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Sarah Vine: A visit to George Northwood

July 20th 2014 / Sarah Vine Google+ Sarah Vine

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After a hectic week, Sarah Vine calms her nerves with a visit to celebrity hairdresser George Northwood

I’ll be honest: it’s not been the best of weeks, for a variety of reasons. A bad case of end-of-term-itis, exacerbated by what can only be described as a force 10 shit-storm. By Wednesday morning, I was feeling really quite frazzled. And so I did what any sensible person would do: I went to the hairdresser.

Not just any hairdresser. A week as bad as mine requires a man of great talents. And so I made my way to No 24 Wells Street, W1, George Northwood’s brand new salon.

Northwood is a man who creates sexy, beautiful haircuts for the likes of Alexa Chung, Karlie Kloss and countless other members of the fabulocracy. He is also, unlike so many who style themselves as ‘celebrity’ hairdressers, refreshingly normal.

He has several key attributes. Firstly, he can cut hair (that would seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many top names either can’t or won’t). Second, he likes women (very important one, that). Thirdly, it’s not about him. It’s about you (vital).

He’s also a terrible mummy’s boy, which is always encouraging. His mum - and his sister, Sally (they both share the same distinctive eyebrows), who heads up the colour team at the new salon, is downstairs when I arrive, unpacking that day’s supply of home-made shortbread and cookies.

“She’s the one who changes all the lightbulbs and waters the plants,” says George. “You know, who brings a bit of motherly love to the place. And she made all the gowns herself,” he adds proudly.

Tucked away in that wonderful, rather bohemian bit of the West End known as Fitzrovia, the salon is bright and airy, with lovely high ceilings and wood panelling. It’s boiling outside, but inside it’s cool and calm. The decor is simple: modern with a retro feel, with lots of personal touches.

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A Tracy Emin-style neon sign that says ‘George’; beautiful bespoke cutting stations ("I'll be paying those off unitl I'm 80"); piles of books and carefully chosen nik-naks. From the outside, it could easily be mistaken for a branch of Anthropologie.

George’s mission is to run a highly professional operation with a family feel to it. A local salon, with West End values. Or perhaps that should be a West End salon with local values. Either way, he wants every woman (and man) who passes his threshold to feel fabulous when they see themselves in the mirror.

Everyone who works with him is trained in George’s own cutting style. He calls it instinctual; I call it intelligent. He listens; and he looks. Which means he cuts the hair he sees in front of him, not what he thinks he sees. His style is organic, fluid. The result is naturally glamorous hair that looks effortlessly fabulous.

“Technique is important,” says George, “of course it is. But no one cares if they go for a drink with their friends and everyone compliments them on the symmetry of the cut. They just want to be told they looks gorgeous. That’s what makes a woman happy.”

George himself is in the salon three days a week. And he costs a mint: £300 for a ladies cut, £150 for a gents. Well worth it if you afford it. But if you can’t, there’s someone there painstakingly schooled by George who will do it for £75. Go. Treat yourself. And make sure you try some of his mum's shortbread.

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