Sunday, 12 October 2008


Autumnal is a lovely word, I think. This year, what with the (relatively) free time, I thought it would be nice to experiment with a new hair colour for Autumn. Nothing too dark - having gone black for many years I know how bad it is with my pale roots (nobody likes to look at if they are balding) and my 30-something skin tone. And nothing too red - I have enough of that in my cheeks. I was thinking of a nice mellow brunette - ok, I admit it, I was thinking about Carrie's tranformation in the Sex & the City movie.

Lack of funds was a problem, but a kind friend pointed me in the direction of the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Davies Mews, where cut and colour can be obtained cheap or sometimes free provided you have several hours to spend.

Here are the things I knew before I went to the academy:

- They call their customers 'models'. This is because 'guinea pigs' just doesn't have the same ring to it.
- It takes ages - they say around 3 hours for a cut. I was booked for a full day for cut and colour, though in the event it was faster.
- The time taken is partly because supervisors must be consulted at every stage. This is a Good Thing.
- They will press you to have something new and exciting done to your hair. New and exciting for them, that is. Be firm. To be honest, if you just want a modest trim you may be better off elsewhere.

Here are the things I didn't know:

- If you are having a cut and colour (and, I suspect, if you are fairly young or your hair looks a bit tricky e.g. curly, very thick, very trendy) you can be sent down two streets to the Advanced Academy. This is good because they will do the cut and colour by c.1.30 pm rather than taking all day. It's not so good because those advanced students really, really, really want to put into practice their advanced skills. The modest trim is not really an option.
- The Advanced Academy is more spacious. When you arrive, you may think it looks a lot like a traditional salon. Then it fills up with people and is just as manic as the usual academy.
- At the Advanced Academy, you are likely to be looked after by people who are already fully fledged hairdressers. However, my lady was Spanish. Which is fine, but it is disconcerting and even slower than usual when all communication between the person actually dealing with your hair and the supervisor is via an interpreter. Still, it's nice to know the place has an international reputation.
- There was, on my side of the room at least, one supervisor for colour and another for cut. They don't appear to get on too well... this too is disconcerting.
- When the supervisor for colour says he is going to dye half of your hair one shade, and the other side another, do not be alarmed. The effect is more subtle than the words suggest and blends in very nicely thank you. You will not end up looking like some kind of cartoon villain.
- When the pre-colour used to even up your previous dying experiments comes out a crazy neon orange a la Dame Vivienne Westwood, do not be alarmed. This stage will pass.
- On the other hand, when the don of colour shrugs off your request for a modest brunette by saying it will turn your hair green, and suggests that a zig zag of copper will look very nice, do assume that he is completely ignoring your request not to go red. Be aware that this innocent-sounding suggestion will result in your hair emerging a deep auburn.

So I have red hair. The cut is shorter than I am used to, but quite pleasing and very manageable with the aid of a handful of mousse. Suddenly lilac make-up and jewel-colour clothes look great. It's not quite what I went in for, and it's going to be horrifically high maintenance or hard to phase out again, but it is very autumnal.

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