David Bendell: A look at the life of a hairdressing icon

David Bendell

David Bendell: When you look back over the years to 1969/70 it’s hard to believe that way back then, hairdressing qualifications and the syllabus for learning hairdressing consisted of just one page! David Bendell a hairdresser originally from the UK was responsible for changing the whole map of hairdressing learning in this country since then.

David’s hairdressing journey started in the sixties when he was a young hairdresser working around Liverpool.  An area that became synonymous with the Fab Four and the swinging sixties. David who was armed with Advanced City & Guild hairdressing qualification was spotted by a New Zealand Scout looking for hairdressers who were qualified to teach hairdressing back in NZ. His Advanced City & Guild certification enabled David to do just that.

As a result of that David ended up in Wellington, teaching at the Colin Lovering Private Hairdressing School for 6 months before taking up a job at the Wellington Polytechnic where he spent the next 30 years teaching 1000’s of students from  all over the country. He actually had to lie about his age in order to gain employment as they were actually after someone who was at least 27 years. 

During this time David acquired an interest in two hair salons in the CBD ‘Head of Time Salons’ in Lambton Quay and Willis Street, where he working Fridays to keep his hand in. Two famous hairdressers who served their apprenticeship under David were Derek Elvy and Antony Whitaker.

Derek Elvy of course went on to become one of New Zealand’s best known hair stylists winning many awards and had the honour of having a lot of his work recognised and published in the UK. Antony Whitaker went on to be Creative Director for Vidal Sassoon in London before opening his own salons in Australia and becoming Australian Hairdresser of the Year twice. He is now an educator and author based in London.

During his years at Wellington Polytechnic David Bendell developed the syllabus and Trade Certificates and also set all the exams for hairdressing students. He was also the chief examinator for all of New Zealand with the exception of Wellington. He also found time to become a qualified wigmaker, which in those days was a trade simply unheard of.

In the mid eighties David became President of the Masters Ladies Hairdressing Association of which he was a member for over 20 years. David was also invited to join, along with Grant Bettjeman, Intercoiffure Mondial the world’s largest and most important association of hairdressers based in Paris.

But David’s real vocational calling was actually as an author and around 1984/85 he wrote several textbooks on hairdressing, the most famous being ‘Hairdressing a Professional Approach’ published by Goverment Print for a number of editions. It was also republished in Australia and even to this day remains in demand as one of the definitive guides to hairdressing. 

Today David is kept busy living the dream down in the Marlborough Sounds where he lives quietly with his wife Vicki and family running the Waterfront Bed and Breakfast in Little Ngakuta Bay just out of Picton.

“If your hair’s great you feel great! helping people to feel good, I felt rewarded” Said David.

“I had so many years of satisfaction teaching and giving back to the industry.”

We would like to thank Burnetta Haswell and Rochelle Stevenson from Beyond the Fringe, Picton for their help in preparing this article.