Life: the commodification of art
February 15, 2011
March 9, 2021
The brief: Two salons in Richmond in London, one a hair and beard specialist; the other unisex “with a varied but creative style”. Both in need of a complete makeover. Laurel, owner of the unisex salon describes his goal as the creation of “a haven for clients to relax and enjoy a luxurious hairdressing experience.” As well as “something different in the heart of traditional Richmond”. He has many long-term and loyal clients and the currently “eclectic” design demonstrates his love of travel (from India to Ibizia).
Vagabond Barber’s opened just a year ago in a former tile showroom. The owners didn’t have much money to spend so a lot of the original fixtures remained, with purple and orange chosen for the décor! In contrast, for their update, Paul and Neil are looking for “a haven of masculinity” with a “part gentleman’s club, part speakeasy style”. Specifically, they are “not looking for a conventional scheme, but want the designers to show imagination and character.”
Just a few requirements then! And yet, in many ways, this challenge is a combination of the last two, shops and beach huts. How? Because, firstly the designers need to put themselves firmly in the shoes of the visiting customer having their hair done. And secondly, they need to respect the decorative requirements of the client. Plus, they need to have some fun!
Plus, at this stage, the pressure is mounting. The final is in sight, but they’ll be tackling this challenge in pairs, so they need to work together, but also start getting a bit bullish about what they think will work the best, and why, in the given time and with the given budget. The semi-finals are around the corner, this is no time to sit back and let it all happen around you.
We touched upon this already a little with shops — the art of client persuasion. And to clarify, this isn’t about bulldozing your own ideas past a tentative client or steam-rollering all over their input because ‘they’re not the designer’. Rather, it’s about knowing when to push them to be braver, and when you need to pull them back on anything that is, shall we say, too adventurous.
After all, using this specific challenge as an example, hairdressers are creative people, and like all creatives they will have ‘ideas’, not least for the space in which they work. But they are not designers. And inevitably, the list of requirements might well be rather ambitious, and therefore unachievable. For such a project then it will be all about agreeing the main scope of work, the core ‘big’ idea, if you will, and then allowing everything else to spin around that. The difficulty will be not defaulting to simply littering a space with lots of little touches that really don’t add up to a coherent scheme.
And here’s the thing, the only way to do this is to have listen incredibly carefully to everything that a client says they want. And to ask loads of questions in order to really investigate those thoughts from all different angles. Then take everything you have learnt and come up with a scheme that you truly believe answers every one of their needs as opposed to just following suggestions. It is only in this way that you can authentically convince someone that what you’ve done is in their best interests. And give on colour. A lot can be achieved by varying tones, but if a brand identity is vivid fuchsia, then you’d better factor this colour in somewhere. You cannot allow subjective personal preferences to sway what works for the success of a scheme as a whole.
In brief, always take your lead from the client, but then run with it!
Oh I love this lady, Abigail Ahern. One of the hardest working people in interiors. She posts daily inspirational videos every morning on her IG channel. She has a garden that is literally a thing of obsession to me. Most importantly she’s globally known for her love of dark dramatic interiors and a maximal layering of texture upon texture. In this way she’s cleverly carved out an individual niche for her brand. She lives and breathes her ethos (check out her new book, Everything: A Maximalist Style Guide). She knows what she likes and isn’t afraid to stick to it. In this way, she makes a brilliant mentor/judge for our designers.
Her nugget of wisdom to share? “One of the most important things is to not get too caught up in having multiple projects in your portfolio. Instead, spend time on creating mood boards, photographing your own padm and showing off your creative ability And don’t be embarrassed about asking oodles of questions if you’re struggling for help! I ask questions all the time, even now.”
Briefing: Chartreuse/yellow Diane Von Furstenberg pleated dress (bought goodness only knows when), worn over Paige jeans. Miu Miu shoes.
Viewing: Alice + Olivia denim dungarees; Dries Van Noten yellow jumper (absolutely ancient); Max Mara navy wool full-length coat (MM are brilliant for classic coats, this one is about six years old); Celine short boots (bought from one of those resale places in Milan).
Judging: Alice + Olivia denim dungarees; Vince white t-shirt; MaxMara yellow fringed jacket; yellow Prada sandals (also bought literally eons ago, from the Prada discount mall just outside of Florence, and still my absolute favoruite pair of sandals ever).
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Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.