​happy fifth birthday, bleach!

We catch up with queen of colour Alex Brownsell as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her salon.

by Tish Weinstock
18 September 2015, 12:45pm

Picking up her first pair of scissors at the tender age of eight (she nicked them from her hairdresser mum) styling hair has always come easily to Bleach's Alex Brownsell. Granted it started out a bit rocky - she hacked her friend's hair off into a lopsided bob for which her mum gave her a good bollocking - but scroll forward to today and Alex has turned the pastel hues of teen rebellion into the highest of haute coiffure. Tired of trimming tresses in her living room salon, in 2010 Alex set up Bleach (named after Nirvana's album) with her bff and business partner Sam Teasdale at the back of WAH Nails in Dalston. Since then they've launched a product line of DIY dye, named after songs like Tangerine Dream and Violet Skies, launched a psychedelic pop-up bar, and set up spaces in Topshop and Berwick Street, painting the town in every shade of the rainbow. As she celebrates Bleach's fifth anniversary, we catch up with colour queen to talk shop, Spice Girls, and starting your own business.

What's your earliest hair memory?
Having nits and my mum cutting my longish hair into a crop and no one knowing if I was boy or a girl till I was about 12 because it never really grew back again.

Growing up what posters did you have on your wall?
Van Gough Sunflowers. Nirvana, Nevermind and Pokémon.

What was the soundtrack to your teen years?
The Romeo and Juliet soundtrack, the Cruel Intention's soundtrack and The Craft soundtrack.

How old were you when you first bleached your hair?
I bleached my hair and dyed it red in the summer holidays before I started secondary school when I was 11, this was the first big one.

How did your mum react?
My mum liked it, she's a hairdresser so she didn't really care and we thought it would wash out before term started. I was wrong, however, and got sent to detention that first week and had to dye it out, but it wouldn't cover. One Bleach girl once told me about a brown wig she now wears to school to keep her rainbow hair undercover.

What's your biggest hair regret?
It might have been when I dyed my pubes green and my boyfriend at the time said it looked like mould... sexy. Oh, also when you're an assistant getting your hair done by a stylist in the salon basically just means getting to sit down for a few hours so I was always up for that, to the point where I let someone give me a front undercut, where they shaved off my fringe, but I also had an undercut at the back and sides, so I just ended up with this little tuft of hair on top of a shaved island. Not fit.

Bleaching your hair was the ultimate symbol of teenage rebellion, what do you think the next gen's equivalent will be?
I'm not sure, maybe no washing, dying or styling at all.

Who is your biggest hair icon?Luisa Casati, David Bowie and Rose Bertin right now.

Who would be in your ultimate girl band?
Defo Luisa Casati, David Bowie and Rose Bertin again, and me, and maybe Janis Joplin if she didn't try and steal my lime light.

Spice Girls or Bewitched?
Spice Girls.

What would be your go to cut, style and colour for a sexy date?
I've never been on a sexy date in my entire life but I guess it depends who the guy is. I'd probably just Google his mum and steal her look.

What about when you want to look like a boss?
Tangle teaser top knot and a frown.

How are you celebrating your 5th birthday?
A huge party in our new Berwick Street salon.

What advice would you give to kids wanting to start their own business?
Start small with one idea and build up organically from there. Get an amazing business partner (like mine, Sam Teasdale, who is also my best friend). Try to get out of bed everyday even when you have a hangover and keep going even when it feels really tough. It's worth it in the end.

What are your plans for the future?
More products, more salons, more funky tints.


Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Angelo Pennetta
Styling Victoria Young

Alex Brownsell
bleach salon