The #badsalon experience

The devil is in the details. In his own words, Ky breaks down the meaning behind the features of the #badsalon experience


White van man hurling verbal abuse

"This was to make the ‘clients’ feel uncomfortable and insecure before they even entered. The idea was to try and make them understand how our real customers sometimes feel when coming into a salon, particularly for the first time.”

Homeless salon assistant

“I wanted to highlight how difficult it is to live on the apprenticeship wage, and also how little value is given to the NVQ you get at the end of training. I actually know someone who is an assistant and they're having to move out of London because they can't afford to live there anymore. It seems dramatic, but it's happening.”

Hair image in the window

“Hairdressing shoot imagery might be fun and inspiring to create, but all too often it ends up being displayed in the shop window. Unless a commercial angle has been considered, putting these kind of experimental, technical looks on show isn’t going to help you get clients as customers don’t find them relatable. The only people who can relate to those looks are other hairdressers.”

Smashed window

"The left hand window of the salon was actually smashed and had been boarded up. That detail was just to further emphasise how the appearance of the salon is not a priority for the owner."

Salon name

"'Curl Up And Dye' is a s*** punny name for a s*** salon... and my name just happened to fit into it! I also find it funny when people put their own name above the door, when half the time they're not even there."


'Insecurity' magazine

“It’s easy to stock trashy weekly magazines for people to browse, but they end up making clients feel worse about themselves. We relabelled the covers to represent the effect they can have on people's self esteem. In my salon, we actually have an alternative called 'The Happy Newspaper', which is produced by Emily Coxhead and contains nothing but positive news and feel-good stories.”

Hair imagery on the walls

“More stereotypical hair-designed-to-appeal-to-hairdressers photos stared down at guests as they waited in reception. We actually drilled peep-holes in the models’ eyes so we could monitor traffic as people went through the experience and the actors (hidden just the other side of the set divide) could adjust their interactions and cues accordingly."

Dead plants

“Shrivelled and neglected, these were placed prominently on the reception desk to represent how the salon may have once been a place that was looked after and well kept. However, their current state show that the owner no longer cares or pays attention to such things.”

Product shelves

“I wanted there to be an outrageous amount of cheap products in stock, but to have the one everyone wants to get their hands on be sold out. This represents how easy it is to fall into bad habits, not paying attention to retail and not registering what the clients actually want.”

Security cameras

"We wanted to try and make it clear to the 'clients' that we were watching them, so we installed fake security cameras around the reception area. This was designed to heighten their sense of anxiety and given them a feeling of constantly being judged."

The receptionist

"Her role was to be really obnoxious and dismissive (even down to ignoring the clients), or to be the opposite and act overly friendly. It was down to the actress to decide which kind of receptionist each client would encounter. She got names wrong, massively over-charged people and even told some never to come back!"


Hair. Everywhere.

“What more clearly says ‘I really don’t care about the clients’ salon experience’ than hair from tonnes of previous cuts being left all over the place? This was actually saved up for months at The Social and some even travelled back from Milan with Ashleigh Hodges after she did some teaching out there.”

Overflowing bins

"The mess just further demonstrated an overall ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude from the staff and owner."

Stained hair lines

“Every 'client' who was booked in for a colour service walked away with a stained hairline. The actors created this using dampened cotton wool and eyeshadow palettes that were hidden behind the backwash. We offered people makeup wipes at the end of the experience so they didn't have to travel home with it on their heads!”


“The bleached towels were a big thing. Not only were they covered in stains, but the staff kept dropping them on the floor, leaving them lying around and reusing them.”

Getting soaked at the backwash

"Although the shower heads weren't connected, the fake stylists were armed with water-filled spray bottles and spritzed the 'clients' behind the ear as they sat at the backwash. One actor was also pretending to have a cold, and when she fake-sneezed, she sprayed water over whoever was in front of her. Finally, at multiple times throughout the night, another actor tripped and spilled a tray of drinks over an unsuspecting guest."

Scratchy head massage

"The fake stylists were briefed to give really pathetic, scratchy head massages, adding to the discomfort and sense of staff apathy."

Awkward greeting

"From sitting them in the wrong seat to struggling to put on their gown, we made sure that every client had a really awkward introduction to the salon floor. Gowns aren't that different – they either do up at the front or you put your hands in and they fasten at the back – but we made sure the actors got it consistently wrong.

All the chairs were uncomfortably close together too, and if you asked about aftercare, your stylist ignored personal space and went in for a hug."

Food hygiene

"Lipstick marks on cups, orange peel littered over each station, assistants eating crisps over the clients' heads at the backwash, cups of tea made with curdled milk... we made sure the environment was unclean and just a bit grim."

Furniture and products

"The chairs were tired, the backwash was falling apart, the mirrors were grimy, and the stations were cheap and flimsy. The idea was that the salon had run out of the proper branded shampoo and conditioner, and while some assistants were watering down and emptying the s*** shampoo into higher-end bottles to save pennies, others were just using the crap stuff."

Special offers

"The T-section Tuesdays offer was valid until 2024, so basically constantly valid. The poster outlined a heavily discounted rate, but then everything else was tacked on and up-sold afterwards."

Ky's Wonder Product

"The only non-cheap product mentioned in the salon was a supposed miracle lotion that I (the salon owner) had whacked my name on. It was priced at nearly £50 (about 10x the price of the other stock available), all its claimed effects outlined on promo posters were contradictory, and they went far beyond what it's possible for a hair product to do. We actually just rebranded KY Jelly and gave it the cheeky tagline; 'It gets you in and out of a sticky situation'."

Staff demeanour

"Staff were instructed to wander off and abandon 'clients', were constantly on their phones or shouting across the salon to each other. They ignored clients' wishes (reaching for fake clippers or sending them for colour) and basically treated them like an inconvenience."

We need to talk about Kevin...

"It was all about him as the stereotypical, flamboyant 'hairdresser' type – the salon should have been called 'Curl Up In Kevin'. He was wearing sunglasses indoors, had the biggest mirror, the awards were in front of his station as basically he had done all the shoots and competitions but as the owner, I'd taken credit for them. He was really obnoxious and also promoting the fact that he was opening his own salon around the corner and that all the staff were planning to go with him."

'Influencer' client

"We used an actress as a plant among the 'clients' to antagonise them. She played an influencer, but with only 3,000 followers, so really, nobody gave a f*** about her. Throughout the night she was causing problems, making it feel more awkward and kicking off in the salon. The fake staff just carried on and pretended nothing was happening. This woman's stylist was also meant to be off her nut from the night before. She was falling asleep, stumbling about, getting totally sidetracked and was the one spilling drinks in clients' laps."

Payment and 'goody bag'

"After their treatment, 'clients' were rushed back to reception to pay a ridiculous bill, featuring high prices, loads of hidden extras and a massive service charge. They were also given a fake goody bag, which turned out to be empty except for a 'redeem when this product is back in stock' note. Once they exited the salon and moved on to the installation, they were in fact each given an electrical that sponsors BaByliss PRO kindly provided."