The beauty industry in London is lively and booming, but often not given the credit and praise it deserves.
For the last part of this three-part series, I explored the complexities of hair salons in London. In an attempt to understand the depth of the hair business I chose to speak with stylists with several different specializations – curly hair, barbering, and straight hair.
Curly Hair – Glamorous Touch
Originally from Jamaica, Hyacinth Henry moved to London with her husband and opened her salon, Glamorous Touch, 20 years ago. She’s been located in different spots in London but ultimately moved to Ridout Street because of the privacy it affords her clients.
“I cater to a lot of clients with alopecia and cancer,” said Henry. “So I understand the importance of a more private location.”
A lot has changed in London over the past 20 years and Henry says the market has definitely grown due to the increase in people of different cultural backgrounds.
“You find a lot of ‘mixed chicks’ now than ever before who have curly hair and that is my specialty,” she states. “I have a good niche in the city and it’s only continuing to grow.”
Hair is a major aspect of black culture and Henry is happy to serve this community. White salons in London are not lacking and she believes that the city needs businesses that cater to others.
“When I first moved here, I had to travel to Detroit or Toronto to get my hair done,” she said. “People don’t deserve to have to travel great lengths for something as simple as hair. Now, when my clients travel to Detroit or Toronto, people will ask where they get their hair done and they refer to me!”
With the natural hair movement gaining popularity in recent years, I knew this must affect Hyacinth’s company in some way.
“Businesses always have to move with the times,” Henry claimed. “I am educated in curly hair and curl patterns so I am happy and open to people being more comfortable with their natural hair. I also provide a treatment package for natural hair which maintains the curl pattern, diminishes frizz, and keeps it healthy.”
Whether you want a new wig, highlights, or even curly hair product – check out Glamorous Touch at 342 Ridout Street South, Unit 1 or on the website.
Barbering – Authentic Barbers
For those who prefer the buzz and trim of a barbershop, you might want to visit Kris, the owner of Authentic Barbers who opened the shop only two years ago. Starting from cutting his friends’ hair for free in high school to opening up his own place, Kris slowly developed his interest and passion for barbering. He was once on the path to becoming an electrician but did not see a future there.
“I was very dedicated to pursuing an apprenticeship with a barber and when I got it, within six months I was cutting full time,” he says. “Soon, I was offered a job in Miami and Alberta and I took the one in Alberta. I worked there for about two years but I’ve always been a businessman and wanted to open my own shop. My girlfriend and I realized how much we missed London and found that the market here is more stable so we moved back. I bought the place on June 30, 2016 and we opened shop July 1, 2016.”
Authentic Barbers offers something different to the table since Kris bases his hires on passion for the craft and the dedication to making someone feel good about themselves.
“Skill is something that can be taught but passion is most important,” he says. “We also hope to build confidence in our clients and because our motto is ‘when you look good, you feel good.’”
What I first noticed while looking through the Authentic Barbers social media pages, is that their barbers can cut any hair texture – white, black, brown, you name it!
“That is something we consider when hiring and training”, said Kris. “Because we want people from every walk of life to feel comfortable coming here.”
The barbershop is often renowned as a space for community. I wanted to find out how important the maintenance of this environment to Authentic Barbers.
“Community is the most important part of it all,” he said. “Without the community, it is not a barbershop. I don’t mean that in a gendered way because we do cut women as well so the camaraderie is inclusive.”
Straight Hair – Salon Entrenous
Our feature for straight/wavy haired gals is Lisa Sallabank’s well renowned 33-year-old family business, Salon Entrenous. Lisa has worked in the salon, previously owned by her father, since she was very young. She attributes her work ethic and passion for the business to her father.
“I have literally done every single job in this salon,” explained Sallabank. “Including cleaning the floors, to assisting, to working the front desk, and recently, I just celebrated 20 years as stylist. When I took over as the owner, I felt like I had achieved my personal career goals, and was ready for the next challenge.”
As for her place in London, she identifies the talent all around her in other salons who are also making their way to the award shows.
“Stylists are beginning to understand that they can fulfill themselves creatively,” she said. “As well as build a very successful career in London.”
The salon has won Canadian Hairstylist of the Year twice for the Magazine Mirror Awards. Of course, I had to ask Lisa what it means to have her business recognized on a national level.
“It means everything! Our Artistic Director, Julie Vriesinga and her team are typically the ones who are involved with the awards directly.”
She explained that the submissions are artistic and avant garde – looks that the stylists do not usually practice on clients.
“The shoots are a great way for stylists to push the boundaries of their creativity,” she said. “Julie has also been nominated for Stylist of the Year for the North American Hairstyling Awards, [which] takes place later this month in Las Vegas – a HUGE deal in our industry!”
With so many different salons in London catering to this demographic, Salon Entrenous works very hard to separate themselves from the pack. She has three points of emphasis which she insists makes the salon as successful as it is.
“Firstly, we train our assistants for 1-2 years after they complete hair school, including shutting down early [once a week] to have one of our senior stylists teach a model night for the assistants,” states Sallabank. “No one becomes a stylist without passing a panel of several stylists who judge the assistants work. This way we are all confident in each other’s abilities, and client sharing is never an issue.
“Secondly, it is very import to me that people who work at the salon are supported both personally and professionally. It can be challenging for women to feel like they can have a successful career and a family, so if there happens to be a toddler or two running around at our staff meetings, so be it!
“And thirdly, I believe that supporting our stylists with ongoing education and outlets for their creativity is fundamental to our success! Every year we have stylists travel nationally and internationally to attend advanced training. At least twice a year, I also have celebrity stylists come into the salon and host seminars.”