Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

At £130, a trip to Kate's favourite salon isn't cheap, but would it leave me feeling like a duchess?

Celebrity hairdresser Richard Ward boasts the Duchess of Cambridge as a regular client. Mary Johnston couldn't resist the chance to see just how his salon would style her locks

Hair apparent: the Duchess of Cambridge, a regular at Richard Ward’s London salon, has one of the world’s most copied styles
Mary Johnston before her haircut at Richard Ward
Mary Johnston before her haircut at Richard Ward
Mary Johnston after her haircut at Richard Ward

I badly needed to have my hair cut and was in London with my friend for the Chelsea Flower Show. A London pal of my pal had recently had her locks shorn at celebrity hairdresser Richard Ward's Salon in Sloane Square, stylist to the Duchess of Cambridge no less, and was thrilled with the results.

Now, if it's good enough for Kate, I reckoned, it's good enough for me.

To be honest, I'd never have dreamt of going anywhere so posh, had it not been for my friend Darlene going right ahead and making an appointment for me.

So, on a fabulous sunny day, we enjoyed lunch al fresco at a nearby restaurant before heading to Kate's famous mane man's place.

It's located in Duke of York Square, where all the Sloaneys hang out to shop, see and be seen.

And from the moment you step through the door it's obvious this is an experience to be savoured. A raft of receptionists welcome you, and your gown is handed over downstairs before you make your way up to the first floor.

Of course, having the salon upstairs protects its many elite customers from prying eyes and the long lens of the paparazzi.

After all, the likes of the three Middleton ladies – mum Carole and sister Pippa are also said to be fans of the salon – as well as Tara Palmer Tomkinson, model, TV presenter and ex George Clooney girlfriend Lisa Snowdon hardly want to be spotted with a head of foils in.

Although the salon is far larger inside than it looks outside and is, as you'd expect, fairly swish with a Champagne bar in reception, I have to say that it's not at all intimidating and everyone seems friendly – including the well-heeled patrons. And clearly many of them were regulars from the way they were greeted by their coiffeurs.

Just to give you some idea of the scale of the place, there is a team of about 40 stylists, with around the same number of staff in the Metrospa.

Happily, I was soon led through to my chair by a too good looking, too young guy whom I thought would be doing my hair, so I was somewhat relieved when over came my chap.

One of a team of creative directors, Hussein Oz was immediately friendly, welcoming and in such fine form, it was infectious.

I knew what I wanted done and after his assistant washed and conditioned my hair, off he went and Hussein, an artist at work, set about the task in hand.

Hussein chatted away but thankfully avoided the usual hairdresser standards, like 'Have you any holidays planned?'.

Instead, he told me about how he's been working at the salon for 19 years and loves what he does.

At 38 and married with four kids, he's not at all jaded and retains the sort of enthusiasm for his craft that employers just love.

Hairdressers are reckoned to be the least stressed employees in most work-related surveys but I imagine salon owners may get a bit more uptight, what with overheads and ambitious staff who leave to set up on their own and poach their customers.

Hussein, however, is more than happy to leave the running of the business to the managers and to concentrate on doing what he does so well.

I wasn't offered the free 'Le diagnostic avance' that assesses the damage caused to one's hair by colouring, over blow-drying, straightening, curling, perming and in my case, ironing it in my youth.

In fact, my hair was decreed in good condition by the expert who even admired the colour (which is increasingly natural, bar the roots touch-up).

My friend looked on in awe at his deftness of hand as he swapped scissors for different elements of the cut.

He totally got that I didn't want to leave looking coiffed and mussed it up a little after my blow-dry.

And my verdict? I, too, was thrilled with the results.

And the price? Ok, There's no way I'd regularly like to pay this much – £130 – for a haircut. It's more than three times what my own local girl back home in Belfast charges.

But as a one-off special treat and a brief glimpse into what it must be like to enjoy royal pampering, I have to say that I felt it was £130 well spent – if only for how good I felt afterwards.

I went in to Kate's salon feeling like a Chelsea Pensioner (perhaps I should have asked if they did a senior citizen's rate!?) and left looking like a Chelsea chic – well, in my dreams at least!

I didn't for one minute expect to see Kate in the chair next to me but I could imagine that she has sat where I sat.

It must be a hairdresser's dream to attract a client like Kate Middleton, the future Queen.

Everybody her age worldwide wants a 'Kate'. Since she stepped into the limelight she has made long and lustrous locks so sought after and brown hair is more popular than it ever was before.

Still, if you ask me, I think lopping about about four inches off the length of her hair would give the gorgeous duchess a bit of a lift.

I'd also suggest that she asks Richard to try it straighter with a bit of a wave, rather than constructing those ringlets he's experimented with at times.

A good hairstyle can transform anyone and my fellow sexagenarians such as Lulu, Twiggy, Janet Street Porter, Joanna Lumley and Meryl Streep all keep it easy, healthy looking and on trend.

There's nothing less flattering than the short, back and sides much favoured by women of a certain age.

Helen Mirren can carry off short and sleek but few of the rest of us can.

As for Kate's lustrous locks, most of us can only dream, even if we do get a once-in-a-lifetime appointment at her favourite salon.

The story of Kate's crowning glory

  • When Prince William first fell for Kate Middleton while both were at St Andrews university, her casual student hairstyle was very different from the ultra groomed Royal we see today
  • Back in 2002, she famously sashayed down the catwalk for a university charity fashion show in a see-through dress with her unruly curls cascading past her shoulders
  • Fast-forward, however, to November 2010 when the engagement between Prince William and Catherine Middleton is announced and the Royal bride-to-be is revealed to the world with a new sleek hairstyle, still a natural dark brown, but now smoothed into glossy waves
  • On her wedding day the new Duchess of Cambridge wore her hair in an elegant demi-chignon with just a hint of curl at the ends of her loose tresses. Stylist Richard Ward was responsible for the do and it has since been voted the best wedding hair of all time by Hello! Magazine
  • While Kate favours wearing her tresses long and loose – a look which has sparked some criticism that she spends too much time fiddling with her hair and that often she doesn't look royal enough – she does occasionally opt for an updo
  • And at a function in 2011, while wearing a half-updo, a scar could clearly be seen on the Duchess' left temple. It was revealed it was related to a significant childhood operation but no other explanation was given
  • Arguably, though, Kate's greatest hair moment came just 24 hours after she had given birth to Prince George. The new mum appeared on the hospital steps holding the new heir to the throne with her hair looking as fresh and flowing as ever. Apparently, trusted stylist Amanda Cook Tucker had worked her magic before the young mum stepped into the limelight
  • Still, even Kate can have her hair faux pas, most memorably attracting criticism from the fashion pack after being spotted with streaks of grey in her hair a few months later
  • It was a rare slip up but probably due to the fact that as a breast-feeding new mother she might not have wanted to put chemicals used in hair dye in her system
  • After a reported six-hour trip – this time apparently not to Richard Ward but the luxury London salon of Rossano Ferretti – Kate was next seen with her trademark tumbling, chestnut curls with not a hint of grey in sight
  • And recently Royal Hairwatch has had little to find fault with – the Duchess's barnet hit the headlines on her tour of Australia earlier this year, where despite scorching heat and humidity Kate's tresses were teased to perfection, once again thanks to stylist Amanda Cook Tucker, who travelled with her
  • The big question now? Will Kate now be tempted to go for a shorter shoulder length do like sister Pippa? Hair we go again...

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