Nicky Clarke Reveals the Secrets of His Career
April 3, 2012 12:32 PM
'The UK's best known celebrity hairdresser' Nicky Clarke gave a fascinating insight into his life and career in a rare interview with industry stalwart Maria Weijers at Pro Hair Live.
Beginning his career as assistant to industry-legend John Frieda in The House of Leonard, a breeding ground for hairdressing talent, it was almost natural that Nicky was destined for success.
That he has achieved such heights is down to a combination of natural talent (the most important quality in his opinion), passion for the industry, ambition and an element of good luck.
A key example of the latter came when he opened his first salon in 1991. "When I look back, I was very lucky as I didn't have anything special planned for the salon opening," he explained.
"The Duchess of York (Sarah Ferguson) was a client of mine at the time and I happened to be cutting her hair on the day of the opening. She asked me if I was doing anything special that night and I told her I was opening my salon. When she asked if there was anything she could do I joked that she could come.
"By the time I got back to the salon, there were papers everywhere. The Duchess turned up at about half-past eight and we didn't even have a ribbon for her to cut so we had to cobble something together using Christmas ribbons!.
"It was great for hairdressing because it made it into all of the national papers, not just the trade titles. For the first time, probably since Vidal, hairdressing was mainstream news."
Since that first salon, Nicky has consistently been in the news, not least when he became the first hairdresser to charge £500 for a cut
"It wasn't about making a statement or proving anything. We had to charge £500 because the phone was ringing off the hook," Nicky told Maria. "It's interesting because recently we've had to do the same thing with men's hairdressing."
Yet despite the prices, first in London and more recently in his salons in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, clients have continued to come through the doors in their droves and many of them have remained clients for more than 30 years.
"I do between two and three new clients per day. A lot of them are presents and those people have no intention of coming back, but a lot of them do.
"You have to draw the line between being incredible at what you do and being normal and accessible and I think that is something that we have managed."
Despite working on his extensive celebrity clientele and editorial work, Nicky is never away from the salon for too long and he insists this will always be the case.
"When I opened the salon I insisted on keeping a salon base and an editorial base. Sam McKnight, Eugene and Guido wouldn't want to have a salon base, but it works for me.
"I really love being in the salon and that's never going to change. I also love teaching, so maybe thats going to be the next thing for me, but I love the variation and the fact that I can do all of them. I wouldn't just want to do one element of my job all of the time."
In addition to his successful salon group, Nicky's electrical range is the third biggest selling in the country and his products, which he admits lost their way for a while, have been brought back in house and given a new lease of life.
However, Nicky believes that these elements of the business have had both a positive and negative influence on the industry he loves.
"These days I see some [hairdressing] work I think is fantastic. The products and the electricals have massively enhanced what can be achieved, but that has taken over from the hairdressing skills.
"I don't like the fact that fashion has taken over from the precision and I worry about the way people are taught. They don't have to cut hair perfectly because it can all be sorted in the styling," he concluded.
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