In general, I am a very loyal person when it comes to beauty therapists, hairdressers, yoga instructors, trainers etc-when you find ‘your’ person and the relationship works to mutual advantage, it’s great. You trust their opinion, they appreciate your custom.
Our world moves very fast and there are so many innovations, so much creativity and visual stimulation that sometimes you are tempted, as a constant learner, to try and experience new things, to understand yourself better, to tweak things naturally when it comes to your appearance.
My current hairdresser, who I adore because he is a very talented hair stylist, has been doing my hair for the last five years, and I equally enjoy speed chatting with him while I am sitting in his chair in the salon.
A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a wonderful colleague of mine, who works in the beauty industry, who urged me to go and see a magical, wonderful hairdresser. He was out of town she said , but she will let me know when he is back and then I absolutely must go to see him. I felt a stab of disloyalty just contemplating this idea, yet at the same time my inner voice was saying ‘well, you don’t have to have your hair cut by him, just go and have a chat, have a look around his salon, what’s the harm in that ?’
A couple of weeks went by and I got word that ‘the magician’ was back in town, so I called his salon, missed him on a couple of occasions, as he was busy with clients, but he called me back fairly soon never-the-less. We exchanged general pleasantries, as you do during the first conversation. I proposed that I come to his hairdressing salon and we talk, so maybe I can write about him? Daniel suggested that he will cut my hair. I nervously mumbled something in reply, we agreed on the date and time and signed off.
A couple of weeks ago, when London was getting into the grip of Jubilee celebrations that were stretching ahead, I tried miserably to find parking around Connaught Square, where the garden party with belly-dancing and barbecues was in full swing. I love that area simply because my favourite original chocolate shop Cocomaya ( where I always have memorable foodie experiences of the cake and chocolate kind ) is situated there.
Daniel Mikhael, a Lebanese born hairdresser decided to open his salon, Haute Coiffure in Porchester Place, slightly less than a year ago, just across from Cocomaya. That area of London is really lovely ( like a slightly edgy self-assured woman ) -while quite tranquil, it has its own identity and vibrancy ( it also helps that it is close to Oxford street and Hyde Park ).
The salon itself has a very distinct Art Deco feel ( Daniel does like that era and finds Tamara Lempicka quite inspirational ), but it also feels like a little secret gem at the same time. There are six chairs for clients to sit in in the main area-both male and female clientele is catered for ( you can have your hair blow-dried, cut, coloured or even a keratin treatments to smooth you unruly mane ) , with a small lounge area in the front. You have another relaxed area at the back, where you have framed pictures displayed on the wall, above the wood cabinet with glass sections, which is full of oils and hair products that you can browse or purchase.
In order to have your hair washed, you go downstairs, to the area with the relaxed dimmed lights and the bar area before it- I can only imagine what fun and decadent parties can take place in the basement, while it will look serene and peaceful on the outside .)
When I arrived the salon looked busy, even though it was getting close to the end of the day. Daniel, a tall, broad shouldered and handsome man, seemed a little shy ? reserved ? at first and we chatted politely to each other, before Daniel dispatched me to have my hair washed with Bilal, who works in the salon and is learning from Daniel. Everyone in the salon seems genuinely friendly and almost in slight awe of Daniel, who in turn is very complimentary and softly spoken about the people who are on his team.
Hair washed and wrapped up in the towel, I came back upstairs and sat in Daniel’s chair, in trepidation…. but before we started talking a nice woman sat down next to me and asked me to choose a nail polish, as she was going to file and paint my nails. Linsey has worked in the central London salons before but came to Daniel’s on the advice of one of his team member’s and judging by how perfect my nails ended up looking ( she painted my nails with a bright coral Essie polish that kept on cheering me up in the coming week or so ), she is there to stay to the joy of salon’s female clients.
Daniel had a look at my face and examined my hair and also listened carefully to what I had to say-what style I want, how I care for my hair, how I want it to look and then he told me what he thought would work for my hair and the shape of my face. As he was cutting my hair, he also opened up a little about himself-how he was born and raised in Lebanon ( he also has two brothers and a sister ) and how upon gaining a baccalaureate, he went to Paris, following his father’s wishes, to study for a law degree. Daniel says he has always been very creative, even as a small child, so law only lasted a year, as it bored him terribly, after which he started working in hair salons and eventually ended up styling and cutting the hair.
He has been in hairdressing for 17 years now and yet, he seems truly passionate and inspired by what he does, by the people in his profession and by the constant learning process-when he speaks you feel the fire and excitement radiating from his eyes and very quickly you realise that that’s exactly how he is-passionate and inspired by his job, his clients and his contemporaries in the professional field.
Hairdressing is a very competitive profession and dare I say it?-bitchy at times. Over the years I have been to many of London’s salons, from local tiny ones close to Victoria station to very well-known ones and to be honest, a few of the very well known ones make me want to run a mile. The staff acts very pretentiously, hairdressers often parade around like sulking divas, behaving like they are doing your a great favour by cutting or colouring your hair and the vibe is often too off-putting. I honestly don’t want to be where the professional is driven by what celebrity’s hair he is doing today-yes, it’s prestigious and brings many clients in, which is essential for business but I want to go to the hairdressing salon where the atmosphere is nice, and not phony and Daniel’s salon is exactly that ( they also do have celebrity clientele and if you are curious, you can find some names on the salon’s internet site, but Daniel himself isn’t there to boast about it ). It has a friendly vibe, a relaxed slightly bohemian atmosphere and the team who works there looks like they socialise outside of their workplace too.
Daniel has worked for five years in Paris with Guido Palau, the hairdressing God responsible for many runaway show looks and editorials for Vogue magazines, so I was really surprised that Daniel actually took a brave step and moved to London several years ago, hardly speaking any English-he says it was tough, as no one wanted to hire him due to his broken English but he really wanted to do it and his own salon in London is the testament that where there is a will, there is a way ( before opening his own salon Daniel worked as the Art Director at the Shoreditch salon Taylor Taylor ).
Apart from Daniel, there is also Fadi Fawaz, who is a well-known hair stylist, working at Haute Coiffure. Fadi is different to Daniel, even taller and with a self-assured, laid back vibe to him-he easily smiles, like a Cheshire cat and he and Daniel has an easy going rapport between them.
Daniel told me that my hair is flatter and finer at the top and thicker and slightly wavy from mid-length and suggested that I didn’t need as many layers as I have. He trimmed and cut my hair and then blow-dried it, asking me which way I part my hair. My nervousness was replaced by curiosity about this shy, yet very handsome man with a sharp eye and the air of innate creativity and when he finished with my haircut I still looked like me, just slightly different. There was more volume, more shine and more bounce to my hair, I felt like a gamine woman, more feminine, yet still me, true to who I know I am.
As I was leaving, Daniel said he hoped to see me again at the salon, I waved goodbye to him and Fadi, who by that time was eating a sandwich with gusto, as the salon was closed, the day was coming to a close, yet I felt a lightness in my step and the joy while looking at my own reflection in the shops windows.
A week or so after my haircut with Daniel I realised that for the first time, in a long time, I was less inclined to put my hair in the ponytail, as I do most of the time, I was leaving my hair loose and running my fingers through it, admiringly. And you know what else? I would have happily kept Daniel’s hairdressing skills a secret if I could, but I do believe that his talent deserves to be talked about by a wider audience, as long as I can still have my appointment with him .)