Alex Brownsell started Bleach Hair Salon in her living room, colouring her friends hair (and their lives) in amazing shades of pinks, greens and blues. A few years later and the streets of London are dominated by the brights of Bleach. i-D meets the girl responsible for bringing colour onto the catwalks and making the hair world just that little bit cooler.
Colour is what yourself and Bleach are most famous for. How did you get into it?
It was by accident. I've always had coloured hair - I was actually looking at pictures of me on my thirteenth birthday and I was like, wow! I've been doing it since then so I think most of my clients, between the age of 17 and 21 and before it all kicked off, were coming to me because I always had that. People were asking me "Who does your hair, I want my hair like this!" Not many people were doing it in a professional way at that time. Back then, you only had the extreme of either doing it yourself or going to Camden to one of those salons and having really extreme dos, there was no middle ground or sophistication to it.
Bleach started in your living room, did you ever think it would get as big as it did?
No way! I remember being in WAH Nails and just talking to Sharmadean one day and talking about how the salon in my house was a mess. I didn't think anything of it and a couple of days later, she emailed me and was like, come and take a chair here in the back. So my friend, Sam Teasdale, who's my business partner now, and I literally came in and set up. Sam isn't a hairdresser, she does all of the business side, all the actual doing-stuff-bit that isn't airy fairy. In the first two weeks, me and my assistant Alicia, who still works at Bleach, were working back to back until it grew. But yeah, I can't believe it. I guess it just shows that the girls we are exist everywhere.
So was the bar a natural extension of the Bleach easygoing attitude and lifestyle?
We've always had accidental parties at the salon, the crowd surfing was probably the last straw and made us think it was time to move the venue, two doors down in fact. It will be fun to try out having a real life bar not a salon come speak easy with everyone dying their own hair in the sink. We just need to take the two shops in-between and we can open a super club/bar/salon.
What's your favourite drink on the menu?
The Erika is my favourite drink on the menu concocted by our friends at 'Tart' - Lucy Car Ellison and Jemima Jones. It's inspired by the Erika glasses by Ray-Ban (they have sponsored the bar). It goes like:
50ml Absolut Citron vodka
30ml strawberry puree - frais de bois
1 bar spoon of balsamic vinegar (5ml)
3 basil leaf - bruised with fingers
Top up with pink champagne 20ml
Do you think your audience is based in East London but people copying it all over?
I don't think it's people copying a particular catwalk look or an East London trend. I think a lot of our references stem from just being alternative, watching slightly more obscure films, music, all those things - there's always girls with bleached or alternative hair. I think as a teenager and in particular a teenage girl, your first form of rebellion is to go out and dye your hair, before you can even smoke and drink. That's who Bleach speaks to. I think a lot of ranges are similar to ours in that sense. It's a subculture that you buy in to when you dye your hair.
What's the best thing about the bar?
The best thing about the bar is the space itself and the design of the interior. David White (amazing set designer and my house mate) has been working day and night on creating a futuristic dystopian backdrop for the bar. It looks crazy!
What is your fave colour to mess around with?
I think I'm more experimental now, maybe because I'm getting older. At the minute I'm interested in things that are about looking more feminine, more muted colours, not pastels, but other things, rose gold, peach, for example. So it's a very slight colour change. Maybe next season I will love green again, who knows?!
What's most exciting for you guys about owning a bar?
I am very excited to be able to live out a Peggy Mitchell fantasy and tell people to 'get aaaaaattt' if they play up. It’s my bar and I’ll play ABBA whenever I want.