WHEN your working week as a hairdresser consists of styling Natalie Portman’s do for an awards ceremony one day, jetting off to primp models for a catwalk show the next and rounding things off with a Vogue shoot, you’ve realistically reached the stage when you don’t need the hassle and pressure of running a salon. That’s certainly the case with Johnnie Sapong, one of the world’s most in-demand fashion coiffures, whose jet-set diary long ago caused him to leave behind salon-life.
However, Sapong – a gentle chap from Ealing who wears his dreadlocks in a Rastafarian beanie and happens to be a true maestro with the scissors – has realised that there’s a market for those who want to share their hairdresser with Natalie Portman and Brad Pitt; and, gregarious bloke that he is, he fancied the opportunity of cutting the hair of normal people again (albeit normal people who can stump up £350 for a cut).
“People were always calling asking how I create a certain look, so I decided I needed to do something where I can put that into practice, rather than just creating hairstyles for shoots and red carpets.”
What he’s come up with is far from your customary “trendy” salon. There’s no surly receptionist, no Ibiza-friendly music – in my book that alone justifies the five-week wating list for appointments squeezed between his travels – no other customers and no other staff. At all.
Instead, there’s an old Fitzrovia townhouse filled to bursting with vibrant urban art by the likes of Banksy and Adam Neate (from the ground-floor Lazarides gallery). At the top of several flights of graffiti-decorated stairs, Sapong’s studio space – like a super-cool, pleasantly-scented garret – contains a sink, a retro-cool armchair in front of a mirror, more artworks, and Sapong himself, without even an assistant.
It’s the anti-salon – an intimate, creative, homely environment where Sapong can take his time (appointments tend to last 90 minutes or more) and establish a much closer relationship with his clients.
“When you don’t feel like you’re on a conveyor belt, and you have the time and space to have a conversation with your hairdresser about more than your holidays, you can be much more honest about what you’re wanting,” he says.
Full of advice and convivial chat, Sapong is welcoming as many men into his studio as women. He points out that chaps who are alienated by salon environments – and by the look-good-for-five-minutes haircuts most salons create – can relax here.
“You don’t have to be in and out of a barbershop in 10 minutes – you can go and spend on a fine haircut in the same way you’d spend on a handmade pair of shoes,” he says. “I’m not pompous enough to say I’m trying to educate people, but I am trying to invigorate them.”
To enquire about an appointment, visit www.johnniesapong.com