For a boy born and raised in London’s East End, Errol Douglas explains that ‘hairdresser’ certainly wasn’t the most straightforward career choice: “it was quite a challenging place to grow up – if you even mentioned the word ‘hair’ or ‘fashion’ you’d get beaten up”.
The Guyanese-British hairdresser credits his father’s creativity as the driving force behind his interest in hair: “he was a very visual person, really into the arts, so I locked into that at an early age. I was the only kid that played with magazines and dolls and stuff”.
His first steps into salon work came not long after, when his older brother would sneak him into town on weekends. Here, a twelve-year-old Douglas secured himself a job helping out at a West End salon. “I wasn’t shampooing or anything, just helping out. My brother was my chaperone, he’d drop me off, make up some excuse to my parents… Imagine a twelve year old running riot in a salon”.
The hard work paid off, and in 1998 he opened his salon in Belgravia. Here, his focus is on inclusivity and providing a rounded salon experience, which is reflective of London’s diverse identity. He explains “I’m very proud that in the salon we can look after anyone, every hair type. London is an amazing place, and it’s amazing because of its people”.
Over the course of his career, Douglas has worked with many celebrity clients, including Brad Pitt, Lenny Kravitz and Diana Ross, and his work has been featured in publications including Vogue, Tatler and Harper’s Bazaar. Two-time winner of Afro Hairdresser of the Year, in 2008 he was awarded an MBE for education and services to the hairdressing industry.
We caught up with him to talk inspirations, influences and the most challenging aspects of his profession.
What inspires you? I recently saw some carvings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York which were incredible, the fibres and shapes, and that really inspired me. I love to create from one starting point, one reference. Before you know it, one idea often leads to twenty.
Favorite hair era? Definitely the 60s. You had iconic figureheads like Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon, cool lines, symmetry… everything just flowed. I think the 60s will forever be imprinted on our minds.
If we could cut anyone’s hair, dead or alive, who would it be? Audrey Hepburn. She is the epitome of beauty. She had the perfect face shape, so you could do anything on her and it would work, long or short. She always had that beautiful short fringe, which is still so popular now!
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your profession? I wear many different hats: as a salon owner, business man, on the road, doing session work… but across all of these different platforms I think the challenge is the same; finding the right communication level, being able to understand what someone wants and then successfully translate it. If I’m on stage I want people in the audience to be inspired, but if they’re in my chair I want them to walk away feeling like a million dollars.
Can you sum up your relationship with hair in three words? Addictive, creative, meaningful
“I’m very proud that in the salon we can look after anyone, every hair type. London is an amazing place, and it's amazing because of its people”