THE QUICK AND DIRTY ON RICHARD WARD:by Hair's How
Richard, your name has already turned into a brand. Is that something you sought from the very beginning of your hairdressing career?
Of course, when I just started, I didn´t know what exactly I would achieve. Yet I realized that I didn´t want to be limited to working in a salon and spending each day behind a chair. I was always sure that one day I would start running my own business, but of course I couldn´t imagine then what level I would achieve. I couldn´t have guessed that one day Richard Ward would become a luxury brand, that I would own a large posh salon, would become a popular TV presenter, and have famous clients. For that boy from a small town, that would really be a fantasy. …
So how did it happen that you chose this trade?
My mother was a hairdresser — she owned two beauty salons in Kent — a very small town where I was born and brought up. When I was four years old, she had to close the salons. That´s why I cannot say that I was “brought up in the hairdressing world.” Yet something stuck with me. What changed my destiny was the trip to London. My mum was invited to work for a very prestigious London salon, and she took me along so that I could spend a day in the capital. I was sitting and waiting for my mum to finish work, while unbelievably nice girls were walking around, some shooting was going on, music was playing, and most importantly, this great positive energy was emanating from all the things around me. … Despite the fact I was already 16 years old, I didn´t know yet what I wanted to be. I just used to go to school and not worry about anything. However, on that day, on the way home it suddenly came to my mind that it would be interesting to become a hairdresser. Maybe the reason is that in my family the hairdressing art is in the genes. And maybe it´s because it was just beautiful. I didn´t tell my parents, but since then my mind was always on this thought.
And you went to London, and you started from nothing, and managed to achieve everything, like in a fairy-tale?
Of course, you could represent my story in that light, yet it happened a little bit differently. My friend´s parents, who were very rich, had a mansion in London, in Chelsea. My friend spent every Christmas there. One winter he proposed that I go with him. So I got a unique opportunity to live in London for nothing. I was 16 and a half years old. I came to London, walked around plenty of glamorous beauty salons, and soon started working in one of them. I can´t say that it was the dream of all my life; I´d rather say that was the way the things turned out.
When you were a child, what did you want to become?
I was very good at sports, and had dreams of being an athlete.
Nowadays, your beauty salon occupies the “luxury” niche. How did you manage to achieve this?
First of all, I have always worked in the best salons in the most prestigious London districts. It sets up a certain level, and you can´t go down below that mark. Second, my salon hasn´t always been as large and luxurious as it is now. We have climbed up to that level step by step, slowly, for almost three years. I consider it essential to know what you strive for, and to purposefully go in that direction. I opened my first salon when I was 26 years old, but nobody knew who I was for another 8-9 years. However, that didn´t matter — I was just working, gathering my team, attracting clientele and establishing a connection. Then we moved, and we employed a new pr agent. She was well connected; she knew a lot of influential people who started visiting our salon, which opened up new vistas for us. It is rather difficult to win fame without anybody´s help. At the very least, you need good pr people. … There are people who tell me, “You are fortunate in having that salon, celebrities…” They don´t realize that it´s not enough to establish contacts, what´s more important is to maintain them! If clients don´t like my salon, they won´t come back. But my clients do come back year after year. That´s how I earn success!
You have a very large salon, there is hardly another salon of that size in London. …
Yes, the salon is very large, with 80 employees and 38 chairs, which seems incredible for a single beauty salon. However, we do unique things — it´s like having five salons in one. It is difficult to manage such a large team. That´s one thing I don´t like — the anxiety of so many people depending on you. With responsibility comes pressure — you can never relax completely. People will leave, and you will need them, and quite often it is not only the question of payment. I am proud of having gathered such a good team and having created such conditions that today people want to work in my salon.
Is all this held together only by you?
In many respects, yes. I spend at least 3 days a week in the salon. Clients like seeing me and talking to me, even if I´m not the one who cuts their hair. This is essential when a business is based on your name. The other side of the story is that I have good relationships with my colleagues. If I wasn´t in the salon regularly, I wouldn´t be able to maintain that. Everything is based on one´s personality, on the name, and on the person behind them.
Your salon also gets a lot of attention because you have so many celebrity clients, is that right?
It is noteworthy that 98% of the salon clientele are normal people, and only 2% of them are celebrities. More often than not, we work with them free of charge: They either ask for discounts or don´t pay anything at all. Yet, as you know, quid pro quo: scratch my back and I will scratch yours. To my mind, in hairdressing it is very difficult to win fame due only to clientele. Hairdressers and stylists are not public persons, like, for example, artists or singers — people do not recognize them in the street. Instead, everybody is interested in which celebrities you cut.
However, they do recognize you in the street, which testifies to the fact that you have transcended to another level. Is it hard to stay down to earth?
I would be lying if I said that I dislike my popularity, being recognized in the streets, etc. But I would like to tell you a funny story as an example of what keeps me grounded. On a recent day, two nice girls came up to me. They were all excited about having recognized me, and asked me to take a photo with them. We were posing for quite a long time, but the camera wasn´t working. Then one of the girls examined the camera and found out that its memory was filled to capacity. And she told me, “Richard, I like you very much, and you are so popular, but I won´t delete my pictures from the memory just for you. Bye!” I was enthused!
And don´t you suffer from the “other side” of popularity?
Of course, sometimes it can be a little irritating. For example, I can´t just go and get drunk in some place, or commit obscenities… (Laughing). Famous people are always being watched. I still have some luck — nobody tries to break into my house with cameras and questions. For the time being, they confine themselves to my salon, waiting for celebrities…
Richard, is the prospect of opening a salon chain attractive to you?
To have a chain is a big headache. To my mind, it is much better to have a large expensive salon than a lot of medium-or small-size ones. Fortunately, my salon is one of the best in the country. And the secret is that I spend all my time there.
What sacrifices did you have to make for the sake of creating the Richard Ward brand?
I would like spend more time with my loved ones. Now we live close to the salon, so I have an opportunity to communicate with my family. However, there are always a lot of things which cannot be postponed. Once I only managed to find one day off in three weeks. Now I try to have a rest more often, but by no means always succeed. On the other hand, I realize that, for example, I won´t have a TV show forever, and that is why I should seize the moment and not neglect a perfect opportunity.
What does your working philosophy consist of?
My philosophy is as follows: I like making women beautiful and creating a luxury brand. Many British hairdressers prefer creative hairstyles. As for me, I´d rather adhere to the “commercial side” of the business. I like to create hairstyles and haircuts, but I would not spend five hours just because I want to create something extraordinary. I want to earn money, so I just do my part.
Is it different from your personal philosophy?
I try not to get big headed too much: I do not play the VIP. Moreover, I try to be honest! For example, I have just told you quite honestly that what attracts me in my trade is money.
Would you sell your name for some clothes line?
It depends on what exactly would be advertised…
And on how much they will pay for it?
…Do I look like a flesh-peddler? (laughing). No, jokes aside, I prefer to use my name myself… when you launch your own product line, you depend only on yourself, in my case — on the name Richard Ward, which has turned into a brand. It is fantastic! Of course, for this you have to keep appearing on TV, in press, advertise yourself in different ways. However, this depends only on me.
You´ve received a lot of awards. Which of them has been the most significant for you?
The British Hairdresser of the Year nomination has been the most important for me. It was something I could not even imagine, something unexpected and exciting! And that is a level only a few can achieve. I have already been nominated 6 times, but the first time was special for me. …
Your style has something French about it…
Don´t get me wrong, I like to do not only nice glamorous updos, but also short cuts. Yet I make even short cuts voluminous! My style is a glamorous British one, but by no means a French one! The fact is that the British style can sometimes be too short, so short that only very young people can wear them. My mission is to change that.
Yet not everybody wants to change his or her image …
Those who come to me and pay a lot of money are willing to find a new interesting image, otherwise they would go to a hairdresser close to their house. … I have a passion for changing people, but I would never advise anything that does not suit a certain person just for the sake of change. On the other hand, as a professional I believe that every person must change every 7 years. And to change radically!
Is it possible to change every person, i.e. to make a beauty of a cinderella?
Every person can be improved on. The problem is that beauties can be easily made out of beauties, while not everyone is capable of making them out of plain women. …
do you think life is easier for good-looking people?
I have to agree with this statement. If you are not so attractive bynature, you will have to work twice as hard. Although sometimes your comeliness can play against you, in general it helps us to make a good impression.
What is the first thing think about when you wake up in the morning?
Do you really want to know? Horrid things. Joke! I am thinking about how my day will pass. For me, every day is a great day!