Britain’s most famous hairdresser, Nicky Clarke, is closing her £60m hair salon after 30 years in Mayfair


London’s most famous hairdresser, Nicky Clarke, is forced to close his Mayfair salon due to the financial impact of the pandemic and the rising cost of living. Nicky, 63, started life in a London council flat and battled heroin addiction before finding stratospheric success with her hairdressing business which grew into a £60m empire sterling.

Nicky founded the company with then-girlfriend Lesley Clarke, 68, in the 90s, turning a loan of £20,000 into a juggernaut of a business, and over the years they became the favorite salon of big names from Princess Diana and Liz Taylor, to Margaret Thatcher and David Bowie.

But on Tuesday the success story came to an abrupt halt when Nicky had to tell staff “with great regret” that her flagship salon in Mayfair, opposite the Connaught Hotel, would be closing immediately, the Mail reports.

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Nicky founded the company with former longtime girlfriend Lesley Clarke whom he remains close to

Speaking on the sad closure on Tuesday, Nicky said: “This prestigious salon has been in Mayfair for over 30 years and has been a huge part of our lives, both personally and professionally. However, the past two years have been the toughest we’ve experienced, with long-term Covid-enforced closures, rising rates and overhead making the salon more economically viable.

“It was not an easy decision to make, we have spent months exploring alternative solutions to keep the show running, but unfortunately these have not materialized. All staff affected will be fully paid and all our obligations to them will be fulfilled. We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and hard work of each member of staff.”

Tesco Extra. Chester Road. Streford. Hairstylist Nicky Clarke launches her new Hair Wise collection at Tesco. February 02. 2015 . Photo by Matt Ratcliffe

Speaking to the Mail, he added: “It’s heartbreaking. I’m really sad. It’s something I never thought would happen but the pandemic has taken its toll on us. The lack of footfall in Mayfair , rents, rates, no travel because we have a lot of international clients.

“Mayfair is no longer a residential area – we couldn’t even rely on passing trade. It was a joint decision. We worked hard to keep it going and we both invested our own money. It’s like losing a child. The staff are like family.”

Nicky grew up as one of seven children in an Old Kent Road council house with two bedrooms and only an outhouse, he told the Mail: ‘My parents had quite a working-class work ethic and they believed that had to save for the things they needed to buy.

“My dad was a turbine operator at Bankside Power Station in south east London. He left school at 14 and had a job all his life. Mum was a Greek immigrant – they met during the war when my father was stationed in Greece. She was a seamstress and earned her own money.”

It was in her teens that her interest in hairdressing began, beginning by giving haircuts to friends and classmates before going into professional hairstyling at just 16 years old. At 17 he had his first Vogue shoot in 1976 and soon after founded his first salon with John Frieda on Marylebone Road.

Working as John’s number two, they created the famous Purdy cut. Nicky also met his longtime girlfriend Lesley while working at the salon in 1982 when she was dating singer David van Day.

Things took a dark turn in the 80s, however, when Nicky, involved in the New Romantics music scene that was dominating at the time, developed a heroin addiction that nearly cost him his life. Luckily, then-girlfriend Lesley gave him an ultimatum to kick him out or call the police if he didn’t stop doing drugs, prompting him to seek help.

He told the Mail in 2013: “It’s my biggest regret, and it still horrifies me now, but I’ve been in rehab for heroin addiction. It’s the first time I’ve talking about it. It was a very short period of my life and I came in with a small but steady heroin addiction that I had for a year. I’m sick when I look back.

Nicky was wildly successful as he and Lesley’s salon grew into a £60m empire.

He returned to work with John Frieda after quitting the addiction, until 1991 when a huge argument caused him to retire on his own in what turned out to be a lucky twist of fate. By then he and Lesley had two children named Harrison and Tellisa and Lesley had given up work to care for them.

When Nicky lost her job, it was Lesley who hatched a plan to start her own salon, balancing childcare with hard work as they set up their own salon in Mayfair on a £20 loan. £000 and filled it with borrowed antiques, with the family giving up the rugs. and furniture at home to pay for the business.

The salon quickly found great success becoming one of the most sought after hairdressers in the country, frequented by rock and roll stars and even royalty. Nicky’s hands were insured for £1million and a single cut of those hands was priced at £650.

Nicky Clarke has become one of the UK’s most famous hairdressers

When Nicky and Lesley separated over an affair Nicky had in 1997, the pair remained close and continued to work together, with Lesley remaining CEO. She told the Mail: “The business was always going to go on. It’s like a third child and you don’t give up on a child if you break up, do you? We built it from scratch with a loan of £20,000 together.”

In 2021, he married fashion designer Kelly Simpkin, 40, whom he first met in 2010 when she was a stylist working for him. The couple now have two young children together.

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