Drop into Harris Gibbs Hair Shop on the Jewellery’s Quarter’s Caroline Street and you might think you’d somehow been transported – or perhaps transplanted, given the theme – into a gritty Berlin hair studio. And you’d sort of be right, given the design was heavily inspired by a business trip to the German capital, when owners Alex and Chris Harris-Gibbs stayed in a huge loft in the swinging Kreuzberg district.
Four days in the dishevelled epicentre of alternative urban cool was enough for them to realise how tired they were of the “clichéd, chintzy Paris boudoir” style of salon, and to vindicate the new direction they’d been planning for 3 years. Cue a series of materials inspired by sexy, edgy, gritty design: exposed brick and concrete, copper cladding, even scaffolding. Various industrial light fittings hang overhead while the wiring, of course, runs over the walls and ceiling in galvanised conduit. The street sign is equally complicit: a bit Blade Runner, a bit Blondie.
Looking around the Jewellery Quarter, its repurposed industrial buildings and hip foodie hangouts are infinitely more Berlin than Paris. Chris likes his interiors “raw and rough around the edges”, and, when planning and designing the new salon, his mission was to “reflect the industry and heritage of Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter, to be hands on, and to personally source materials locally.”
Alex & Chris met through hairdressing in 2007, became civil partners in August 2012, and got married in Vegas in September this year. The intervening years have seen them set up a thriving hairdressing business, initially on Warstone Lane (also in the JQ) in a salon that was “a bit Toni & Guy”. Hardly surprising given that’s one of the places where the pair cut their teeth – and other people’s hair – in the trade.
The concept of the new Harris Gibbs is to steer clear of anything formulaic. “The shop has a totally independent feel, very industrial and casual, with the high end quality and professionalism you get from premium salons, and the personality of the independents.”
“Whenever we do any marketing, we never use the word luxury, because it’s subjective. But we believe the service you get with us is as good as any of the country’s most prestigious salons – and it’s a hell of a lot more affordable.” As well as avoiding the L-word, Alex is clear that Harris Gibbs is most definitely for everyone, even ditching the term ‘hairdressing’, and replacing it with ‘hair shop’, to avoid alienating men.
The result is a wildly mixed customer base. ‘We get everyone from 16 to 60, lots of locals, young professionals, quirky art students and families who’ve followed us for years. They end up like your mates; coming in becomes a social thing. Possibly our biggest weakness is that we don’t have a target market.”
For a couple looking to avoid clichés, it sounds like the perfect problem.
Harris Gibbs Hair Shop
83-85 Caroline Street, B3 1UP
0121 236 0750