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Located between South Bermondsey and New Cross station we meet Oz Izzet in the parking lot of an industrial estate where she greets us and shows us to her salon space in a studio unit. The space, being a corner room, pops with natural light and bright colours thanks to a playful pop art-y mural on the wall. It’s cute and compact with just about everything a hairdresser would need. This space was created for her clientele to come to get a peaceful and basically private beauty and wellness treatment while receiving her full attention and TLC. She tells me about having had to leave a previous job, where she ended up feeling like her emotional and physical self were overlooked; which is precisely why she now puts overall wellbeing as the number one priority for both herself and her clients — or friends, as she affectionately refers to them.

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The Scissors of Oz studio was only launched mid-August last year, and built from nothing but her initiative and skill exchanges. Oz grabbed my attention because of the themes running through her new business: sustainability, inclusion, empowerment. Her slogan is about channeling inner beauty and positivity from the outside using the art of hairdressing. It quickly becomes clear that her work isn’t at all about recreating the latest trends and accumulating clout for doing only the hottest new looks; instead it’s very much about creating a community of people who feel more confident in their skins, and an unpretentious and hands-on approach to promoting self-love. That means not pushing any trends or beauty ideals onto anyone sitting in her chair, but seeing each customer as the whole individual being they are and catering completely to their personal needs and wishes. “We hear a lot of stylists saying ‘Oh that won’t suit you’ or ‘No, this doesn’t emphasise your features’, things like that, and I think it’s highly offensive for a lot of people, so I think the language needs to change. Because as long as someone feels good with what they want or with what you’re doing, they are beautiful.”

Besides cutting, colouring and styling hair, Oz is also trained in Reiki, an alternative therapy that emerged in late 1800s Japan, also known as energy healing. After a friend introduced her to the treatment, she decided to try it out herself. “I started by doing the Reiki level 1 and from there you have to do Reiki self-healing for 21 days, and in that period when I self-healed, amazing things started to happen to me. So I knew I was heading in the right direction with the Reiki, not just for myself but also with what I could offer to others. And I thought it was great combined with my hair services because it’s all about wellbeing, healing, self-love and taking care of yourself.”

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What has been your journey like, to get to where you are now? I had a sturdy job that I quit in August 2018. I was really upset about that, but unfortunately because of circumstances I had to leave. I had a holiday booked with my children not long after this, so we went away, had lots of fun, came back and the realisation of not having money kicked in. I was in my overdraft, I had rent arrears and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I had a lot of my clients, or friends as I like to say contacting me asking ‘What’s happened?’, ‘Where are you?’, ‘We need our hair doing’, ‘Are you working somewhere else?’ and so it happened quite organically. They wanted their hair done, but at the time I didn’t have all the equipment or tools to do this, so we created a skill exchange service. I had friends who bought me a dressing table and in return I did their hair. Someone wanted their hair coloured, so they bought the colours and in return I did their hair. A friend did my rebranding and website and in return I did their hair; by this skill exchange, and this exchange of empowerment I created a business, which I didn’t even know was going to happen. Several months later it got too busy for my home so I started looking at properties and that is when I found this studio. Again I didn’t have much money but through the skill exchanges I was able to create this space with the help of my friends. In the background I have this mural art by Katrina Russell-Adams; she did this for me so in return for hair services. I also have a beautiful art installation by artist Fiona Grady and my up-cycled shelving made by Harriet Hill. I’ve created a really nice creative community within my work and I feel really fortunate for that.

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Tell us a bit about your ethos and what you set out to create. I’m really strongly passionate about ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. Or if it’s usable, use it. Everything within my space is either found in the street, recycled, upcycled, stuff that people didn’t want. I’d like to think I’m a sustainable salon so that’s part of me ethos. Not wasting products, not wasting items, reusing things as much as I can. Also the gender neutral element of the business is really important to me because hair doesn’t have a gender. My price and infrastructure are based on hair length and not your identity and that’s an important element of the business.

How would you define beauty? Beauty is skin deep. You could have the most amazing hair or the most amazing makeup but you won’t necessarily feel good within yourself. Confidence is key. Through conversation and the transformation process of the haircut I really try to bring that out in people. We empower each other; we talk about things that uplift us, things that we want to do, and things that we can and will do. Thankfully the industry is changing in terms of what beauty we celebrate, and that’s so vital because everyone looks different but everyone should feel beautiful and confident, that’s kind of what I’m all about.

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What is the best thing about working in the hair industry? The best thing is making someone feel amazing. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. I try to channel that inner beauty through hair, and seeing someone leave the room with an extra bounce in their step – that is so satisfying!

And what is something about the hair industry that you would love to see change? I hear stories all the time (and have also been in these situations myself) where staff are being rushed around, they can’t get their lunch, no break from being on your feet, there’s a lot of overworked and underpaid stylists. So I’ve really stepped back in this space; I probably don’t do more than one big hair job a day because I want to prioritise my wellbeing. Also going back to gender, there are still so many salons that base their services on gender and I really think that’s a massive problem to all the amazing people in the world that can’t access services because of this.

Regarding the differentiation between salons, I’d love to see hair come together more. Perhaps many people aren’t trained with all hair types or they’re not confident, but either learn to become more comfortable or employ people who are. For example I do afro hair but I’m not that great at braiding specifically, so I’ve got someone coming into the studio for that. I think it’s crucial to have this mixture because ultimately hair should be able to be more of a universal process.

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What’s next for you you and your space? I do look to expand within a year hopefully and grow The Scissors of Oz brand further. But in the meantime I’m looking at making the most of my current space. We’ll have a mezzanine therapy room going into the space. I’m also working with the council and looking to run workshops for the community, which will aim to empower and promote self care. ‘If in Despair, Brush Your Hair’ will be an uplifting project to get people involved and help them embrace the true beauty within them. I plan to have an amazing apprentice join the team, pending on funding support, and I can’t think of anyone better to start this journey with me. This year I will be reaching out and collaborating with people who look to make the hairdressing industry more sustainable and bring in new ways of recycling and using products that will help keep us and our planet protected. Keep your eyes peeled for me!

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Credits

The Scissors of Oz is at Elizabeth Industrial Estate, Studio 10 Unit 13, London, SE15 5RW

Words Katharina Lina
Video Aris Akritidis
Photos Panos Damaskinidis
Special Thanks Oz Izzet

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