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Ultra-professional, ultra-luxurious this is Harris-Gibbs! We catch up with our friends Alex and Chris to talk education, the importance of social media, and what it's like being situated in the 'capital of cool!'
How did you start H/G and was owning your own salon always a goal of yours?
A+C: We established Harris Gibbs Hair Shop in 2007, we we both previously working at a high level within different large salon groups and we had a vision to create an independent salon that aligned with the values and principles that we felt were right for a salon. Due to the financial climate of 2007 it was a real risk to set up a new business but also a great opportunity to grow with the economy and the changing landscape of the hairdressing industry.
What is it that makes H/G stand out from other salons?
A+C: Whilst we operate like any other great salon, we have always based our brand identity on creating a professional yet personable environment. It was always crucial for us to work with a team who shared this view and work creating a professional yet personable environment. It was always crucial for us to work with a team who shared this view and work hard to create an atmosphere in the salon that clients feel at home, whether they are visiting us for the first time or after many years. The integrity of our salon and team is fundamental to creating this, whether that is reflected in the hair services we offer, the experience our clients receive or the products we choose to use.
Your Instagram feed is one of our personal faves and brightens up our scrolling no end! How important is Instagram to H/G’s brand?
A: Instagram and other social media platforms are critical to the way our brand and salon is represented to both existing and potential new customers, the cliche of it being ‘your shop window’ is so true now. I believe it is most clients first impression of us and it is important that the content we share is a representation of the work we create. We tend to favour posting images of ‘real’ clients with un-filtered hair images to show inspiration and ideas for clients to try. Also, it is becoming more and more common for clients to use Social Media platforms to connect with and contact us, rather than via telephone or e-mail. I like to use it as a snapshot of our salon whilst keeping our website for a more detailed insight of our salon.
How do you think the recent advancements in social media have affected the hairdressing industry?
A: Within the industry I feel it is a fantastic platform for hairdressers to learn and connect with others, but also to share ideas and inspirations. It started with us using it to keep up to date with fashion trends and celebrity looks but since lockdown especially has been a great platform to learn new techniques too.
Which Instagram accounts inspire you?
A: There is such a variety out there, for hairdressers, some of the trailblazers were people like Guy Tang and Sophia Hilton but lately there is more and more new stylists using it to showcase their skills. Also it is still a fantastic platform to stay connected to upcoming trends in everything from hair ideas to business changes and trends.
What’s the hardest thing about your industry?
A: I would say since Covid it has been keeping great talented individuals within the industry paired with the challenging financial constraints of operating in the retail sector. For a long time I believe hairdressing has been under-valued but the forced closure of salons and the ever changing working situation has forced our industry to adapt and evolve. That said I am excited for the future of the industry as the next wave of talented young hairdressers progress.
What is your favourite hair treatment/colour/technique?
C: I think with the ever evolving creativity within the industry its always hard to pinpoint a ‘favourite’! However I think the introduction of ‘hair painting’ in hair fashion has really blown creativity wide open for hairdressers. So everything from balayage to money pieces working alongside looser textured layering in haircuts has made our work more bespoke for the clients. Also introducing Lakmé Aura onto our salon menu, as both a smoothing service and an in-salon treatment has been a firm favourite with clients as well as staff.
What’s one thing that you wish your clients would understand about hairdressing?
C: That Hairdressing is a passion based profession, we love what we do and genuinely care about each and every service we perform. We always want what’s best for them first. Also the skill set we need in this industry now is so vast and advanced that we really are very skilled professionals, some people still don’t realise this unfortunately!
What do you look for in your staff?
C: First and foremost passion for the industry and the craft. That’s something we can’t teach! On top of that it has to be personality and individuality, we encourage all of our staff now and in the future to be themselves, we pride ourselves on an honest down to earth atmosphere in the salon and that really does resonate with our clients.
What’s your most important advice for young hairdressers?
C: Do your research! Know the industry, investigate trends, research the fashion industry, see what other people are doing. Also no one will make you do this, so its about being self motivated, and remember ALWAYS listen to your client, our job is about collaboration not just service.
What is your favourite hair style of all time, on anybody ever?
C: I’m always a big fan of the Hollywood movie sirens of the 40’s and 50’s, people like Veronica Lake and Lauren Bacall. This is when it was all about setting and I do love a good set to work with! As this technique has been around forever we still se it in salons now with the glamour wave which is super popular.
What is the biggest challenge in the salon at present?
A: 100% adapting to the new work-life balance of both clients and team members. The days of 9-5 working hours seem to finally be over so it is a challenge for us to ensure we have adequate appointment availability to operate a profitable business whilst ensuring our team have support to protect their mental and physical health whilst keeping them inspired and engaged. Although it is a challenge, I do believe it is definitely an opportunity to create a better salon culture.
Where do you see your brand evolving in the future?
C: We really see the evolution of our brand based in education and editorial work. Woking closely with Cult Brands on developing and delivering education within the industry is totally exciting to us as a brand and also as hairdressers. For myself working closely with the fashion industry has always been a passion of mine and developing this is always great for us as well as our brands profile.
Where do you find inspiration to keep your skill / business fresh and innovative?
A: Podcasts are my go-to, I love to learn and find them a really easy way to absorb inspiration whilst going about my normal routine.
How important is education for you and your staff?
C: For us as a business education has always been paramount and at the forefront of everything we do as a team and also individually as hairdressers. We put so much time and energy into developing the team and ourselves and I think this really shows in the work and the client satisfaction our customers have come to rely on. As the industry continues to evolve, so must we as hairdressers. I’m forever learning, it allows all of us to grow and improve.
What is one thing you wish that you had been told before running your own salon?
A: It is not so much a case of being told, more one of actually listening to what we were told. It is such an immense responsibility and pressure to be able to juggle the workload of running an independent business that continues to grow whilst supporting a team of work colleagues with their progression and remaining inspired and energised to maintain our own passion for the work we do. It is hard to comprehend the non-stop 24/7 pressure to feel that you are doing enough, but after almost 15 years we are finally (starting to) be able to appreciate our life outside of work too.
How important is it to you to be utilising cruelty-free, sustainability-promoting brands within the salon such as evo?
C: Super important! I think as a society we all have a responsibility to the world around us and thankfully this is starting to be a big conversation within the world and also in the salon. People care about the impact we are having on our environment and it's only if we all do our bit that we will ever make a change for the better.
What’s next for H/G’s?
A+C: Lockdown had really helped us to appreciate our life around work, we are trying really hard to make time to spend with our dogs, And with our friends. Also, trying to keep our routine of fitting in exercise and healthy living.
82 Caroline St, Birmingham B3 1UP