Life rarely turns out the way you expect it to. And in Paul Edmonds' case, that's a fortunate thing indeed. At age fifteen, he took a part-time job as a hairdresser while waiting to start a design course for his career in architecture. Fifty years on, Paul still hasn’t taken that design course. Instead, he’s a globally celebrated hair stylist with a vast portfolio of work across film, TV, catwalks, and high-fashion editorial. He’s a BAFTA voting member and Chair of the Route Panel for the Institute of Apprentices and Technical Skills.
As the Battersea Power Station salon moves to the next level, Paul sat down for a cup of tea and a chat about his career so far. What did he learn during his meteoric rise? How does he feel about his legendary status, and what’s the secret to a successful salon? Paul reveals all!
Our salon’s story starts in Birmingham, where Paul first took scissors to hair in a salon called Hair by Michael. He moved to London at 21 and broadened his skill set by hopping from salon to salon, learning the technically difficult Sassoon styles, before becoming Artistic Director at Daniel Galvin.
“...being an Artistic Director is more than just a name.”
“It taught me two things: being an Artistic Director is more than just a name. You have to work out how to make things work for the brand and make the brand work,” says Paul. “I also learned humility, which is a very good thing to learn when you're young. I was a little bit cocky because I thought I was quite good.”
Paul opened his first salon in 1984 when he was just 27 years old. Situated in Beauchamp Place Knightsbridge, the salon was in the heart of one of London's hottest locations. Paul and the team shared turf with Jasper Conran, John Galliano, Bruce Oldfield, and the iconic San Lorenzo restaurant.
“I was a little bit cocky because I thought I was quite good.”
“I remember being under the desk, finishing off painting, and an editor of one of the magazines came in! I looked above the desk and then beckoned her through to go get a hair wash while I quickly got changed,” laughs Paul.
“I think what's funny about opening a salon — and I think everyone I know has been through the same thing — it's partly smoke and mirrors. And it's always at the last minute that stuff gets done, so there's always a smell of paint everywhere!”
From there, Paul and the team were in high demand. Their rise was nothing short of meteoric. He recalls, “We did most of the major fashion shows in London and we only had a small group. There were probably fifteen people working there, so not many.”
Although he tackled every challenge with confidence and poise, Paul admits that he always felt very much out of his depth.
“I honestly didn't believe that we could be doing [fashion shows] because I was a guy from Birmingham who had worked in London but, half the time, I had no idea what I was doing. But of course, the main thing is that you pretend you do.
“I'm 65 now, and I realise that I'm still the same person in my head, and I'm still wandering around trying to work out what to do and how to do it,” says Paul. “But how do you learn anything if not by making huge mistakes? And some of the huge mistakes definitely moved me on.”
“...how do you learn anything if not by making huge mistakes?”
After eleven years at Beauchamp Place, Paul and the team moved to the other side of Brompton Road. His background as a healer gave him new inspiration for the design of the next Paul Edmonds salon. He used the ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui to instil a sense of comfort and care into the client experience.
“One of the things with Feng Shui is everyone thinks it's a load of rubbish but actually, if you feel very secure and grounded and feel protected, then it's a great feeling,” says Paul.
The salon was designed to feature smaller, more intimate spaces for salon chairs. By not placing mirrors directly behind the chairs, Paul and the team created an environment in which the client would only see their hairdresser rather than the distracting clamour of the salon.
“That's one of the things that is really important with our brand — it's about the individual and how the individual feels.”
“It should always feel like the person coming in is the centre of attention,” says Paul. “That's one of the things that is really important with our brand — it's about the individual and how the individual feels.”
After a 13-year stay, they moved to 217 Brompton Road. Paul chose a homely Georgian Townhouse aesthetic for the salon, while still keeping the ethos of care and attention in mind. Like his first Brompton Road salon, Paul designed 217 as a series of small, intimate spaces. When he heard about the exciting new Battersea Power Station redevelopment, Paul was quick to sign up. Paul Edmonds Battersea became one of the first brands in residence.
"A lot of people, when we first said to them we were opening up in Battersea, they were quite funny because they're slightly horrified. They thought they were going to 'the other side of the river'...to the dark side! Now the Power Station's opened up, it's an amazing, vibrant space."
“Now the Power Station’s opened up, it's an amazing, vibrant space.”
For Paul, the journey to Battersea Power Station’s official opening was one of learning and patience. The Battersea salon opened four years ago when development work was ongoing. Although they were hoping for a swift grand opening, the pandemic pushed things back, adding pressure for Paul and the team.
“Life throws stuff at you, and it's how you deal with that stuff,” says Paul. “You have to be resilient. You can’t forget about yesterday but strive beyond it and always look forward.”
"I would like to thank my team over the years, and everyone who has been involved in this journey with me. You all continue to play such a big role in making Paul Edmonds what it is today"
Book an appointment with a Battersea hairdresser at our Power Station salon and experience the trademark ethos of care and attention first-hand.