Insider Interviews: Nicola Clarke: Creative Colour Director

London's colour queen on finding your perfect shade & the products she can't live without

by Amy Wilson Wyles
  • Resume:

  • Job Title: Creative Colour Director at John Frieda Salons

  • Location: Nicola Clarke x John Frieda Salons, Margaret Street

  • Famous For: Blondes

  • Clients Include: Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Madonna, Kate Moss

  • Years in the Industry: A lot!!

The Backstory

My hair career began when I started working on Saturdays in a local salon when I was 13. A year before I finished school I travelled to London for interviews and ended up getting a job in the hair salon at the Berkeley where I trained with Robert Wright.

It wasn’t until I qualified as a hairdresser that I discovered I wanted to focus on colour as it combined my love of chemistry, drawing and painting. I loved chemistry at school and mixing all these chemicals and colours together and then waiting for things to develop, just like photography, was fascinating to me. I knew I’d picked something I loved.

My first celebrity client was Kate Moss. It was 1997 whilst working on Matthew Williamson’s first London catwalk show with Sam McKnight. Sam was convinced she’d been given a bad dye job so after the show Sam sent Kate and myself back to her house to sort it out. We fixed her hair and liked each other instantly and I’ve been working with her & colouring her hair now for over 20 years.

Since then there have been so many career highlights. I love changing someone’s colour as part of a role, like taking Kate Winslet super blonde for her role in Revolutionary Road and for a new look like Paloma Faith’s recent pink hair. Another highlight was working on the film ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton.

Getting the perfect colour is really such an individual thing, I treat each client’s colour differently depending on what they like, their natural hair tone, skin tone etc.

When it comes to blondes, there isn’t one perfect blonde but rather a perfect blonde for each person, and even then it changes and evolves throughout someone’s life.

It feels amazing to have my own place (on Margaret Street in London). There’s such a buzz in the salon every day, I have an amazing team and just love being there. It’s been hard work getting everything set up and running but I couldn’t have done it without the team and John Frieda’s support. I’m still learning and the biggest learning curve has been the business side of running a salon. I think it’s important to keep learning, keep looking for new ideas and evolving to keep a salon current and exciting.

The difference between a good and a great colourist is down to their natural eye and amount of experience – a great colourist has both.

The biggest mistake people make with their hair colour is trying to perfectly copy someone else’s colour rather than wanting to adapt it to themselves.

The Advice

I nail the perfect colour by:

Looking at someone’s skin tone and natural hair tone – whether warm or cool

Asking how much maintenance they are willing to do/ how often they’re happy to visit the salon

Finding out about a client’s lifestyle – if they’re planning to travel for a while or be in the sun

Considering the season and time of year

Showing them images! It’s the perfect way to communicate

The Kit

Virtue One for All 6-in-1 Styler

Virtue Recovery Shampoo & Conditioner

Sam McKnight Lazy Girl Dry Shampoo

Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer

Iles Formula Finishing Serum

The Experts

Hairstylist: Joel Gonsalves at my salon

Hair colourist: Shannon Gallacher at my salon

Facialist: Jasmina Vico at 57 Wimpole Street

Workout spot/exercise class: Tony Stacey at “The Vault”

Get In Touch

Find: Nicola Clarke at John Frieda, 58-59 Margaret Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 8SN

Contact: 0207 636 1401

Follow: @nicolaclarkecolour

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