Each visit to London’s Brick Lane is a new experience, one day trip varying vastly from the next. The Shoreditch street, once plagued by crime, has now become one of the city’s largest cultural melting pots (and, fun fact, the heart of London’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community). Additionally known as a scene for the edgy and artistic crowd, Brick Lane plays host to pop-up designer sales, an underground vintage market, affordable luxury fashion, food stands and fairs, and Rough Trade East, the UK flagship of the well-known record shop that also has a location in Brooklyn, New York.
Thus it’s no surprise that the aptly named Not Another Salon has found its home along Brick Lane. Not Another Salon is the brain child of stylist Sophia Hilton. If her various awards and accolades aren’t enough of a testament to her immense talent as a hairstylist, visit her and the Not Another Salon team. As soon as you walk through the door you’ll see the justification for the flood of praise of the salon, which, as of this writing, opened its doors only 15 months ago in October 2015. At least, that’s what I did.
I found Not Another Salon through its Instagram account. Peruse the images yourself and you’ll quickly see why I noticed it immediately on my Discover page. But the snapshots of revolutionary “hidden rainbow” styles, flawless dye jobs, and slow-mo videos featuring smooth, silky, rippling hair—as well as the stylists’ own individualistic (and awesome) fashion sense—are only a component of my interest in this business. Its #AntiFactory and no-judgement attitude are what really piqued my passion for the salon’s work.
I stopped by Not Another Salon on a sunny afternoon in late November. With the storefront’s large windows and brightly colored geometric embellishments, it was nearly impossible to miss. The staff immediately welcomed me. Kelly, the office manager, showed me around. I noted the salon was smaller than I’d initially imagined – it must’ve been the big personalities I saw on Instagram that left me with an impression of the shop’s size. The salon spans two floors and like the stylists themselves, exudes personality. It seems as if each member of the Not Another Salon crew does, wears, and says whatever they want – and it just so happens that whatever they do, wear, and say is incredibly amazing. From “Front of Haus” Joel, who wore a leather jacket with Barbie doll heads for shoulder pads and lovingly calls everyone “darling,” to Katie, a stylist who defines “cool” with this example: If someone comes in and says, “I want half my head shaved and rainbow highlights and I think that looks cool,’ then I think it looks cool. Do you know what I mean?” I immediately embraced the atmosphere. While walking throughout the salon, I repeatedly thought to myself, “I want to live here.”
But as a non-Brit in this London salon, I wouldn’t be out of place at all. Clients hail from all over the world for appointments. I met a young woman from Israel getting Not Another Salon’s signature hidden-rainbow style, who said she came to London “50% to visit with a friend, 50% for an appointment here.” She, like me, found Not Another Salon on Instagram, and immediately noticed their “incredibly beautiful” technique and their welcoming ideology. With hair products offered pick-and-mix style, to the thirty-six types of tea on offer for customers to sip, to the hidden room downstairs with Play-Do, coloring books, and bubbles for entertainment, Not Another Salon is more than just a place to get your hair done. It’s an environment with ambience, a place you’d want to hang out at after work.
And, believe me, you’d want to hang out with the stylists themselves. It was surprisingly easy to talk over the sounds of running sinks and blowdryers. Stylists engaged in real conversations with clients – not just discussions about hair, or exchanging pleasantries, but talking about life, current events, anything, really. What’s more, despite a packed timetable spent attending awards ceremonies and teaching masterclasses with Senior Colour Technichian Carla Rinaldi, Hilton herself works at the salon on a daily basis, ensuring no customer is left unsatisfied. After an appointment, I observed Hilton ask her client, “Do you love it?” The woman confirmed, gushing, “I love it.”
I talked to Hilton about her beginnings in the career of hairstyling. She actually started with fashion, but it simply didn’t interest her. “I was almost embarrassed by the fact that I couldn’t get into [fashion],” she says. “And, I got swept away by hair.” The most Important part of styling, she added, is good, quality color and ensuring healthy hair. Hilton stresses the importance of transparency: a good stylist must explain everything they do to the client before they do it.
As for Hilton’s personal style, she stands out with her signature yellow hair. When I spoke with her, she was “really into tartan and plaid, like in Clueless.” Hilton confessed, “About three weeks ago I couldn’t sleep and I bought eleven things in tartan and plaid off of eBay.” Despite my feeling as if I were speaking with a celebrity, conversation with Hilton flowed easily – after expressing my own interest in fashion, she told me of her friend Alexandra’s Wasted Chic pop-up sale that weekend. See my coverage of Wasted Chic here.
If you’re in London or willing to travel for not another experience, you can make a booking at the salon’s website. They’re in high demand, although some weeks such as those leading up to the winter holidays completely fill up the stylists’ schedules. There’s never a dull moment at Not Another Salon – and that’s just how they like it.