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Hair salon a career that constantly evolves

Back2myroots : A place to share thoughts and grow idea’s. B2MR

mike vallance

Hair salon a career that constantly evolves

It was my wife who posed the question.

What if! If you had to do a talk for 20 t0 30 minutes on your career and the profession what would you say.

Could you talk for that long and be able to answer questions! Yep!


When I started hairdressing in dare I say it 1973 London. The hair profession was a different beast it was on the brink of monumental change. Vidal Sassoon had taken the fashion world by storm with a radical new approach to hair dressing hair cutting crating shape texture and form, and yet many aspects still had one foot in a bygone age one of setting hair backcombing metallic rinses and perms. The blow dry style and new look were evolving.

I don’t want to make this about me. But then again it is about me but I hope I can tell a tale with out it being to be seen as to Ego based!

However when I started hairdressing I left school at 16 I went to an all boy’s school more like a borstal really I hated it. When other boys discovered what I was doing as a profession for an apprenticeship I was labeled nancy boy and a few other choice terms! It was a profession for girls! How wrong were they. Warren Beatty and Shampoo changed that image forever. With my parents signing official indenture papers I was signed up to do a Three year apprenticeship. Between the ages of 16 and 18 and being in the real world working ones eyes get opened this training this apprenticeship was slave labor. I wanted training I had to get out. I wanted to be great I wanted my name in magazines I wanted to earn good money. I wanted to find success and be a successful.

My career in brief I had an opportunity to move and train at Leonard of London with some of the now biggest names in hairdressing today [of course at this time I was unaware of the true talent I was getting trained by] John Frieda, Clifford Stafford, Daniele Galvin, Patrick, Celine, Barry Wild, Oliver these guys competed to get there work in Vogue I wanted that. They were so talented motivated passionate and above all creative and willing to share. Upon qualification I then started to work In Chelsea Knightsbridge. I had many opportunities and much success. I was very busy had an amazing clientele life was good but after 12 years it was a little to smooth and changes and challenges needed to happen.

long hair up/ do

It was time to go it alone I decided to sell the shares I had brought in the company I had been apart of for such along time give up my position as director and start my own salon. Move away form the wealth and security of this area of London and head south of the Thames. To what I considered to being an up and coming area know as Clapham. Why would I do this why this location? Well all my clients were getting married settling down and starting a family guess where they were buying property? Not such a silly move. “SOUTH OF THE RIVER” ltd was born and a huge success from day one due to the support and loyalty of all my clients. It thrived. but life is a continuing journey of discovery I start things up and then get bored!

Are you driver or passenger !

Are you driver or passenger !

The salon spa term had not come into play yet, but we did have both facilities for men and women for hair and one beauty room soon became two! It was challenging it was fun it was vibrant crazy great staff many from Australia so hard working and well trained. One of these stylists “David” moved back to Australia and opened his own salon and named it “South of the river” so the name lives on.

This was 1987 I get bored very quickly maybe the success was to easy I decided to sell and emigrate to Canada! By late September 1989 the salon was immigration was at last sorted out what an ordeal!  The salon proved to have been such a good investment Ontario here I come! In brief hairdressing in Ottawa owning and running a B&B quailed white water raft guide, and also owned and operated a sawmill and had a lumber business, diverse indeed.

Well this phase of my life lasted 7 years in that time I played the game snakes and ladders of life I landed on a snake! All the way back to start! Lost everything a lot contributed to this none of it hairdressing related it was other business interests and a break down in a relationship that caught me out. I had to declare bankruptcy so returned to the Uk wounded and somewhat lost. I hated being back in the Uk.


I hate failure but I needed some healing time. Family tried to help but all this did was push me away i don’t like being dependent on other’s. A decision was made whilst living in Ontario I had visited Vancouver once to ski at Whistler I would sell the last of my worldly goods and buy a one-way ticket to Vancouver start over! Guess what I did just that.

I arrived in Vancouver BC Canada Late February 1997 I had £500.00 in cash no credit card no job no connections. A very dear friend had arranged for one of her friends to meet me and put me up for a few days this was great but they lived way out of the down town area. Shock hit home what have I done! You start to question your self I had never been out of work never been so poor never not had a credit card and had never rented a flat or apartment I had always owned Oh it had been a very long time since I had needed a job and employment and interview where do I start!

Canadian hairdresser of the year 2013 Mr Jon paul Holt

Mr Jon paul Holt

A job of course how do you find a job in city when you know nothing about the city it’s style who’s good what’s a good area I needed to think and research! I took my self up to whistler to ski with the last of my money not think about security deposits living expenses or anything really important. Great few days skiing came back down to Vancouver with very little money left I knew I had to find work and the trendy down town area was the place to be. It was at this time I was told about an English expat who owned what was reputed to be the best salon in Vancouver. I was told that if I could get a meeting with the owner Mr Jon Paul Holt he might be able to give me some insight into the hairdressing scene in the city. He owned the Avant-garde Artistic Center in the Yale town area formerly old warehouses now renovated into bars boutiques hair salons restaurants cool part of town. I found the courage to call spoke to the receptionist explained my situation after a few moments she came back on the phone and said Jon Paul says drop bye tomorrow say after 6pm he would be happy to meet to with you to chat about hairdressing style and culture in Vancouver.


As I said having interviews and needing a job knowing the requirements and standards all new to me and far removed from all I had achieved in the past. I had not done any of this in years what would be asked of me? Would I be offered some good advice at this point no job was on offer it was just a chat. I needed a job a wage and soon!

As we all know starting new in a salon is so hard it takes ages to build up a good retentive client base. It take sages to fit in to get to know and be accepted by the staff, so much to think about I was very nervous. The time came in I went, what a hive of activity so many stylists, so many clients, huge reception style it oozed style and class.


I was offered a seat in the reception area I was offered a glass of wine good start I think! I sat and watched I was very impressed with the service the quality of the work the atmosphere. I knew what I wanted a job here! Could I get one, would it be possible would I be good enough did i have what they look for in a stylist? I had so many questions flying through my head. At last Jon Paul came over he sat we had more wine we chatted we laughed we talked about anything and everything. He told me about the salon the competition work the shows. I listened I had never done competition work or shows in London just salon work and big wedding events! His passion his drive his motivation it was intoxicating. We must have chatted for 2 hours, finally at the end of our meeting he said so you need a job I think we can find a place for you. My head was buzzing an opportunity, he said actually we are doing a photo shoot tomorrow why don’t you come along and meet the team see what we do.


Of course I jumped at it that was the start of something so very special. Jon Paul had offered me hope and so much more. I did get established and busy I did all the shows and shoots with him and the team I traveled across Canada as a team member went to the USA and even got to do a show in London I owe this man so much for the opportunity he gave me the encouragement he gave the trust he put in me .For showing and sharing with me passion motivation creativity showing me our industry is not just about the salon an doing clients as important as that is there are so many different layers of our industry to experience and learn about.

razor cutting

It was whilst working with Jon Paul that i got to meet up with John Bertorelli at the time he was artistic director of Lanza USA and so based in the states another former ex pat when not on the road he would work the odd Thursday at Avant-garde he and Jon Paul had a very strong friendship. Thursdays was late night in the salon so those staff started at noon. I chose to work a full day helping out Jon Paul doing whatever to be busy these stated to become special a Brit morning humor jokes and developing of a stronger bond, To this day these two guys are so very special to me. John is so talented and inspired me to start cutting hair with a razor I loved it opened up a new creative world to me I put down my scissors I was hooked at cutting shape form texture freestyle hair cutting.


I loved the shows the Avant-grade work I loved working with Jon Paul his creativity his passion and focus rubs off on you, I was also getting more and more involved in education and platform work. Life was great my career had taken a new turn my personal life was sort of getting sorted out and so I focused on the good and the positive. It was this opportunity given to me by Jon Paul Holt the support of all at Avant-garde from Ginny the receptionist to the creative talented stylist who accepted me, To the opportunities to get involved with Lanza Canada everything in life is for a reason, choices present themselves to us. We have to have the courage to take them and live with the consequences. To this day I am still so grateful to Jon Paul and we are still the very best of friends and stay in touch he is still so creative an passionate and I try in my own way to mentor and share with others.

playing being creative

Although my focus is still now very much on education and training looking at all aspects of the industry my passion is still hair colour education sharing with others and inspiring them to look at new products to challenge themselves and those around them to seek out help to ask questions and have fun by being creative, by enjoying our industry the salon the client.

My time with Jon Paul and indeed on Vancouver island was so special when I left Vancouver for the island it was for change and challenge and Jon Paul support this, Cindy my wife now and I moved there for a new adventure together me to expand in education her to start a job and career and for 8 years we achieved a great deal we even manage dot buy a house when we met neither of us had a penny /dollar to our name.

hair stylists the hairdresser community and profession

We came to the Uk 2008 bad time to move recession but every resourceful we managed we started out life in Cambridge we brought and lived on a barge, we now live in historic Canterbury Kent in a 200 year old heritage building. It seems life is still offering up choices and challenges and chances to get excited again about education and products.

Image 1

I have just written my first book its called The Salon and the S word its getting some great reviews and is all related to the salon to business and service sales communication relationships and of course the client.


I’m am also very excited to be writing some reviews for an Italian product manufacturer called Alterego Italy its as if life has gone full circle and I’m back looking at a professional highly focused company with great products and an ethos for service learning and education, I’m really drawn to all these teaching and the people this sort of company attracts.


What does the future hold now I don’t know! I do however know that its an exciting time and i will embrace any opportunity that might present it self to me. Especially if it allows me to share my knowledge and experience with others.



The journey still continues and unfolds!

Mike B2MR


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