Fermanagh sister team Curran Creatives are making a name for themselves on the London hairdressing scene, working at last month’s Miss World competition while finishing a successful maiden year at their Hanwell salon
“Miss World was fantastic. It was crazy as they are told that they only get a certain amount of time with the hairdressers and to finish their styling as soon as possible to get more time with us,” says older sister Arlene.
“So once they had done that it was like a stampede. It was mental. All you could hear was hundreds of high heels tapping the ground and them all running towards you in these big traditional gowns!”
“I wouldn’t have believed it if I wasn’t there. They are all like brides as they want to be in control so much. But a bride you’ve only twenty minutes to work with!!” adds Nicola.
The Curran sisters have worked at London Fashion Week for three seasons as well, based on recommendations from big clients, which is also how they got involved with the Miss World. While there they worked on fourteen contestants including those from Russia, Costa Rica, Portugal, Malta, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and Barbados.
“I got a call from Nicola who was screaming down the phone after getting the letter. We brought a team of five with us, and our Mum, a hair stylist, flew over too so it was great to work with her for the two days,” says Arlene.
“We could only work the Saturday and Sunday as couldn’t afford to close the salon over our two busiest days as it would look really bad to customers. We ended up working until 10 every night in the week building up to it just to make sure that all of our clients had their Christmas hairdos done.”
The pair have worked in hairdressing since before they started secondary school, with Nicola joking that her older sister starting working on Saturdays soon meant her weekends would be taken up too.
“An auntie of ours, worked in the salon, and Arlene started working there when she was 11, so she always paid her own way. Then one day mum took me into town and was like ‘right I’ll be at nan’s, come and meet me once you have a job’! And that was it!” says Nicola.
Nicola has been living in London for the past four years, with Arlene joining her here two years ago after settling in Boston after time in Australia and Cyprus too. The ambitious siblings were determined to open a salon of their own rather than being tied down to working in franchises that lacked as much of a personal service.
“We had our own accountant, and would go to these meetings with business plans and it was all just a bit scary with too many noughts at the end of how much it would all cost,” says Arlene.
“But then my boyfriend’s aunt told us about this venue becoming available as she knows the woman who owns the lease. We loved it and rung mum and dad straight away to discuss it.”
Nicola interrupts: “We can’t do anything without getting a yes or no from them first! They even flew over to surprise us and told us to go for it!
“It was a week to us seeing the salon, to Arlene handing in her notice and opening up! It’s only just now over Christmas that we have realised how well we’ve done because it’s just been so busy since then.”
“When we worked in other salons and saw the columns in the diary, we would think, wow I hope ours will be as full as that one day. And now ours are we’re like oh god, have we time for a cup of tea or lunch?!”
The girls compare working for themselves as compared to in salons they were employed for before.
“We don’t even have time to look at the clock!” says Nicola.
Nicola and Arlene finish off each other’s sentences quite often, and it adds to the cosy nature of their salon.
“People come in here and they say that they feel like they are in our living room, or another said the Aer Lingus departure lounge! It’s just very chilled and all the customers join in everyone else’s conversations,” says Arlene.
“It’s funny how there’s a link here and everyone knows everyone. I meet people in Irish bars here that I knew at home or in America. It’s funny as well as Mammy always says that it took Nicola to go to London to meet a Roscommon man and I went to America to come home with a Galway man!
“It’s not salons like we’ve worked in before. It’s rare to be here and be able to chat away like that. I think the nicest thing someone said was it is like having a break from London.
“You can chat away without someone thinking, ‘oh god weirdo why are you making eye contact with me?’ People get up and make their own tea here! When I first moved here from Boston I missed it so much, and I would be talking away to people on the tube and they’d look at me like I was crazy!”
“It’s funny how quickly you get used to London life. I was getting the bus from the airport and this woman started talking away to me for the two hours. At the end I was wrecked from it!” adds Nicola.
Curran Creatives salon is just beyond Ealing in the charming Hanwell area and there is also a nail bar which is run by Tina, who owns the lease, for anyone looking for a full party prep.
The salon is the only in London which uses Alfaparf products which are completely ammonia free.
“A lot of people come in especially for Alfaparf as it suits everyone. They are Italian and really big in America and Poland so people have come in as they recognise the brand from home,” says Nicola.
“It actually was another big decision for us as there are only reps in Ireland for it,” says Arlene.
“I think another salon in Manchester uses it and that’s about it, but we were going to go with Wella, but they weren’t getting back to us, so we gave the Irish rep a call. She sorted it out nearly straight away, and after of course talking to Mammy first, we just decided to go with them!”
As well as day-to-day trends and working on fashion shoots, the girls have a lot of experience in bridal hair.
“It’s fantastic doing weddings. It’s one of the best things to be involved in someone’s big day,” says Arlene.
“There’s no feeling like going to the house in the morning, that buzz. I think it’s being a girl and imagining that it could be you and your friends getting ready.
“And you get to know every bride and they get to know you. They’ve enough to be dealing with that day, so they need to be able to sit down and relax and then you get to have a bit more banter with them.”
And what plans do the Currans have for the future? They run courses that can be viewed on their website and Nicola is currently completing a part-time teaching course with a view to perhaps running an academy in the future.
“There’s just so many options, we’d love to open an academy to train people. Perhaps way way down the line we might think about moving home when you’d be having kids and all that gross stuff!
“But right now we’re just taking it as it comes,” says Arlene.
“Ideally if we did move home, you could start opening franchises. We might get to the stage where we can hire and trust people to run a salon in our name, and I suppose the academy would help that way too.
“It’s great cos you don’t feel trapped, it feels like we’re still climbing the ladder rather than reaching the top and getting bored.
“That’s what our dad always says, “That’s another step up the ladder now girls!” It’s great.
But they feel the customer service and quality would definitely need to come across in any future things they do. Nicola has seen firsthand what happens through working through chains, one big name in particular showing her how she wouldn’t want to run her own business.
“They just want you in and out and rush the training to make more money out of you. When I first moved over I was only 19 and they wanted me to lie about my age so they could market me as a senior stylist because of my experience.
“That meant I was still only getting paid about £30 a day but they were making a fortune out of the prices they were charging for my styling. Then one poor girl just couldn’t get the hang of highlights.
“One day I showed her the proper way of doing it like I was taught, but even afterwards when she was so happy that she had mastered it and all it took was someone giving her a bit of time, her instructor said that wasn’t the way that she would pass her examination. They just want the quickest and cheapest option to get people out on the floor making money.”
The salon’s Facebook page has over 500 fans, with clients loving the before and after pictures of the transformations of other customers.
“Sometimes we just show the finished product, but people find it way more effective when we can show the change we’ve made to someone’s hair whether it be a colour correction, or just a good cut.”