There are few areas of the hairdressing industry that have not benefited from the influence, creativity and expertise of Andrew Collinge. From a long line of hairdressers (his father and his grandfather), Andrew Collinge has become an industry spokesperson. Twice British Hairdresser of the Year (1993 & 1997), and International Hairdresser of the Year (2000) he is continuously innovating and shaping future trends.
MiNDFOOD: Has hairdressing always been a part of your family history?
Yes. My Grandfather was a hairdresser and so was my Father. He became a very successful competition hairdresser in the sixties and my Mother was a model and his muse. Together they made the business [Peter Collinge hair salon] into very much of a thriving, exciting salon group in the sixties, where the likes of George Harrison or maybe it was Ringo Starr’s girlfriend worked for us.
Did you always want to be a hairdresser?
Well I came into the industry quite late. To be perfectly honest I didn’t do particularly well at school and working in my Father’s salon was just a Saturday job until I realised that I quite liked it and that hairdressing wasn’t a dead-end job after all. My sister was in London [at the time] and I entered in a junior hairdressing competition there and got into the final and saw the bright lights and thought you know, I want to do this.
What came next?
I got a very good job at the infamous Michaeljohn hair salon [in London] and started as a trainee and ended up becoming their Artistic Director. I stayed there for six years. I worked alongside a fantastic avant-garde hairdresser called Robert Lobetta. He is now the Creative Director of Sebastian Professional. He did the most extreme creations – styles that took about six hours to create. His designs were very intricate and I’ve always taken inspiration from that.
What is your fondest memory of that time?
The first lady I shampooed as a trainee was Mrs Thatcher. She was the leader of the opposition at the time. The water had to be at the exactly right temperature and she would decide when she had enough of the shampooing. It all had to be very quick; the rollers had to be in, the hair had to be dried quickly. I think she found the whole thing a waste of time really – she just wanted to be back in Westminster.
I was washing her hair once and she asked whether I had voted, and I was holding the nozzle over her head and I told her I hadn’t been bothered and she swung around so quickly that I soaked her in the face. She said “young man, I don’t care who you vote for but you must always vote”. And it scared the life out of me so much that now I can’t stop voting – general elections, local elections, x-factor, even big brother!
When did you return to Liverpool to open your own salon?
In 1982 I returned to Liverpool. I felt it was time really. Liz and I had married by then and central London just didn’t seem like the place to start a family. I think also, the family business was calling so we went back and re-branded the salon group slowly from Peter Collinge to Andrew Collinge.
How did your Father help in terms of developing your own salon?
I have great respect for him because it can’t be easy to see your own name come off the door. We had new ideas that we wanted to bring back into the business and I think he could see that. I still get people coming up to me and saying “your Grandfather did my hair for my wedding” or they will know someone’s whose hair had been done by him. He had been hairdressing in Liverpool since 1947.