So, Karen, how did you first get into hairdressing?
I first time worked in a hair salon I was 13. From a very young age I know that this was what I wanted to do, I wasn’t really interested in anything else.
My first weekend job was sweeping the floor, providing tea and coffee at a salon that my Mum knew. It was on Essex Road but it has since closed. At 14 I did some work at a little salon in De Beauvoir.
I just loved every bit of it. My poor grandad had four hairs on his is head and I combed that hair to an inch of its life. I even put brylcream on them. Bless him he would sit there so patiently while I practised!
At 15 I applied for a week’s work experience at Canonbury Hair (previously called Hair@Canonbury Place), which was back in 1982 (gosh that seems a long-time ago). After the week experience, I carried on working Fridays after school, weekends and summer holidays. I loved it so much that I would bunk off school to work, I got in a lot of trouble and they called my Mum in. Fortunately, the School eventually agreed to let me work at the salon on Wednesdays, so long as I did my exams.
When I left school, Canonbury Hair didn’t have a full-time position, but I kept coming to do whatever they wanted. The only interview I ever did was at another salon when I was 16, I didn’t get it and to be honest I wasn’t really interested – I only wanted a job at Canonbury Hair.
After 16 I did an appreciation in hair one day every week at the college in White Chapel and was trained by the stylists at the salon. Fortunately, a full-time position opened up and I have never looked back. I’ve been with some of my clients still since I started on the shop floor when I was 15!
What is it about hairdressing that you enjoy the most?
Socializing, all the different conversations I get to have every day. We get people in who are like me – local, rough and ready, cockney girl – right up to more well-to-do clients. They are all lovely and I don’t treat them any differently. It’s interesting to hear their different stories and perspectives on things.
Hairdressing is creative and I like being able to have a holistic approach. One of the great things that we do at Canonbury Hair is that the stylists do everything. I do the cutting, colouring and blowdrying. I think it’s better than splitting it out. I have a vision in my head about the end result and I’m in control. It’s too hard to get a consistent result if the client is being treated by different technicians for the same treatment. Sometimes clients come in and ask me to create a new style, but that’s hard to do if you have a separate colourist and cutter.
How has hairdressing changed over your time working as a stylist?
I was trained quite a lot on thick, curly hair that clients wanted smooth. We didn’t have straighteners when I started, so we learnt to find a natural way to smooth silky hair.
For women’s haircuts, today people are focused on the look when you leave the salon, rather than the health of the hair and the actual cut itself. Blowdrying used to be an afterthought now it’s a separate, and very popular, treatment.
I remember for men a popular cut was the mullet – which I always hated. Style was influenced by everyone’s favourite footballer.
Are there any styles or techniques that you would say are your speciality?
I simply love cutting hair. Men, ladies I enjoy it all.
There is nothing nicer than seeing beautiful healthy hair. I don’t like to focus on treatments that aren’t good for our client’s hair once they leave. While straighteners are good, I try to avoid using them. They can be addictive and overusing them can be highly damaging.
My motto is that I “want clients to come in and leave with something that is long-lasting and easy to maintain”. It was always in my training – if you do a good haircut that’s what counts.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Gym, dog walking and online shopping (to my husband’s delight)!
I have to have someone shouting at me when I’m in the Gym, I’m not sure I could do it at home without being pushed. I like routine – I’m a very routine driven person. I stay fit by boxing, swimming, spinning – if it’s amongst a group and I can socialise then I love it.
I have a big ginger giant dog called Cooper. I walk him about 6-7km every day which also keeps me fit.
When I’m on my holidays I’m in Ibiza! I’ve been going from a young age and can’t get enough. You can take the girl out of Ibiza but not Ibiza out of the girl!
If you had to have dinner with someone dead or alive who would it be?
A powerful woman – Oprah Winfrey. She has been through one hell of a life, but that made her the person she is today. She had an amazing quote: “failure is a great teacher and if you are open to it, every mistake has a lesson to offer”. So I take every negative as a positive.
What do you think makes Canonbury Hair such a special hair salon?
Customers always remark on the feeling of the salon. So easy going, our clients feel comfortable – we’re always chatting and it has a friendly atmosphere. I love that we are a local salon and because we’ve been hear so long, we have a great little community. Customers come in and ask if there’s any gossip – everyone wants to be in the know.
What is your favourite:
Movie – Bugsy Malone
Artist – Michal Jackson, Paul Webber
Food – curry (a little bit of spice), pie & mash
Animal – dog. Easy!
Drink – Pornstar Martini