Anil Salhan has always had a passion for interior design. In 2018, he opened the first BLACC+BLOND curating his own minimalist studio; the focus was firmly place on lifestyle. Not only was he cutting hair on his own terms, but he used the space for creative events. He also gave local artists a platform to showcase their work. He was selling clothes on consignment and started raising money and awareness for men’s mental health.
The goal with the initial studio was to deconstruct the concept of what a hair space could be. The reception was amazing and couldn’t have been more successful Anil’s eyes. Exactly one year later, Anil signed the lease for the space and BLACC+BLOND 2.0 was born.
Anil decided the new salon would be unisex, as he wanted BLACC+BLOND to be a place for everyone. He believes there are so many divides in society right now; he wanted to curate a space that brings people together. The new unit was a complete blank canvas; although most people hire an architect or interior designer, Anil had a clear image of what he wanted.
Traditionally men’s places would be darker, moodier and quite intimidating; they would have a stags head on a wall and give off an image that if you didn’t have a big beard, drink whiskey and smoke cigars then you aren’t “a real man”. Similarly female salons would have glitter, gold and diamonds and be quite pretentious. Anil wanted to create a space that clients could be themselves. A space where they don’t fit into a stereotyped image.
As Scandinavian design became quite popular, Anil wanted to move beyond this. Therefore he started reading up on a Japanese concept called Wabi Sabi. It is about embracing natural tones, textures and ageing processes and seeing beauty in imperfections. These are elements he wanted to adopt and he started to coin the phrase/concept of “neutralism”.
Clients are ‘naturally’ more comfortable
Minimalism can be quite restrictive/clinical at times, whereas neutralism makes room for a more abstract and natural aesthetic and this was something Anil wanted to create within the BLACC+BLOND space. He wanted the space to be like humans – not perfect and not designed to be, with room for imperfections and mistakes, which he wanted to empower in the salon. The concrete flaw has marks all over it and the main wall is just raw plaster, which embodies the Wabi Sabi nature. The raw plaster highlights how vulnerability and exposure can be beautiful. Anil wanted this to be a subconscious super power that made clients naturally more comfortable in exposing their thoughts, feelings and emotions, as opposed to feeling like they have to live up to a preconceived “perfect image”.
Making clients comfortable in expressing themselves was key for Anil when creating the space and he has always said that BLACC+BLOND is ‘not just a hair brand, but a people brand. A brand for society and humanity.’
Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly
With that in mind, Anil has made it a prime focus to look at how the space could become more sustainable and environmentally friendly as a business. Anil changed the space’s energy provider, toilet paper supply, stocked more ethical product brands, changed the refreshment offerings and much more and one of their most satisfying tasks has been to donate 10% of all new client fees to planting trees globally. In 10 months so far they have helped plant around 3000 trees, of which they are extremely proud of.
Anil and the team are now in the process of compiling a sustainability report to officially be accredited as Carbon neutral and are working on going gender neutral with their pricing, as part of their continuous pledge to being an inclusive salon. Anil also refers to the salon as a ‘Slow Hair Space’, whereby mindfulness and mental health are of extreme importance, and all clients receive 1 hour of dedicated time from the hair professionals to build a great relationship and to truly relax.
The last word goes to Anil: “BLACC+BLOND has only been around officially for around two and a half years, but we’ve achieved so much in that time. With our humanity focused ethos, we truly have a limitless reach to what change we can create. For most people, what we’ve done would be enough, but in my mind this is just the beginning…”