15 minutes with Bettjeman's Sasha Lenski

I recently interviewed the charming Sasha Lenski from Bettjeman’s salon about the work he’s doing next week at New Zealand Fashion Week, hair trends in general and his backstage must haves. Arriving from Russia just over nine years ago, Sasha is already a New Zealand backstage veteran. He has been a senior stylist at Bettjeman’s for almost six years, and relishes any chance he can get to work backstage on shows and get creative. Before he worked at Bettjeman’s he worked on New Zealand Fashion Week shows as a key member of the L’Oreal Professionel artistic team, “which was amazing as I didn’t speak English back then but already was involved in such a great creative event”. Since he started working for Grant he has been working on designer Trelise Cooper’s mammoth NZFW extravaganzas each year, as well as backstage at the shows she has throughout the rest of the year for her VIP customers and sponsors. A personal highlight for him was working on the “outrageous” hair for the designer’s show on board the Queen Mary 2 earlier this year, “which was just insane but totally beautiful and sexy”. For Trelise’s often back to back, action packed shows the salon has a team of around ten on the floor, including both stylists and support staff. “We have people there to hold curlers and hairspray, heating up irons,” he explains, “basically anything that makes our job easier as it’s such a crazy time backstage.”
He explains that Trelise always favours hair that looks “done” – as opposed to the loose, easy looks that some designers love that can look almost just out of bed – and that is what makes the pairing with Bettjeman’s so perfect. They are a salon that prides itself on creating red carpet looks with amped up glamour for their clients every day, and are known for their Rich List regulars. The last couple of years have been particularly advantageous for the Bettjeman’s team as Trelise has let them have relative free rein when it comes to creating the hair looks that will work with her collections on the catwalk. “We bought some ideas to her and she loved them,” he explains, “which let us really own what we were doing backstage.” They share a passion for hair that is “dramatic and sexy”, and it really is a match made in heaven. “I love working on Trelise’s shows as they are so emotional and dynamic, and the models are all so stunning and having so much fun,” he says, “and Trelise herself is just amazing to watch in action, her attention to every little detail is incredible!”
His favourite look that the team has created for Trelise is from four years ago, and was a riot of “sexy, bouncy waves, very Brigitte Bardot. It was ultra feminine but not too polished, and for a natural look was a lot of work!” He says that to create an “undone” look is often a bigger challenge than the average updo, as a loose curl needs a lot more time and attention to get right, as well as the correct balance of product that will hold but not weigh it down. When Trelise runs shows back to back the team has the added challenge of recreating the first look a second time around not long afterwards, and making sure it is absolutely perfect, every time. “The key is being very prepared,” explains Sasha, “and we start work backstage at least three hours before the show if we can, just to get through all 30-something models.” Some girls also arrive with hair that is completely dense with product from a previous show, which adds yet more work for the team. “We are lucky that hair products now are so advanced that they do make our job that much easier, although it still adds a fair amount of time to what we do.” He says that the arrival of the ghd iron has made putting curls into models’ hair a breeze in comparison to the heated rollers of the past, “which could take hours to set that we just don’t have”.
He says that the general trend that he’s seeing coming down to New Zealand from the international runways is hair with a bit more effort put into it, as opposed to the “minimalist look of the last few years which just involved washed and dried hair with a little product added, and then go”. He says that hair is now more of a showpiece, “and you put that little more work in to show how shiny and gorgeous it is, and what a great shape it is”. He says the updo is also making a return in a major way, with high ponytails and messy buns always a great option for women who like to change up their style on a regular basis. Does he think that will prove a bit of a challenge for New Zealand women, who favour more of that wash-and-wear look? “No, not at all,” he says, “New Zealand women have really come along in terms of grooming since I arrived almost ten years ago from Russia, where a woman doesn’t leave the house without full make up and great hair.” He says that these days New Zealand women do take more time with their look, and like to play with it as well. In terms of colour, “women here love blondes, of all shades. I think things are getting warmer and softer though, and hair has to be super shiny and glossy”. He loves bright coppers and rich brunettes too, ”which make the perfect frame for your face”.
Backstage and in the salon he finds himself using Kevin Murphy products time and time again, as the Australian super session stylist is the master of creating great editorial looks with very targeted products. “We love Kevin Murphy products for shows as there are so many tricks you can do with them,” says Sasha, “in particular Gritty Business which makes instant big hair.” Just a small amount of product applied to the fingertips and rubbed into the roots of well dried hair will make even the flattest do rise to the challenge, and Sasha’s clients are also finding it the quickest route to serious volume. “We also love hairsprays and mousses from the L’Oreal Professionel ranges,” he adds, “which are always ultra light and never weigh hair down”. He says hairspray is probably the product that sees the most use in the Bettjeman’s salon as “we like to see every woman who comes in here leaving looking like an absolute goddess”.
And lastly, his one Desert Island pick for backstage at NZFW this year? “It has to be Kevin Murphy’s Gritty Business, I love it.”


  1. I met Sasha when he first arrived here from Russia and look where he is today! He was a great stylist then but now he is hitting the headlines constantly. I always knew that he would and I am so, so proud of him. He is a wonderful guy as well!! Keep going Sasha! and take Valeria with you!!

  2. Valeria did a Keratin treatment on my hair and was an absolute delight! What a talented family : )


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