Trevor Sorbie on 50 years at the top of British hairdressing
PUBLISHED: 12:02 08 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:15 08 July 2014
Celebrating 50 years at the pinnacle of British hairdressing, Trevor Sorbie has something else to smile about too - the opening of a fabulous new salon in Richmond. Surrey Life beauty editor Adele Mitchell finds out more
An integral part of the global success story that is British hairdressing, an industry that has a worldwide reputation for creativity and innovation, Trevor Sorbie is nothing short of a hairdressing legend.
Meeting him today, it’s easy to see why he’s a hit with clients as he’s very charming and fabulously entertaining – casually name-dropping a lunch he once had with Vidal Sassoon in Beverley Hills for instance – but also down to earth, friendly and passionate about great hairdressing.
“I work very hard at what I do,” he tells me, as we chat over coffee at his head office in Leatherhead. “I don’t get out of bed for the money, I get out of bed to be the best hairdresser I can; the rest follows.”
And, despite a career packed with accolades including the MBE (for dedication and services to hairdressing) and British Hairdresser of the Year title, which he has won four times (most hairdressers would be ecstatic to win once!), he is very modest. When he tells me, “I’ve won every award possible in hairdressing”, I get the impression he is doing so merely to save me the bother of having to type a very, very long list.
His career began, aged 15, in his father’s barbershop in Ilford. In 1972, fired with ambition, he moved on to work for Vidal Sassoon – “a man with revolutionary ideas about hair and so much charisma.” He was based at the Sassoon salons in London, styling hair for the likes of Rex Harrison and Paul McCartney, and it was here that he pioneered the iconic ‘Wedge’ look.
He has since developed and launched his own Trevor Sorbie haircare ranges and has appeared on TV and in magazines as a hairdressing expert too many times to count. He also owns five prestigious salons: the first, in Covent Garden, has now been trading for 35 years, and there are salons in Manchester, Brighton and Hampstead too. Richmond is the latest to open – and while Sorbie won’t be on the floor every day, his influence goes way beyond being just a name above the door.
“Every stylist who wants to work for me – no matter how much experience they bring – has to demonstrate cutting five different hairstyles and then train with us to learn our way of working,” he says. “They also have to do a final cutting and styling test in front of me. For us, there’s only one way and that’s the right way.”
Opening in Richmond
So why choose to open in Richmond? “The area is home to our kind of clientele,” he says. “The professional woman with high standards who wants a great haircut and colour in a luxurious environment with a welcoming but professional atmosphere.”
There’s much attention to detail – complimentary refreshments including pastries from neighbouring patisserie Paul for instance, but it’s the quality of the hairdressing that will keep bringing you back for more. “Of course, we lead the way with trends but we’re not about giving everyone the ‘flavour of the month’ look – every cut is individualised,” he adds.
The two-storey salon also welcomes children and men, and there’s a full range of technical services available too, from smoothing and texturising to personalised colour appointments. “Balayage (dark at the roots, light at the tips) is still the biggest trend in colouring,” he continues. “There are home kits available but I really believe that it’s essential to get this treatment done by a professional as the gradual colour blend from one shade to the next is so important.”
Alongside the salon and product business sits Sorbie’s work with medical hair loss clients, to whom he offers a complimentary wig cutting and styling service as part of his own ‘mynewhair’ charity, which is supported by Macmillan Cancer Support and L’Oreal Professionel. He also trains other hairdressers – 500 to date – to customise wigs so that they look and feel natural and in the communication skills that help put clients at ease.
“The charity is inspired by my own experience of helping a family member during cancer treatment and it has been a very moving experience for me,” he says. “A few years ago, for instance, I was asked to style the hair of a terminally ill woman ahead of her hospice wedding. I’ll never forget how she smiled while I did her hair, and I like to think I helped her to feel like a bride rather than a dying woman for a few hours.”
Clearly, the customer is at the heart of everything that Sorbie and his team of hairdressers do. “Our aim as a company is very simple – to ensure that you have great hair that you love, every day,” he says.
With this in mind, Sorbie works in all of his salons, visiting each on a regular basis. “I believe in leadership by example,” he says. “When I worked with Vidal Sassoon, he would come into the salon and introduce himself to every client. In my own salons, I’m happy to sweep the floor, make the coffee, and help a client with their coat if necessary. If I’m seen to do that, then my staff will do it too.”
At 65 years of age, Sorbie is clearly a hands-on boss with his finger firmly on the pulse of hairdressing. His passion, skill and love for his profession radiates through his salons. Welcome to Richmond, Mr Sorbie.
• Trevor Sorbie Richmond, 12 The Quadrant, Richmond TW9 1BP. Tel: 0203 474 0988. Web: trevorsorbie.com / mynewhair.org