It’s not easy out there on the British high street right now. Stores are closing; big name retail brands are disappearing. But within these unsettling times, there are reasons to be cheerful. For among the plethora of salons cross the UK, there is an identifiable band of business brains that are bucking the trend, both new entrepreneurs and seasoned salon owners.
These are the progressive businesses that are influencing others, creating a buzz, proving themselves as industry innovators and tastemakers who want to illustrate a fresh approach to hairdressing.
It’s an exciting time to be one of these salons – they’re killing it on Instagram with their technique-and-trend heavy content, they’re curating fashion-forward service menus to dazzle loyal and new clients alike, they’re challenging all those old rules of what a British salon should look like, how they should behave. They are the inspiration – cool, vibrant, business-savvy brands that took the salon model and flipped it 180. And the thread that unifies them all, part of one illustrious tribe, is their partner of choice in Redken, which itself combines a strong heritage in hairdressing with a fashion-edged pioneering spirit.
Get ready to meet the individuals and the brands lighting up the industry and leading the way – beacons that illuminate just what is possible. From the urban-centric to the adored regional heroes, we have them all. Different is what they all do, and they do it with aplomb. We hope you find something different that speaks to you, too…
Introducing five Redken partners who are forging their own paths and breaking the high street mould – the “anti salons”
Radio Hair Salon & Gallery, King’s Cross
Visitors to King’s Cross might get something of a shock – the area’s total transformation has seen it become one of London’s hippest hangouts, home to Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design, HQs for Google, Universal Records and design icon Tom Dixon and the setting for big events including Luminiere and Design Junction. The first hair salon to establish itself there would need to fit into this new vibe perfectly – step in Radio London.
The concept was to create a multifunctional individual space, a little like a New York warehouse, for clients to experience AND get inspired, and for Radio to incorporate all of its creative activities (education, the gallery, a studio for photographic work and events). “We thought it was important to create a space that would be able to deliver a different experience from a regular hair salon,” explains co-founder Corrado Tevere. “The industry is changing and clients, especially in a city like London, are looking for a different experience all the time.”
The aim is to give clients a tailor-made experience unlike any other. The surroundings at Radio King’s Cross regularly change as the artwork is updated. “The gallery is a real talking point for our clients and constantly brings new energy into the salon,” admits Corrado. The experience has been thoroughly thought out, with Haeckels on offer for beauty treatments and a dedicated barista area serving Allpress Coffee, a vital component in today’s salon visit. You’ll also enjoy a rather cinematic experience in the private shampoo area, where silent movies are projected to help clients relax.
Having a photographic studio was vital, as the salon’s editorial work is key to its ethos of combining strong technique with soft and modern editorial finishes. “Redken has been amazing at understanding our vision and helping to fulfil it without trying to change it,” admits Corrado.
“You need to be a place where people want to be.” Mitchell Wilson, founder of Sheffield’s Laundry, excels at Yorkshire straight-talking. He makes it out to be simple, but look at Laundry and you know that careful thought about what clients want has been applied. Yes, it does great hair, but everything from the branding, the industrial-cool interior, the curated retail area and even the dedicated coffee shop has been meticulously designed to please the consumer.
And it’s working. Winner of the Most Wanted Best New Salon in 2014 shortly after its launch, Laundry has just enjoyed its highest grossing month on record, is expanding its team and is seeing record numbers of new client enquiries. and we are about to employ two new staff members. “We’ve established both a name and an ethos that anyone who’s interested understands and, I hope, admires,” he says. “If you have great staff then great clients are easy, so developing that certain something special that makes people want to be part of your journey, is vital.”
Is Laundry a disruptor brand? Mitchell laughs; he very much likes that idea. “We’re not cutting hair with pocket knives in front of paintings and hanging clients upside down to dry,” he jokes, “but as the creative force behind Laundry, I will always naturally choose a different path where possible. I love the idea of creation through disruption.”
And it’s why Laundry recently aligned itself with a new partner. “Redken seems to look at the interesting outer edges of our industry. I’m not interested in the middle ground, so this is a good fit,” says Mitchell. “But the bit that that really floats my boat is that I believe they believe in Laundry’s vision and as a partner will help us progress.”
Josh Wood Colour, Holland Park
Inspired by the concept of the atelier – a bespoke approach to clothing, the globe’s most famous colourist, Josh Wood, knew precisely how his own salon would operate. “We really felt that a closed-door policy was needed to give our clients privacy and a totally different feeling,” he explains. “I like the idea of curating a space, making it feel different when clients come in.” That’s why he works with artists to create a variety of installations to continually refresh each room with different, sometimes surprising results. When it opened seven years ago, Josh admits the Atelier was very much a disruptor, but to keep that edge, it takes a team of people that art direct the space and keep it feeling different. “We need to keep evolving and changing the environment, also pulling in creatives that can help keep it current,” he explains. “I like to speak to our clients’ interests beyond them getting amazing hair, I want them to feel like the Atelier is an evolving space.”
Josh advises anyone keen to take an individual approach to stop thinking about these spaces as salons: “If there is another service that you can offer, it keeps clients feeling they are in a very different space.” Indeed, his team has a curated a shop that sells not only hair products but also beauty in general. There are regular pop-ups for brands to launch and showcase new products (it’s where jeweller Maria Tash started in the UK), and a library and in-house chef keep clients’ minds and bodies well-nourished. “I also love to do mini shoots in our studio generally, just for content for our website or Instagram,” he adds. “Making the Atelier feel like a creative hub is crucial.”
With such a premium offering and A-list clients in his chairs, the right product partner was a priority. “I love the creativity of Redken, the way it listens and partners with hairstylists,” Josh admits. “Innovative products are at its core!”
The Chapel, Royal Tunbridge Wells
A school house, an old public house, a church building… even before you set foot in one of The Chapel’s five sites in the South East, you’re aware that its salons are unlike others. And that was the goal from the beginning, back in 2001. “We deliberately set out to be different,” explains co-founder Toby Dicker. “We identified the three key brand values for us – Relaxation, Education and Service. One of our business colleagues at the time said: ‘If you but a T on the end you have REST’ – and then the T became the Tailored part of the experience.”
It was actually Amanda Dicker, co-founder of The Chapel and Toby’s wife, who came up with a new approach, thanks to a glass of wine. Having been travelling and then working in a wine bar, she would sit and talk with women about their hair over a chilled glass. It was sobering stuff. “I realised they were not really talking about hair, they were talking about their experiences going to the salon. The bits they hated, the bits that made them nervous, the bits that prevented them from moving on with colour or cuts,” she recalls. “I realised that if I opened a salon that tackled all of those experiences, I would be doing something different.”
And so The Chapel today consistently answers the prayers of its clients, and its staff. With clients, it’s about having a conversation rather than a consultation, approaching an appointment in a completely different way, in a different environment, which Amanda found meant she got the best out of that woman.
The products that creative team work with needed to match that vibe, that approach of doing things differently, which is why the group selected Redken. Other innovations include charging by time and, in its Sevenoaks salon, removing the barrier of the front desk. Amanda says: “What motivates me to get up each morning is my drive to build a community of stylists who are proud and loud to be in this profession, and to be part of The Chapel community.” Amen to that.
Cult & Bloom, Shoreditch
“Create your unique hair story” is the invitation visitors receive at Cult & Bloom, and it’s all done to deliver everyday hair with no fuss. Positioned on Shoreditch’s bustling Commercial Street, the salon offers a much need botanical oasis of calm, with the team laser-focused on giving clients a unique experience in a homely, relaxed atmosphere. Colour changes, balayage, highlights and bleaching… yup, customers get the lot, but hair health is a top priority, too.
Having worked in the area before, Max thought Shoreditch offered the perfect mix of clientele, and was determined to create a salon that followed a green mission. It’s also hardwired to deliver a premium experience for those looking to escape, if only for a short while; for example, each room has its own fragrance to stimulate the senses. This sense of relaxed escape is also aimed at the staff, a key factor in Max’s vision and something rather unusual for a salon manager usually obsessed with pots of income from full columns.
“London can be very stressful, and I’ve worked in salons that are stressful environments and I believe that’s why hairdressers can lose their passion – long hours, few days off,” he explains. “I wanted to create an environment that was more chilled for them. If they enjoy themselves, I enjoy myself and the clients enjoy themselves – we’re all really happy!
It’s apparent that Max values the importance of ‘team’, and it’s one of the fundamental attractions of Redken, the line Cult & Bloom stocks. “I love the family vibe and team spirit of Redken, the energy everyone has,” he says. “And the clients love it – the No Blow Dry cream is one of our bestsellers… even for blow-drys! Anything that is different, like the Heat Cure treatments or the new All Soft Mega Hair Sheet Mask, it gets their attention, it engages them and starts that conversation.”