Let’s make ourselves comfortable in these salons with a higher purpose, working to welcome all through the door and make everyone feel they’ve found a safe space
Brave, Strong, Beautiful, Edinburgh
The welcome factor: Supporting young people
A salon is a social affair, but Brave, Strong, Beautiful is Scotland’s first hair and beauty salon operating as a social enterprise. Having secured £50,000 of funding when it won the Scottish Edge Award Community Interest Company, founder Kerry Anderson has launched a second venue in Edinburgh’s city centre, further establishing her mission to invest in the future of young people by providing training opportunities, employment and mental health support.
Its status as a social enterprise means Brave, Strong, Beautiful works to help vulnerable young adults from Edinburgh who are interested in the hair and beauty industry gain skills in the field. It provides them with an inspiring and accessible route to training and employment, while offering members of the public treatments woven into a welcoming and warm salon environment.
As well as hair and beauty certification, it offers a range of individual therapies including counselling and hypnotherapy. There are also training workshops for schools and youth groups to support mental health in young people and help them find employment. The focus is on educating about the importance of employment for self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
“I know from first-hand experience that young people who have faced disadvantages growing up need more than just educational and vocational training to keep them on track,” explains Kerry. “They need to feel supported, encouraged and safe, in order to take steps towards creating a positive future.”
The welcome factor: a disco-filled safe space for all
The lockdown brainchild of Luca Jones and Scott Humphreys, Kitch is a ‘50s-inspired, camp kitchen salon located in the heart of London’s Angel. They’ve gone all-out on the concept: the reception desk is a spinning lilac washing machine, doors are Smeg-inspired pink fridges and colour trolleys are ovens that pull out from the walls. Every inch of Kitch is a photoshoot waiting to happen, but it’s the vibe that makes it so special. It’s gender neutral, vegan and universally priced, and considers itself a “disco-filled safe space”, that encourages self-expression and fun, free of judgement.
“We created Kitch to provide full hairdressing and barbering services under one roof, but to break the traditions of a classic, masculine barbers or a bitchy salon environment and create a space for people to be themselves, however they identify,” explain Luca and Scott. “Gender-neutral pricing is not only the fairest way to charge our clients but it’s 2021 and highlights or fades have no gender – clients should pay for what they get.”
The kitchen theme comes from Luca’s childhood; his mum doing hair in the kitchen. “Every kitchen of ours became a salon and I loved the relaxed feeling of cutting hair at home with friends, I wanted to recreate it,” he says.
“We thought of a client’s journey and planned the salon around the feeling of a safe space where they can be themselves without anxiety, as stylists take the time to listen,” they add. “We wanted to create a great environment for our stylists too. We want a fun, relaxed day where the focus is not on targets and sales but on giving stylists the time and products to create their magic.”
The welcome factor: An open door to women who feel unsafe
It was during a meeting in the last lockdown when the Medusa team was discussing the news of Sarah Everard’s death, that it became apparent almost every female member of staff could relate to feeling unsafe on the streets. As with many salon businesses, Medusa is primarily made up of female team members and clients. This floored director Colin McAndrew. “To think that the majority of women go through life looking over their shoulder when walking outside astounded me,” he recalls. “We decided that we had to do something to change this.”
That something was the Salon Safe campaign, an open door policy where the business has made it clear to all women and girls that if they ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable on the street, they are welcome to stop for a few minutes or a sit down and a cup of tea in any of the six Medusa salons across Edinburgh and Musselburgh. “It’s important to us to help make our streets and community a safer place and hopefully our open door policy is doing that. If someone feels vulnerable, are being followed or are in anyway in danger, they can step inside the salon and speak to someone. The team will look after them and make the necessary arrangements to keep them safe,” adds Colin.
Now there’s a new initiative Medusa supports in Edinburgh called ‘Strut Safe’, a community network that offers women a registered buddy to walk them home after a night out. Medusa has also followed in the footsteps of the Scottish government by launching its own initiative to eradicate period poverty. Its salons now supply complimentary sanitary products.
“We’re honest at Medusa,” says Colin, “I believe that honesty creates a safe space. We might not be a family by blood, but we treat, love and listen to each other just the same.”
The welcome factor: Inclusive and pronoun-proactive
When Murray McRae first launched Stag, it was very much a traditional barber shop for men – all wood panels and a navy blue and dark red colour scheme. However, as time went on, he started accepting all clients and charging them the same price. “Through meeting a diverse range of clientele, I discovered there is a whole world of people outside the gender binary. At the same time, I started to employ a range of staff who identified in different ways,” explains Murray. “We decided to completely rebrand, with an inclusive price structure, to create a hairdressers that is for everyone, ranging from businessmen to students from the art school, antique dealers, drag queens, little old ladies and young footballers. At Stag they all come together.”
Clients are asked about preferred pronouns when booking online or on the phone (more than 50 per cent of clients have opted to indicate this before arrival) and the team has completed gender diversity awareness training with the Mermaids charity, “to ensure we don’t misgender anyone and are aware of the many wonderful ways gender can be expressed”.
The salon has a ‘silent service’ option for those who suffer from anxiety, find they are affected by sensory overload, or who just prefer peace and quiet. “We’re working in the future with a disability consultant to ensure that our spaces are better suited, particularly to those with autism,” adds Murray.
Senior team members are undertaking textured hair education too, so they can pass on skills and knowledge to the rest of the team to ensure all clients can be seen with confidence. “We encourage staff to feel and be themselves. We operate a zero-tolerance policy to any unkind behaviour and staff can dress and express themselves at work however they wish.”
Idol Hair, Hackney
The welcome factor: Pods for Covid-19 anxious guests
Do you have your boarding pass? Then you may alight at Idol Hair, a salon in the heart of London’s Victoria Park Village in Hackney that’s giving customers anxious about Covid-19 a safe and special experience. When the pandemic hit, enforced closure gave Idol founder and co-owner Marc Luickx time to think about the future of the salon, and how to shape it for a post-Covid world.
A radio interview about the sense of safety created by travelling in first and business class pods – having everything in your space but not isolated from others – set him thinking about individual ‘hair pods’. “A unit where you walk in, sit down and don’t have to move again, creating minimal traffic in the salon,” he explains.
Wash basins slide away from reclining chairs to enable plenty of space for cutting, styling and colouring. Chargers, leads and power points are close by should you need to do some work. And an air purifying system creating 99 per cent pure air is cleverly hidden away by hundreds of plants that create a natural feel to the small but light-filled space.
This innovation has created a vibrant boutique salon that feels super-safe and forward-facing. “Our USP is our innovation in work and life, staying fresh and ahead of the game. And our bond with customers and locals and each other,” adds Marc. So even if there’s turbulence ahead, you will enjoy a smooth and relaxing trip here.