The Altbacks are back as hairdressing institution relocates to Swiss Cottage
- Credit: Archant
Raymond and son Joshua have moved the family business from St John’s Wood with an elegantly understated new salon bringing West End quality haircare to Swiss Cottage
Raymond Altback’s hairdressing days go back to the swinging sixties - when he was cutting bobs at Vidal Sassoon’s Bond Street salon.
“It was over four floors with chaise longues on the second floor and Vidal’s little office which was done up like Downing Street with a black door and a knocker,” he recalls.
“He was always quietly spoken and wore Pour Un Homme aftershave. Some of my clients were Bond Girls or models like Sandra Howard and Jean Shrimpton. Going to the salon was a real experience then, as it should be.”
In 1967, Raymond opened his own salon in St John’s Wood High Street which became an institution - before he handed it over to son Joshua to continue the family tradition.
But high rates and rents, and a one way system which made it hard for clients to park, led to them relocating less than a mile north to Fairfax Road.
“St John’s Wood used to be like a village, but it’s all charity shops and estate agents now. I decided to get out in January,” says Raymond, 75.
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“All the staff stayed, some have been with me for 30 or 40 years. We opened on July 4 as soon as we could.”
Joshua spent lockdown designing the new elegantly understated salon, with restful muted colours punctuated by bright tiles, a blue velvet sofa, or a row of plants in a sunny window. He started off in his father’s salon on Saturdays, before leaving school at 15 and training with Daniel Galvin. For many years he enjoyed session work for fashion shows and awards, and while he misses the “creativity,” he enjoys building a community business, and the variety of working with clients from 8-80.
Most of his staff have either decades of experience or have previously worked in the West End. And he’s proud to bring that quality - in cutting, colouring and treatments - to a neighbourhood salon.
“I think people prefer to stay local especially at the moment when they might not want to go into the West End,” he says, as he snips my hair into shape.
An Aveda Intense Treatment has restored my dry locks to silky health and a simple blow dry has enhanced the natural curl.
“Although it has been a difficult time,” he agrees. “Around 30 percent of our clients have either left London or are afraid to come in, particularly the older ones.”
That’s why the team are offering early 8am appointments in an empty salon for those worried about Covid. For anyone else there’s quality cuts, Brazilian straightening, extensions, and therapy rooms offering waxing, pedicures, and facials right on your doorstep.
Joshua Altback, 69 Fairfax Road, NW6. 0207 7221225.