An interview with Andrew Collinge

Andrew Collinge Hairdressing is a modern creative force, renowned for contemporary, desirable and wearable hair. Exceptional salons, products and training has ensured this award-winning salon group is firmly established as one of the most influential in the UK. Wirral Life's Lynne Hague caught up with the man himself.

andrew collinge

The family has been trading in Merseyside since 1940 and is famed for top quality training as well as being considered one of the finest salon groups in the UK, does the responsibility of all this tradition affect creative innovation? 

If I had been asked this question a couple of years ago I might have said yes, as over time I was finding myself more behind a desk than behind a hairdressing chair, however, I’m pleased to say that my son Charlie is now responsible for the running of the business ensuring the family business moves onto a fourth generation. Charlie appreciates the tradition and values of the company but will bring his own ideas and long term strategy so the company continues to evolve. I can now concentrate more on a creative role which will involve me working within the training salons as well as working closely with the creative team on fashion shows and photo shoots. I love working with hair and still get as much buzz from creating a new look as I did when I started out as an apprentice.

You have styled the hair of two royal brides but whose hair would you like to style and why?

I would have loved to have styled the hair of Audrey Hepburn, an A list film star whose hair always looked beautiful whether it be a gamine crop or a chic up-do. Today it would be Jennifer Lawrence, a brilliant actress whose hair always looks great, she changes it regularly and also I think she would be fun to meet.

Where do you stand on the question of whether mature women should embrace their grey hair or not?

Grey hair can look fabulous particularly with a great cut. The IMF boss – Christine Lagarde is a perfect example of how to wear grey hair and look cool.

What do you think was the worst look/trend that you have seen?

A mullet done badly. There is a fine line between getting it right or it looking awful.

You have won many awards and competitions – which one are you most proud of?

It would have to be winning British Hairdresser of the Year for the first time. It was something I worked hard for and the competition that particular year was very tough with the other nominees coming from top London salons. Liz and I hadn’t long opened our salon in Heswall and winning resulted in the BBC Clothes Show coming to the salon to interview me, it was fantastic publicity.

The company has an excellent reputation for training, how did this come about ?

My father Peter, started our hairdressing training division over 40 years ago and ever since then education and training have been the backbone of our business. Over the years thousands of young people have trained with us and gone on to pursue successful careers themselves whether in our own salons or elsewhere. Today his high standards carry on through a dedicated team, who over the past 20 years have been directed by my sister, Sarah. We now provide high quality apprenticeship training to over 100 salons throughout the North West, which has been recognised by OFSTED as Outstanding in our last three inspections. Dad’s services to hairdressing were acknowledged in 2012 when he was awarded the OBE, an extremely well deserved award for a legend within our industry.

Has hairdressing given you any unexpected opportunities?

I have been lucky enough through my work to travel all over the world, meet Royalty, politicians and celebrities. But probably one of the least expected opportunity was back in 1988 when Liz and I were invited to do a make-over on ITV’s new daytime TV show This Morning. It was the first week of the show which was then only a pilot series and it was tremendously exciting to be broadcasting from the Albert Dock. There was immediate interest from viewers and a huge rush of requests for make-overs which resulted in us working on the show for 9 years completing over 500 make-overs. The show also took us to many unusual places but probably our proudest was going to Bosnia at the end of the war there to do make-overs on women and men from the IFOR forces for a special fashion show. We were flown out by the RAF on a Hercules and met many truly inspirational people, it was certainly a career highlight.

What’s the key to the success of a good salon?

I think it’s two fold; a talented, motivated team and a tremendously loyal clientele. We are very fortunate to have both in our salons.

What new projects are you working on at present?

We recently launched a new product range called CO by Andrew Collinge. Although there are many ranges to choose from, there is nothing quite as exciting as developing your own range. The products are all about empowerment – helping customers achieve their desired hairstyle. The feedback we were getting from our own stylists and clients has been that too much choice is confusing and also that our clients don’t want to look or feel that they have product loaded in their hair. So we have made a compact styling range, easy to understand and easy to work with whilst keeping the hair natural looking.

You do a lot with charities, tell us about the forthcoming Hive project you are involved with.

The Hive is presently being built in the centre of Birkenhead, it’s an incredibly exciting project and will give all young people somewhere safe and inspiring to go in their leisure time. The Hive Youth Zone is part of the OnSide charity and I’m proud that Andrew Collinge Hairdressing is to be one of the Founder Patrons and will be actively involved. There are other Youth Zones already operating in towns and cities throughout the North West and I have seen for myself the fantastic facilities and opportunities they can offer young people. I have no doubt The Hive will be brilliant for youngsters in Birkenhead and the region, but will require as much support as possible from individuals and businesses on Wirral – whether that be financial or volunteering.

With so many aspects to the business and keeping busy, how do you relax?

We have recently moved to Hoylake and enjoy living there. Liz and I go for long walks and never fail to be blown away by the stunning sunsets if not by the wind! I have started to cycle, particularly along the coastal route which is ideal for my leisurely cycling as it’s so flat. We both love the great outdoors, earlier this year we travelled to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia which was awe inspiring.