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Who’s cutting your hair? Getting to know Shan

So, Shan, how did you get into hairdressing?

Well I’ve been in Islington all by life – I’m born and bred. As a child I would go to the hairdressers with my Mum and watch the stylists. But I must confess that at first, I wanted to be a PE teacher! I was really into sports at school – I swam for Islington – but unfortunately, I had to earn an income and couldn’t take the time to study. So, in 1978/79 I got my first job at a hair salon in Baker Street – learning on the job and at various colleges.

I then worked at another salon but took some time off and started freelancing. Back then Mark and Spencer had a hair salon inside their shops for the staff (it was a perk for working there). I was cutting friends and families hair, and I carried on freelancing from the contacts I built over the years.

Finally, in 1993 I joined Canonbury Hair as a Saturday stylist and to fill in for members of staff when they went on holiday. Gradually I took up more days and that’s where I’ve been since.

What is it about hairdressing that you enjoy the most?

I like meeting people of different backgrounds and having interesting conversations. I’m a people person. In some ways hairdressers are like social workers. We see our clients every 6 weeks and get to ask how they have been, how is so and so. They’re often surprised and delighted that I took the time to remember what they told me, and they really appreciate having that support – we’re like family.

On top of that hairdressing is creative. I love seeing the transformation, step by step you turn the ordinary into something beautiful.

How has hairdressing changed over your time working as a stylist?

Perming was a big thing, I used to do a lot of those but now that’s gone out of fashion.

The big curly blowdrys with a bouncy look are the craze now, before we trained to smooth out thick hair. We keep up with the trends, and they come and go, but over my career I’ve seen it all.

Are there any styles or techniques that you would say are your speciality?

There isn’t anything per se, I like colouring and cutting. I want to give the client something they can maintain themselves; it isn’t all about the look when they leave, the hair needs to look healthy and fresh three weeks later.

The classic bob or pixie look is a favourite cut of mine. I like men’s haircuts too – I have three brothers so got to practice on them – I had a lot of models when I was training.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I love to dance – Zumba is a great workout – and I just love karaoke. On girls’ nights we always search for the karaoke bar and I have a karaoke set at home. I think in another life I would have been on the stage in west end.

Travelling to see my sons is so fantastic. One lives in Singapore and the other in Stockholm – I find it interesting seeing how different people live.

If you had to have dinner with someone dead or alive who would it be?

My sons, because they aren’t here, I cherish the time I spend with them – it’s so precious to me.

What do you think makes Canonbury Hair so special?

We’re allowed to do our work from start to finish. We don’t specialise in any area – we trained in everything and that’s the best way to achieve a good finish. We get to know the client and every time the client comes in, we get to know them better which helps achieve the best result.

At Canonbury Hair all our clients talk to each other and to other stylists. It’s a very friendly and welcoming environment which is so great.

What is your favourite:

Movie – Mrs Doubtfire
Artist – Abba & George Michael
Food – Anything with Chicken, but I have a phobia of fish (have since a child)
Animal – Dogs
Drink – Mojito