40 years of Paul Edmonds: How Paul went from 70s apprentice to industry icon

As we celebrate 40 years since the Paul Edmonds brand was launched, we’re looking back at Paul’s early beginnings in the hairdressing world.

“It's slightly unreal looking back on 40 years,” says Paul, who opened his first namesake salon in Knightsbridge in 1984. The London fashion scene was at the beginning of a huge boom at the time and the salon quickly became a magnet for models, actors and music stars.

“We were really lucky - I always think luck helps a lot in terms of who you meet, and then the clever bit is hanging on to the luck and those people once you meet them.”

How did Paul go from fledgling apprentice to rubbing shoulders with A-listers and taking part in some of the first-ever London Fashion Week shows?

Here, he talks through the early days of his career and how he rose through the ranks of hairdressing…

How he rose through the ranks of hairdressing


“I didn't ever really want to be a hairdresser, I wanted to be an architect,” says Paul, who was born in Stourbridge in the West Midlands.

After failing a physics exam, which would have meant staying an extra year at school before he could enrol on an architecture course, Paul’s then-girlfriend suggested he try hairdressing to fund an alternative design course.

“I did an apprenticeship at Hair By Michel in Birmingham Shopping Centre. I just walked through the door of what was the go-to salon in the Midlands to see if there were any jobs going,” he recalls.

“After a short while I realised, firstly, I quite liked hairdressing, and secondly, I was quite good at it. I found it very easy, partly because I'm dyslexic, so I can see 3D forms in my head. I completed my training in 12 months.”

By the age of 21, Paul was one of the top hair stylists in Birmingham and had set his sights on moving to London to learn how to teach hairdressing: “I came down to London, a city I had fallen in love with, and went through the training to be a teacher at a company  called Jingles, but they didn't really want me to be a teacher because I had started earning too much money in their salon.”

After bouncing around between different companies, Paul ended up at a salon in the same building as publishing company IPC (now TI Media).

“When I worked under the IPC tower I met all the editors of magazines like Harper's and Queen (as it was then called), Woman, Woman's Own and loads of others,” he says. 

“That served me well because when I opened my own salon all those clients came with me and supported me in my new venture.”


A coincidental appointment with a client who had just become the head of education at the BBC hair and make-up department led to Paul’s first involvement in the entertainment industry, when he was given just two weeks to teach BBC trainees the basics of hair-cutting.

“I thought up a simplistic method of doing it, then the make-up designers started seeing the new cohort cutting so well they started asking, ‘How do these kids know how to cut hair?’,” Paul remembers. “Soon I was doing refresher courses for them - I became a trusted pair of hands.”

Next, he was tasked with cutting the hair of actors including Helen Mirren, who was starring in hit detective show Prime Suspect, and worked on a variety of major 80s and 90s series such as The House of Elliot, The Singing Detective, Lovejoy, Silent Witness and Ballykisangel.

“Part of my learning from the BBC was how to read a script and understand what a makeup designer does to create a character look,” Paul says.

“The brief for Helen Mirren was they wanted her to have short hair that looked like she didn't have it cut very often and didn’t really care, so it always had to be a bit grown-out looking.”

Meanwhile, Paul was itching to branch out on his own: “I got to the point where I was either going to give up hairdressing or open my own salon, mainly because I was really fed up with how other salons were run.”


Never one to go with the grain, Paul founded his Knightsbridge salon with then-wife Liz based on a groundbreaking philosophy.

“Hairdressers at that time were very much, ‘This is what you should have done.’ They didn't always listen to their clients' needs or requirements,” Paul says.

“I went in with a different view, a more holistic view of how to do things. Because your hair is very emotive. It can change your day, week or year, depending on if you feel good about yourself or not.”

After cutting the ribbon at Beauchamp Place (pronounced ‘Beecham’ by those in the know) in 1984, the well-placed salon became an overnight success.

“It was fairly successful straight away, and I'd love to tell you that it was really easy, but it really wasn't,” Paul recalls.

“If anyone ever says that having a salon or having a business is easy, they're lying. The hardest part was finding staff that have the same values and think the same way as you.”

The hardest part was finding staff that have the same values and think the same way as you.


Being in close proximity to the hottest restaurant of the era, the now-defunct San Lorenzo, helped to put the salon on the map.

“If any celebrity came to London they'd go to San Lorenzo to have dinner, and partly because of that we ended up doing a lot of celebrities,” Paul says.

“Word was out that we were a young, funky salon and it was a good place to go. Ringo Starr was one of our clients, and Annie Lennox - they just kind of wandered in!”

London Fashion Week was also founded in 1984. Sarah Doukas, famed model scout and owner of Storm Models, started sending her protegees to the salon for haircuts.

“I remember Kate Moss coming in and Sarah saying, ‘Kate's going to be this big model, she's going to be amazing,’ and I remember thinking, ‘She's really short,’” Paul says with a chuckle. 

“Naomi Campbell, on the other hand, was so tall and skinny. With models you can’t always see their beauty in real life, but in photographs it’s obvious.”

Paul was also enlisted to design the hair for London Fashion Week shows for designers - then up-and-coming - such as Jasper Conran, Wendy Dagworthy, Katherine Hamnett and John Galliano.

“The show for John Paul Gaultier which was a special show he did in London was one of the highlights of my career - he is such a nice guy,” Paul says.

“The hair was all based around cones. We had to produce hair pieces that were cones, and then some of it was down, and some of it was made out of plastic forms.”


Paul’s first foray into selling hair products was a range of aromatherapy haircare stocked at Boots.

“Aromatherapy was something I was very passionate about and I worked very hard putting it together,” Paul recalls.

“The range was very, very successful. In fact, the problem became that it was too successful, too fast.”

After the products sold so well during an initial trial period, Boots wanted to stock them in hundreds of stores, but supply chain issues meant Paul was forced to sell the brand.

“In business, there's always a challenge somewhere that's hitting you,” he reflects.

Despite this setback, Paul’s career - and the salon - continued to flourish and he was well on the way to achieving celebrity status in his own right.

40 years of fabulous hair

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue our look back over Paul’s illustrious career as he recalls his time on the set of blockbuster movies and TV shows.

Working with acting royalty and designing hair looks for the big and small screen, Paul became a renowned industry expert and was asked to join BAFTA as a voting member in recognition of the number of films and TV programmes he had collaborated on.

Want to experience a celebrity-worthy hair cut? Book an appointment with the man himself at Paul Edmonds London.