Andrew Jose is considered one of the world’s leading hair stylists and an acclaimed teacher. His technique evolved while he was Principal of the Vidal Sassoon schools and academies in the late seventies and eighties. The skills from which he took into his own salon that he opened in London’s Charlotte Street in 1988. Today, Andrew can be found working as Editorial Ambassador for Revlon Professional, doing session work or teaching at every level But he never strays far from being hands-on in his much-loved salon. We caught up with him there.
SB: Tell us how you first came across your salon and a little about its story…
AJ: “When I first branched out on my own in 1988, I had two salons – one at the iconic fashion store Hyper Hyper on Kensington High Street and the other at no.20 Charlotte Street. After five years or so I decided that I’d outgrown both so went on the hunt for new premises. I searched everywhere and bizarrely the place I was looking for ended up being right under my nose. In 1995, I was extremely lucky to find and secure this much coveted building at no.1 Charlotte Street. Geographically, it’s the gateway to Charlotte Street – widely regarded as the most sophisticated and creative postcode in Fitzrovia.
SB: What were the initial changes you made?
AJ: “The building had been the London showroom for French fashion brand Chevignon. We were fortunate that the beautiful wooden floor ran throughout the top floor but had sadly disappeared from the basement, which makes up around 60 per cent of our footprint. Downstairs was like a fortress with security shutters and grills, which we had to remove.
There were also skylights that had been covered up. When we opened them up the space was flooded with daylight. Fortunately, the building also had vaults under the pavement – bonus space, which we were able to turn into our beauty and staff rooms, an office and laundry room.”
SB: How different is the salon now from then?
AJ: “Well, when we first opened, I decided to paint the exterior gold. I suppose it was my way of showing that we’d ‘arrived’. Things are a bit more subtle these days! Back then, privacy was a big thing and we put features in place so that clients couldn’t see out or passers-by see in. The obstructed views are a thing of the past now – it’s all a lot more open, we capitalise on the view and the interior is a real showpiece.”
SB: Describe the salon to us now…
AJ: ‘It’s a 1930s building and we are just blessed with such a beautiful structure. The frontage is especially attractive because it’s situated on a corner. It has the original, dual aspect Streamline Moderne glazing, which makes it light, airy and particularly relaxing. Our clients can either enjoy watching the world go by from the discreet privacy of the ground floor or unwind in the exclusive seclusion of the lower ground salon. It’s been our home for so long now that it emanates a homely, peaceful informality.”
“Depending on the service required, the client is either taken down to our colour area located below our reception, on through. to our hair spa, which is located behind the main salon floor, The colour area is full of bright pink and neon colours, allowing our stylist to get creative and our clients to join in with the fun. Our hair spa is extremely relaxing, with windows shielded with a one way viewing pane, marble interior and the most laid-back feel.”
“It’s all about functionality – if you get that right, the rest will flow. You have to make the space as efficient and hardworking as possible. We’ve placed our tea and coffee, making facilities centrally and the colour, mixing area also takes centre stage.”
SB: What do you love most about the salon?
AJ: “The windows…the light. If there’s even a glimmer of sunshine, we get it. It’s a very special space.”
SB: What would you say is the secret to great salon design?
AJ: ‘It’s all about functionality – if you get that right, the rest will follow. You have to make the space as efficient and hardworking as possible. We’ve placed our tea and coffee making facilities centrally and the colour mixing area also takes centre stage. I made a choice to do that years ago – I think it’s a part of salon life that should be seen and celebrated. It’s also important to create a retail area that clients can walk up to and are able to touch and browse.
SB: How have you managed to survive in such a prestigious location? Is it harder to make a salon work in the capital?
AJ: “I often say that we’re all making roughly the same amount of money wherever we are – some locations just take a bigger percentage of profit to run. Survival in the West End of London is tough. Unless you own your freehold, you’re practically just working for your landlord, but the decision is you either pay or you leave – they can re-let your shop in the blink of an eye. I’ve often considered relocating and reducing the business costs but no, this is my home.
SB: What would you say have been your toughest business challenges through the years?
AJ: “Luckily, as a business we’ve tended to be recession-proof, but Brexit did cause a kind of collective depression in London, which affected business for a while. Just as we were recovering from that, Covid struck. The other big blow to business was when two groups of stylists decided to do their own thing and we lost around 10 stylists in one go. That was tough. Fortunately, I’m an optimist and when things change or challenges occur, I see it as an opportunity.
SB: What does it take to be seen as ‘timeless’ in the hair world?
AJ: “Staying timeless is all down to the team and embracing their new ideas. London is a transient city; I say there’s a six-year cycle of clients coming and going. It’s almost like ‘life’ takes people out of London. Because we’re constantly having to attract new clients, we have to stay modern and relevant – there is no other choice.
SB: How do you explain your lasting success?
AJ: “Truly, I just really enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like work to me. I love watching my team get better and better, teaching and coaching people. Doing hair is the easy part – it’s fun, it’s rewarding. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.
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