We meet the brains behind Brick Lane's Not Another Salon, Sophia Hilton. Not only is she passionate about hair, but also carving out a non judgemental, safe space where customers can discuss mental health issues and receive the encouragement to be themselves no matter what.
How did you start Not Another Salon and was owning your own salon with a difference always a goal of yours?
I didn't want a salon actually. I guess I thought it would be boring and not creative, but there is nothing boring about my life here. Business is creative, especially this business. I guess in the early years of may hairdressing life I didn't consider I could re-write things to how I wanted them.
How come you decided to open up in London?
I moved to London when I was 21. I wanted to move here from my first trip when I was 11 with my dad on holiday (I'm from the good old North!) London, especially East London, has such an open mind, and if you're going to be different, this is the place to start. You can just be yourself here. I walk down the street every day with yellow hair and no-one even looks up. I love that.
Why do you think there is such a demand for the salon and a trend for 'crazy coloured' hair?
Although the collective term seems to still be 'crazy colour' in the UK, I'm not a big fan of that expression. Non natural colours were seen as crazy once, when the brand Crazy Color first came out, but now everything has changed. It has become much more socially acceptable to have vivid coloured hair and I'm so happy about it. I just don't think having pink hair makes you a rebel anymore. Rebels, you'll have to step up your game!
"The salon has become a place where I can extend my bubble, where everyone else can live in my safe space."
What do you hope to achieve with the salon in the future, do you have a main goal you're working towards? Would you like to open anymore around the country, or even the world?
No not really, I just dont think more is more. It's so easy to get carried away and the opportunities that are coming up are incredible. But I value being 'close to the ground' as such, I dont want to end so far up the top of the hierarchy that I'm not connected to my team. I love being a part of their lives. What customers don't know is I have a career separate to the salon. I'm a hairdressing educator, and I travel all over the UK and the world to teach. This year I'm in five countries. I also run our hairdressing school 'Not Another Academy'. Oh and I have a baby on the way. I think im good for now...ha!
Wow that's amazing news, congrats! How long have you had your signature yellow hair, and how many colours did it take for you to find your look?
I've had it for two years now, but I honestly wouldn't change it. I knew the second I washed it off it was for me. It was the first colour I instantly fell in love with.
What kind of customers come into the salon?
It's a wide range, generally from the ages of 25 to 35. Most are from creative backgrounds or are visual people. Because of our 'non judgement policy' we also get a lot of clients with different mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. It's wonderful to be able to provide a space that people feel free to be themselves.
Whats your favourite part of the job?
I love to help people and to lead. I love to watch them develop and work with them on achieving their dreams. The best part of the job is being the person they can rely on. That's the reason I get called 'mother salon'!
Your hidden rainbow hair became an internet sensation – what's the next big hair trend? Has everything been done already or will you keep surprising us?
Gosh I dont know, I dont like hair to be too complicated. I'm not a big fan of 'unicorn hair' and all that jazz. I think hair, (even if it is vibrant colours) should look expensive and polished.
"Why on earth are we still pricing on sex? If we take a second to think about it, we even still use the words 'ladies or gents' cut. Isn't that crazy in 2017!"
I absolutely love you ethos of pricing by hair rather than gender. To me it seems like something that salons should have rolled out such a long time ago, yet it seems you're the first salon to really be pushing this to the top of your agenda. Could you tell me a little bit about it?
When we launched I told the world, well, anyone that would listen, that we were a no judgment salon. But when you have just opened, they are just words. It's what we did after that that mattered. I was just in my office cleaning one day when it hit me. Why on earth are we still pricing on sex? If we take a second to think about it, we even still use the words 'ladies or gents' cut. Isn't that crazy in 2017! I’ve got girls with skinheads and boys with hair down to their backsides so to me, it’s clear. I should be pricing on the job - not what’s on their passports.
Can you tell me a little about your no judgement policy and why it’s important to you?
Listen, I was so bloody badly judged and bullied as a teenager, it was horrific, I'm not going to lie. When I came to London I made this safe little bubble for myself. I surrounded myself with accepting people and moved to an area where people loved me for who I am. The salon has become a place where I can extend my bubble, where everyone else can live in my safe space.
Your Instagram feed is one of my personal my faves and brightens up my scrolling no end. How important is Instagram to Not Another Salons brand?
It's so important, it's how we talk to the world. 40% of our following is actually in the states! We can spread our ideas much further than just London. The feedback in insane and our inbox is overflowing every day with people just telling us that they are so happy we exist!
And finally, What is your favourite hair style of all time, on anybody ever? Marilyn Monroe. I have been styling my hair like that for years on and off. It will never go out of fashion. It also lasts a week if you set it well ;)