Hairdressing Icon: Leonard Lewis Dies Aged 78

by maryforester / last updated December 2, 2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of the world’s first celebrity hairdresser, Leonard Lewis at the age of 78.

Nicky Clarke, John Frieda and Michael Van Clarke are among the alumni of the legendary hairdresser, whose London salon was at the heart of the vibrant swinging sixties scene.

After starting his career with an apprenticeship at Rose Evansky, Leonard moved on to Vidal Sassoon’s iconic Bond Street salon. Here, he worked closely with Vidal learning the Sassoon cutting method – becoming firm friends in the process.

Hairdressing Icons: Leonard Lewis

Leonard went on to open his own salon after one year at Sassoon. The House of Leonard, at No 6 Upper Grosvenor Street, was to be London’s first ‘lifestyle’ salon which catered for both men and women.

His clientele soon became as glamorous as Vidal’s, with names including Jerry Hall, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minelli donning the salon’s Zandra Rhodes-designed pink and grey gowns. He even became popular with East End gangsters including Reggie Kray, whose bride Lewis styled on their wedding day.

Hairdressing Icons Leonard Lewis - Twiggy haircut

In 1966, Leonard was invited to cut the hair of a teenage girl called Lesley Hornby – soon to become better known as Twiggy. With Leonard’s iconic short cut and a colour change by a young Daniel Galvin, Twiggy became an overnight success.

“It all took seven-and-a-half hours,” Twiggy said. “Leonard would cut a bit then send me upstairs to see Daniel Galvin for colour, then Leonard would cut more. It got shorter and shorter! This was the haircut that launched my career. I was a bit shocked initially, as I didn’t know what he was going to do — and I’m not sure he did either. Thank goodness I took the plunge!”

In the years that followed, Leonard styled celebrities from Laurence Olivier to Jack Nicholson and worked on countless magazine shoots with the leading photographers of the day, including Terry Donovan and David Bailey. He also worked closely with director Stanley Kubrick on many of his films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.

He also placed a huge emphasis on training, giving an early boost to many of today’s top hairdressers. Nicky Clarke, John Frieda, Michael Van Clarke, Michael John, Daniel Galvin, Keith Wainwright and Bumble and bumble founder Michael Gordon are all amongst the names that honed their skills under Leonard.

Although a brain tumour left Leonard unable to continue working as a hairdresser, he spoke of the comfort that seeing his protégés do well brought him. He has also lent his support to campaign for hairdressers’ registration to be compulsory.

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