Belfast Telegraph

Relatively Speaking with couple Paul and Leisa Stafford

We ask personalities about the special family relationships in their lives

By Karen Ireland

Husband and wife business team Paul and Leisa Stafford are among the elite of Northern Ireland's hairdressers. Based on Belfast's Lisburn Road, the couple live in the city and have two daughters, Joni (13) and Ava (12).

After Leisa and I moved in together, we started working in Company Hairdressers together, which was a very proactive and reactionary salon for its time. We would work on a lot of high-end photo-shoots and editorials together and made a good team.

In my opinion, Leisa is one of the best hairdressers out there in the industry today, though she would never admit that. She never takes credit for how good she is and she prefers to stay in the background.

I attend a lot of shows and do a lot of international work, whereas Leisa prefers to look after the day-to-day running of the Belfast salon and is very much happy at home with our daughters.

She always puts them first above everything else. She is an excellent multi-tasker and just gets the job done.

In work Leisa has always had an ability to make the client feel really special. She has a real human approach which makes people feel good about themselves.

Her feet are firmly on the ground and she works really hard at everything she does. She has an ability to push and bring out the best in up and coming talent and works very hard with everyone in the salon.

She does some fantastic work behind the scenes at some of the province's leading fashion events too, but she prefers to stay out of the limelight.

I am more the public face of the brand but Leisa works equally as hard behind the scenes and this demands all her time and energy.

She doesn't like talking about herself at all and I wish she had more confidence in herself and her own abilities as she has so much talent. She has achieved so much but she doesn't seek any recognition.

Regardless of the difficult times we have had over the past few years globally, there will always be a Stafford brand and it is something we both are tremendously proud of.

First and foremost we are hairdressers.

Name: Paul Stafford

Age: 46

Occupation: Hairdresser

Relationship to Leisa: Husband

I've been a hairdresser since I left school. My brother was a hairdresser and I think that influenced my career choice. I couldn't wait to leave school and start working.

My first salon was a wee granny style and set place on the Lisburn Road and I thought maybe hairdressing wasn't as glamorous as I anticipated but I didn't want anyone to say "I told you so", so I stuck it out.

I then went to college, by which time I had met Paul. We hung out in the same crowd and went to the same bars and clubs and he took me out for a pizza on our first date. He was living in Dundalk at the time and the only way we had of keeping in touch was to write. I used to beg, borrow or steal the money to go down to visit him. Then he moved up here to work as a hairdresser and he just moved in with me without it really being discussed. I don't think we told my mum for about two years that we were actually living together.

We started working together - I was Paul's assistant - and we have worked together ever since.

We got married in 2001. I didn't think we would do the whole conventional thing and get married as I never really wanted to, but then I started to feel maternal and wanted to start a family, so we thought while we were at it we would get married.

We had a very simple ceremony in New York. The city has always been special to us and we've taken a lot of influence from there over the years for our salons so it seemed the natural choice to get married there.

I love the fact that Paul is so insightful and creative, and he is always way ahead of trends and styles. He is a very strong and determined person and extremely honest and up front. People sometimes don't like that about him and it gets him into trouble but I admire his honesty and the fact that people always know where they stand with him. He is always true to himself and he would never make any false promises. If he tells the staff something is going to happen then he won't let them down.

His passion would make anyone want to be a hairdresser. The secret to us working so well professionally and personally for so many years is that we trust each other completely and are two individuals within a tight unit. Paul has always given me the space to grow as a person and we bring out the best in each other.

Name: Leisa Stafford

Age: 46

Occupation: Hairdresser

Relationship to Paul: Wife

Snippets of a successful career...

  • Paul is three times winner of the British Hairdresser of the Year Award, which Leisa also won in 2004. Leisa also took the title of Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Hair, Beauty and Fashion last year
  •  In 2003, they opened a showcase 6,000-sq ft salon in Belfast’s Golden Mile, offering hair, beauty, a coffee shop and an art gallery under one roof
  • The impending recession saw them decide to close the shop and open a smaller salon on the Lisburn Road
  • They have worked with many celebrities, and Leisa’s hair colouring skills have been worn by such well-known names as Sharon Corr and Gillian Anderson in The Fall
  • Paul Stafford Hairdressing is located at 671 Lisburn Road, Belfast. For details, visit www.paulstafford.co.uk/tel: 028 9066 2554

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