doesn’t necessarily get along with you. So if you’re going to ask me what I love most: yeah I love my editorial, when the page comes out I’m like, ‘Ah, that’s my cover!’ but on a daily basis, walking into my salon, I like that continuity.
I put the masks on the airplane
I make sure that when I get off the plane that I go to a really nice restaurant and eat well. You have to stay up, drink water all day. Then I make sure that I go to sleep at around eight o’clock. On the first day I get on a role, just keep going with the water, and shopping is good! It also helps to get a massage when you travel, just to help you sleep.
My style is anything that fits!
You know what, if I go into a shop, and it fits, and I love it, then done. I do wear black - but now that I have coloured hair, I do love a beautiful Gucci dress, or a Valentino dress. I would wear a Romance was Born top or a neon Dion Lee skirt.
What do I do to relax?’ I come in here.
This is my workspace. I organize it, just cut a wig, or put a wig away, just get to know what I’ve got in here. Seriously at my age, sleep takes priority. There's not many late nights. I don’t know, if you work the way I work: I sleep, drink water...and if you’re going to drink try not to drink alcohol the next day. I don’t drink - that’s the thing, if I do then I feel it the next day, it’s not a nice feeling. It just doesn’t do nice things to your skin or your head. I’ve also got to keep up with my kids, my boys, who are 23 and 19 - they’re moody little shits.
I can't walk out without that gold SK-II...
I use the LXP Facial Treatment Essence every single day, without a doubt, I can't live without that. I also can't live without the Bioderma Sensibio to take make up off. I always just do my face, I basically do it all in the shower. In the morning I firstly scrub it with a hot towel, and then I clean it with a cleansing brush, and then I always put on my SK-II Essence and my cream, and then a little bit of Ellis Faas or Chanel on my skin, and mascara and that’s it. Then when I get to work I put more makeup on, because it's set. I do the 1, 2, 3 contouring - shade your neck, shade your forehead, shade your cheekbone.
Gabriella at Miss Frou Frou does my skin, my facials, my eyebrows, my everything.
She's my girl - I go to Gabriella once a month - she just makes me feel alive. Then I go to Melanie at Double Bay Clinic, every Thursday after work. She does the SK-II facials and I keep that up with my SK-II Luxe Crème. and she also gives me the Omnilux treatment; she takes pigment out of my skin, and puts the colour back into my skin. I trust her, I just go “do whatever” and I just go for it. She tightens up my neck, and my skin, she uses all these machines, she’ll basically do a vacuum on my skin and take all the crap off, and then she puts on the machine to tighten it up, and does things facials can’t do.
I was told by Cate [Blanchett] to use SK-II…
And that you should pour the Essence into a spray bottle. I used to always pat it on my skin, and then my hands used to smell, there's a funny smell to it - that's Pitera, it does so much for you, that's the thing that makes it work - your skin feels so juicy and moist. So you put it on over your makeup and before your makeup. I carry it everywhere I go, I just pour it into a bottle and I've got my little Pitera in a spray jar. I keep splashing it on all day, at work, I feel just 'wow' and alive. Working with Cate, I’m always using it and the SK-II masks. I try and use them every couple of weeks.
I make my own scents, fragrances…
I never put it on my skin, I always put it on my clothes and on my hair, like a hair perfume. Literally patchouli, orange, geranium, whatever I can find. I buy them from any shop that sells oils and I mix them all together. There's a fig perfume I love, I get it from clients in Melbourne, Kleins Perfumery, it's their label, I love it. My grandma grew up wearing the Avon Honeysuckle perfume, so I always smell her when I wear the scent of honeysuckle.
Charlotte Tilbury gave me this mascara as a gift...
And I've always kept it. I haven't used it yet - I just feel like it's my little gift from her.
The inspiration behind the pink hair was that I was getting old!
I actually started going grey at 19. I was getting so many grey hairs, it was black, I was looking too Goth and I didn’t want to look Goth anymore. My skin was looking blue, so we just tried a few things; we did a strawberry blonde, a blonde – it didn’t look good on me. Then the strawberry blonde progressed to this – and now I want to try jade – that’s my new colour! I like lavender or pink, but I want to try a jade one now. Look, I do love the pink – it goes with everything I have.
My hair routine is once a week I get it coloured…
It's a mixture my colourist puts together and puts this Wella pink on, sometimes lilac too – but it’s not a permanent, so every time I wash my hair it comes out – so every single week I have to colour my hair - it's a big commitment. Then a treatment - the Wella Hydro Treatment - as you can see my hair falls out a lot! So I get it blow dried every week, tinted every two weeks with a pinky blonde and get a treatment every single week - I have to, it’s fully bleached underneath, so it’s full on. I get it cut every six months.
If a client tells me they want to go pink...
I go ‘oh you will not want to!’ They do it – and then I hear about it – and I say I told you! It’s time-consuming, it's expensive, obviously I work in a salon so I’m very lucky, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have a salon – no way.
I tried to do my own hair...
but because it's so bleached it’s just really hard to get smooth. I sometimes blow dry my hair and then use the large iron to get the bulk out of the back. When your hair’s shorter, it gives you a hunchback shape in the back. I use more product when I do it myself. I use a lot of Wella SP Luxe Oil, a lot of Wella SP Ends Express and all the Wella cream stuff. I use all Wella except for Dry Shampoo, I use the Klorane. I’ve got my friend Frank Apostolopoulos' (Biba Hair) new Paul Frank & Co., the dry shampoo, I love that one!
I still have clients that I have been doing since I was sixteen…
And sometimes when they come in I think to myself, “Ahh one of the guys can do that”, you know I’d rather do my regulars at once but if they’re just coming to me for a trim, anyone can do that. I mean, I’m like that with my doctor; I love my doctor, I want my doctor; and with a hairdresser a lot of girls are like planning out their haircuts and colours, it’s not just your average perm or a full head of foils, or smudge, it’s actually handmade what we do. It’s art, so you can’t just go and fumble with it.
If your colourist messes up, give them a break.
Sometimes it’s not their fault. If you feel ill, be aware your nails, your hair and your skin all connect to that. Sometimes you’re on antibiotics, or - this is the killer - you’ve been drinking at lunchtime and you come in and your head is hot! Even when you’re hung over, your head is still hot. We have a few clients that come into the salon and are sick and hungover but don’t want to miss their hair appointment. People don’t realize that things like that affect their hair colour. Also, the hair close to your scalp is one-week-old - so that one little bit of color is one week old, but the lengths are one, two, three years old. People don’t realize that you need water, you’re like a plant. That’s why you’ve got to stick to your colourist. If she fucks up three or four times, find a new one, but if she messes up once, that’s okay.
I can’t really sit still…
I like to travel just for the fact that I can sit on a plane and watch movies. But I don’t really do much exercise. I do try and walk. But I run around a lot, up and down the stairs; but I’m working seven days a week so that’s exhausting – incidental working out. To relax? Instagram – haha! I love to cook. I'm always in the kitchen, I just cook anything. I even make my own bread - I make really nice bread! I put salt, yeast, flour and water, and let it sit there, then let it go high, then bash it again, 3 times, then put it in the oven! It takes 5 minutes, you put in in the oven for 20 minutes, you walk away, come back, and the boys eat it when it's hot and put vegemite and butter on it - oh my God you're taping this?! Yeah I make bread!"
Story and styling by Chrisanthi Kaliviotis. Photography by Caroline McCredie. Hair and Makeup by Renya Xydis. Assisted by Amanda Chan. Layout by Nicola Donovan and Amanda Chan.