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A satire to make you shiver…

“Something Sub-Standard”, hosted by Ky Wilson, was strange and provocative and had a serious message to share about our industry. But, boy was it good fun, says Creative HEAD publisher, Catherine Handcock

“It’s about time you got your roots done, love!” shouted the driver of the Ford Transit van as I made my way across the road to Curl Up and Ky, the new pop-up salon designed by hairdressing wunderkind Ky Wilson, where I’d booked in for a cut and colour. I did a double-take as I stepped over the homeless girl sat hunched on the pavement – a trainee hairdresser unable to live on an assistant’s wage. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for on this chilly night in south east London, but what I did know was that everything was running late and I – like the dozens of others in the queue to get in – was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable about what was about to happen. As it turned out, with good reason…

#badsalon

Pushing open the door to the salon, I was met by chaotic scenes as receptionist “Elise” juggled a steady stream of stylists running late with clients trying to pay and newly arriving guests needing to be dealt with. An angry client with foils in her hair roamed menacingly around complaining loudly about how this salon had ruined her colour and that if we had any sense we all should leave immediately. Kathy Burke meets Crimewatch’s Fiona Bruce. When I brought up the fact my appointment was running 40 minutes late, Elise responded with a withering look and a command to “take a seat” in reception. And she called me Cathy. No one calls me Cathy. It makes my skin crawl. I found a chair and buried myself in a magazine called ‘Insecurity’.

#badsalon

When I was called through it turned out my appointment was with “Tallulah”, a hyper-intense, super-excitable stylist who asked me lots of questions but didn’t listen to what I had to say. She decided – despite my protestations, but backed up by her gum-chewing colleagues – that I should go “charcoal black”, and proceeded to apply the colour to my head. I was completely unnerved. This should not be happening, but it was. I stared in amazement at what was going on around me. There was hair all over the floor. Lipstick-stained coffee mugs and half-eaten fruit in the work trolleys. Posters on the wall promoting discounted colour appointments. A stylist, “Agata”, was slumped red-eyed in a chair, comatose from a “heavy night out last night”… I was taken to the backwash where someone tipped a glass of water over me. I asked about after-care for my new colour. “Here’s your after-care,” said Tallulah and gave me a hug…

#badsalon
#badsalon
#badsalon

And so it ended. I emerged from Curl Up and Ky with a £400 bill and a colour stain around my hairline. I was surprised, maybe even in shock and possibly a little bit angry. But then, Ky’s vision for Curl Up and Ky was always to provoke a reaction – and that’s exactly what he got. As more and more “clients” emerged from the salon, our hideous experiences were all we could talk about – the bleached towels, the “gone-off” milk in the coffee, the fact we’d been recommended a product that wasn’t available…

And there were more thought-provoking installations at the after-party – a poster promoting terrible freelance bosses; two hairstylists spraying a wig with fake hairspray and wearing gas masks to highlight the toxic work environment; “Pull Me” hair extensions protruding through a hole in the wall… and attached to a girl on the other side, who screamed every time someone gave her hair a tug – raising questions over ethical sourcing of hair extensions; a helium balloon with the word ‘ego’ written on it just waiting to be popped…

#badsalon
#badsalon
#badsalon
#badsalon
#badsalon

Ky Wilson’s “Something Sub-Standard” was a brilliantly quirky, tongue-in-cheek black comedy highlighting certain aspects of the hairdressing industry – a hideous carnival of bad service, ridiculous product claims and exploitative employment practices. By cleverly putting real hairdressers into clients’ shoes, it certainly achieved its aim of prompting conversation. Now Wilson hopes it will also help to promote change.

PS. As we all know, Ky Wilson is all about collaborations. “Something Sub-Standard” was presented by Creative HEAD in an exclusive collaboration with BaByliss PRO, and it’s worth noting that, as well as their #badsalon experience, every “client” was treated to a free bar, burgers from Burger Bear – and a BaByliss PRO goody bag, presented by the charming Elise on reception. Thank you, Ky Wilson and BaByliss PRO, for an excellent night!

See more pictures from the #badsalon experience in our Facebook album >