“I was that kid that grew up on a council estate without opportunities. Most of my friends that I grew up with either became drug dealers, have been murdered or ended up in prison” – these are the words of successful hairstylist Andrew Curtis and now one of the directors of The Hair Project, in Hoxton, East London.
Curtis, who trained at the Vidal Sassoon Academy from the age of 17. He progressed onto working in a Vidal Sassoon salon as an assistant to stylist. This was followed by many years of experience in other high-end salons.
After years of research Curtis and Aimes realised there was a serious lack of decent education and training programmes available for young people considering a career in hairdressing, but without formal qualifications in the UK.
The pair has now filled the gap, drawing on their many years of experience to help trainees make a seamless transition from assistant to stylist within a matter of years. The trainees, mainly from disadvantaged backgrounds, get a range of qualifications including hairdressing and barbering and unlike many hairdressing schools use live models rather than mannequins to work on.
Jaime Douglas, The Hair Project’s general manager, who joined the organisation as a make-up artist and was trained by Curtis’ said “only 8% of hairdressing students from further education colleges go on to work in the hairdressing industry”.
Curtis agreed saying he felt that a lot of trainees from further education colleges lacked the right skills to progress in the hairdressing industry. This is one of the other key motivations that led to the foundation of The Hair Project, along with Curtis and Aimes’ desire to share their knowledge and experience with young people.
Last year the Hair Project started operating as a social enterprise, with all of profits reinvested into the organisation. To date, most of the Hair Project’s trainees have progressed onto working in some of the top salons in Mayfair and locally.
Curtis said there was a 95% job retention rate by the trainees something he is very proud of. There is also a high retention rate on the training programme because the trainees get to work with people they aspire to be.
In the past, the trainees have worked during London fashion week for Ozwald Boateng and Errol Douglas MBE. More recently, the Hair Project has partnered with Illamasqua, a top end make-up brand, to carry out training.
Recently, the Hair Foundation received funding support from the Each One Teach foundation which was set up by rapper Plan B and looking forward the Hair Project would like to set up training academies across the country and major European cities.
Andrew Curtis said “I want to stop trainees thinking they’re institutionalised in their boroughs and that they can work in top end salons in Mayfair.”
To find out more about The Hair Project visit their website