SOUTHEND hairdressing apprentices wowed judges as they took part in the finals of a competition held at the Wella Studio in The Strand.

The annual photographic hairdressing competition saw a record number of entries this year, with several talented apprentices from the Central Hairdressing Academy, in Southend, getting through to the finals.

The iconic Wella Studio in London’s West End hosted the finals where budding stylists were required to create avant-garde or “What’s Hot” looks on their models.

As well as hair styling, the competitors had to style their model’s clothes and make-up to complete the look.

Gabrielle Gridley, who is based at Novo hair salon in Alexandra Street since starting her apprenticeship in January, was not expecting much success in the highly competitive contest.

To Gabrielle’s surprise, she won the Year One - “What’s Hot” category, after creating a summer festival-inspired look, using braids, coloured hair, glitter and jewels for the winning look.

Gabrielle, 17, of Leigh, said: “I wasn’t even going to enter but I’m really glad I did now.

“I decided to throw absolutely everything at my look - glitter, jewels, braids - the lot, and it seems to have worked.

“Winning was a real shock but it has been great for my confidence.”

The event also gave former Central Hairdressing Academy students the chance to return and take to the Wella stage to show off their skills that have been further honed in the workplace.

Lillie Sutton, 23, of Canvey, who now works as a senior stylist at Novo, was among those who attended the event as a previous winner.

Lillie said: “I was really honoured and happy to return to this event. It’s special for me as a couple of years ago I was a winner myself.

“After I won my category and a special cup, I was headhunted to work at a top London salon which was an amazing experience as I worked on fashion shows, shoots and events that have really helped me develop my skills and confidence.”