Hairstyling in the Heart of Sunderland with Jonathan Pickup
The 1st floor of 10 Blandford Street has a long history of hairstyling. Whether as a traditional barber shop or a ladies' hairdressing salon, generations of Sunderland inhabitants have been going there to maintain and enhance their appearances. Over the last five years, it has been transformed into a sleek enclave of contemporary hairstyling by Jonathan Pickup, bringing with him professionalism and mastery which he developed as a key member in the early expansion of the British hairstyling brand Toni&Guy.
There is an unmistakable timeless quality to his aesthetic as symbolised in the understated glamour of the salon. Surrounded by other shops in the cobbled heart of Sunderland, it is at once hidden yet distinctive from the other shop fronts, quietly promising potential clients reliability and a sense of hairstyling prowess, but, above all, a welcoming, calm environment where cares can be shared and forgotten. Minimalistic with a pinch of sparkling elegance and originality to set it apart from other salons, its subtle presence characterises Jonathan’s business principle perfectly. For him, it is no longer about loud advertisements, because his advertisements are his clients. What walks out of that door is what should draw others in.
For those who do enter, they are first welcomed by a beautiful mural encapsulating threads of Jonathan’s story and passion for hair. Taken from a picture of one of the numerous competitions he took part in, North East muralist Frank Styles created the entrancing “Butterfly Lady” in the entrance hall to JP Hair. Yet, as one ascends the stairs, it becomes a space that recalls something of the chic simplicity popularised in couture by Coco Chanel. White, mirrored, with the most decorative items being chandeliers, an antique desk phone and aquatic serenity.
It is here in the tranquil haven of 10 Blandford street that Jonathan sees to his clients, whose happiness is his first priority, clients whose loyalty he has gained over the years in London, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. Before owning his own business, the Derbyshire-born hairstylist spent the early part of his career in the fast-paced fashion-centric chaos of London, working in Toni&Guy’s Kensington salon as a stylist from 1988 and later also becoming an Educational Artistic Director.
During this time the salon was fast building their national and international profile, not only developing their educational enterprising and expanding through franchising, but also collecting numerous British hairdressing awards including multiple Artistic Team of the Year awards. In 1996, Jonathan relocated to Newcastle as a Franchise Director and went on to open various Toni&Guy branches in the North East, including the branch in Newcastle, Darlington, Middlesbrough and the Metrocentre in Gateshead.
During his last years working for Toni&Guy, helping them establish the brand in the North East, he was a finalist for the British Hairdressing Awards in the North East Hairdresser of the Year category. The lifestyle, made attractive by the lure of travelling the world, meeting different hairdressers, models and designers, and teaching, was however not sustainable when one seeks to settle down and start a family. In 2006, he left the Toni&Guy to open up his own salon in Sunderland. He wanted more from life in general and felt that he had to move on and create something for himself.
Before my visit to JP Hair, I knew nothing more about Jonathan other than his connection with Toni&Guy and the accolades that he had accumulated over the years. As a contrast to and continuation from my article on The Copper House, Jonathan and I agreed beforehand that he’ll have free rein to do with my hair as he sees fit. The final result and actual process were completely different from Stephen Baker’s limoncello-teal creation.
Jonathan did not have a preconceived idea of what he was going to do. For him, he enjoys taking inspiration on the spot. When asked about the scope of creativity in his job he tells me, “Every person’s hair is going to be different, every client is going to be different. I never really know what I am going to do with a client’s hair until I see it… after consultation then — bang! — inspiration hits”. From the moment he starts working on a client’s hair the final picture of what he would like to achieve emerges.
He remodelled certain aspects of my previous cut and colour, transforming it into a fresh look that, although inspired by what was already there, became characteristically JP. He kept the undercut, equalising it on both sides and slicing the hair through with texture. While the majority of the length on the top was left as is, he got rid of back bulk to soften the overall effect, using texture once again to hide hard lines. As for colour, he decided to create a strobing effect by blending together several colours. The top part he made an ash blonde with a slight mink pink tinge, while the undercut was coloured a darker brown. The interplay of light and shade was further intensified by the insertion of dark blue-violet streaks in the blonde section.
Advice from Jonathan Pickup Hair
What is according to Jonathan the most essential question a client should ask their hairstylist before getting a new look?
Jonathan stresses the importance of the collaborative relationship between hairstylist and client and that the client should simply be ready to share their ideas. The importance of ideas are explained by his understanding of artistic techniques: It is not the techniques that change so much as the ideas themselves. A paintbrush is a paintbrush and there are only so many ways to use it; it is what you are willing to create through the application of the brush that makes the difference. In hairstyling, as in other art forms, it is all just variations of previous shapes and moulds — variations of variations of variations — and the quality of the variation you get depends on who cuts the hair.
“Ideas are what it is all about,” Jonathan concludes, “if [the hairstylist] doesn’t have ideas it is time to give up”.
Jonathan is still a long way from running out of ideas and will go on producing an endless string of quality variations tailored to whoever walks in at 10 Blandford Street.
Special thanks to Jonathan Pickup Hair for their collaboration on this project and taking the time to share their views.