Situated within Hampstead’s Finchley Road O2 Shopping Mall, beside Virgin Active, Joseph Koniak’s salon is a hive of activity when I arrive, with a friendly buzz that permeates throughout. Whilst Joseph himself is busy when I arrive, the exuberant salon manager Ziba warmly greets me and instantly makes me feel right at home. I also cannot help but notice, that whilst chatting with her at the front desk, she manages to individually welcome everyone who enters the salon by their first name, which includes a several individuals, plus one mother and each of her four children.
Despite still being very much in his creative zone; scissors in hand and tending to a client, Joseph Koniak politely excuses himself in order to greet me. His calm tone and politeness immediately work wonders as he introduces me to colourist Eli Naor, and following a consultation I soon feel comfortable with putting my trust into him as he disappears to mix the colour. With my colour and highlights soon in place I get chance to have a chat with Joseph.
With a client-base that reads like a star-studded catwalk guest-list, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon, Thandie Newton, Imelda Staunton and Helena Christiansen, you are clearly doing something right, but how did you get in to hairdressing?
I originally started out at Molton Brown, which my father founded in 1971 after having worked as hairdresser at Vidal Sassoon throughout the 60’s. Given that my grandparents were also the founders of Brown’s fashion, I think that with the influences I had in my life, working with the best artists in the world and the best fashion in the world, I simply fell in love with making people not only look, but feel beautiful.
In fact I always say, the best gift you can give to anyone is to make them feel good about themselves, and I get to do that on a regular basis. I’m really fortunate that we’re in a society that allows me to make a living doing that.
Did you learn a lot from your father and what was it like working for Molton Brown back then?
I learnt from my father where we had a very strong ethos and ethics that you didn’t ever get given money in our family, you had to earn it, so I had to work.
The only work I could get at 12 years old was washing hair and getting coffee and teas and sweeping the floor and I got to work with all these beautiful women. Kate Moss was a house model, at that time she was 14 and I was 14 and you know you kind of grew up in that whole fashion world.
Prior to your father eventually selling Molton Brown, was there ever a point where you had just assumed you would stick with the family business; developing new products and growing the brand?
Molton Brown was very much my parent’s baby and their business, even back then I had my own thing going on, and it was their decision to sell as they got an offer, an opportunity to sell the company. I come from a Buddhist background and I believe it is very important to always respect my parent’s decision and that was what they chose to do. For me I had my own brand and couldn’t wait to do my own thing. If it had happened that it did fall down that route then I would have been very happy as well. At the time my father sold the company, my mother they had separated there wasn’t really a window for me to come in and be a part of that. But in hindsight I felt that Molton Brown would have been a wonderful thing and an amazing complement I always though that it was the green before the green before the green, it was evaded before invader. It’s something that I look at and feel a lot of pride. It’s important to be envious, but not jealous
What do you think characterises your unique style and vision with your salons?
To me, hair is your crown and glory, a centrepiece of any person. It can make you feel amazing if it’s done in the right way. It always needs that secret ingredient that is passion. Within my team, everything we do has to be done with passion. We focus on excellent and our catch phrase is ‘a passion for perfection.’
A true artist understands the audience and is creating for them. A selfish artist doesn’t. When you are dealing with hair it has to be right, it has to be perfect and it has to suit that person at that moment at that time. That’s why I always say that it is great to be spontaneous, it’s good to have the same staff, but equally good to embrace change as we are in a constant state of change as a society. We physically change, our hair changes.
Beyond the salon, do you do hair for photo shoots or films?
I was lucky enough to always pursue different goals in my career and have a great portfolio of work under my umbrella. I am very fortunate as I do a lot of film hairdressing and a lot of fashion shows and platform work as well.
I have worked behind the scenes at catwalk shows by Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Julian MacDonald, Armani, John Galliano and Oscar De La Renta. I have also worked on set for Mamma Mia, Batman and more recently the new Bond film, Skyfall.
Have you ever considered launching a product line?
The market is saturated with products at the moment. If and when I do my product, I want it to make a difference and this is very important if I give my name to it and generate a lot of money, I only want to take it if I can make the world a better place by doing it. I don’t just want to take from the earth without giving something back. This may sound a little philosophical but this is very much my route. I feel if you are going to take, you must give back. What ever I do I want to keep that ethos.
Are you hoping to open up more Joseph Koniak salons?
I was fortunate enough to have an amazing artist called Cindy, a Korean lady who worked with me and when she got married, she and her husband decided they needed to back to Korea and they wanted to have their own salon, but in Korea there are thousands of salons and they wanted to stand out so wanted to be associated to something I have worked my hardest to represent which was ‘style, quality and innovation.’ I allowed there to be two salons internationally in Korea because I have great trust and faith in the owner and artist behind them as they worked for me for several years and we did things together. The salons are beautiful and she has respected everything about me and who I am.
If you could single-handedly change the hair-dressing industry?
I am always trying to get into the inner souls of people. What do they really want? It’s come to a point where a lot of women in the past go to the hairdresser every 6-8 weeks. For me I would love that time to come again where a women could come every week because when we buy clothes its a small fix; we buy some clothes, it makes us feel good when we first put them on, we might wear them again and after that it’s old, we go on to that next ‘I need to buy something else.’
Written by Atoosa Zand
Joseph Koniak, 255 Finchley Road, Hampstead, London. NW3 6LU
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7794 2022 | Web: http://www.josephkoniak.com/