For Andrew Mulvenna, what started as a treasured childhood memory of tagging along with his mum to the hairdressers, accidentally served as inspiration behind the core values of his own eponymous salon upon its launch in 2001.
Throughout his career, he’s kept his focus crystal clear, ensuring right from the beginning that he was getting the best possible education within his industry while also maintaining an open-minded approach to his craft and to evolving as a hairdresser.
Clearly Mulvenna’s hard work and dedication has paid off. The salon recently made the move to new premises within Grade 2 listed building on Victoria Street, a move that’s allowed the salon to expand its customer base, grow their team and also expand their industry education programmes in the near future.
Andrew Mulvenna sat down with The Style Edit to share his career story so far – the highs, the lows, the lessons and the inspirations.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the hair industry?
Deep down, I think I did. I always went along with my mum for her blowdry as a child and I was always fascinated by the exoticness of a salon for 1970’s Belfast. It felt exciting.
How did you get started in the industry?
I left grammar school at 17 and started as an apprentice at a salon in the city. I just kept moving around for 18 months until I found the best salon with the best taste, the best education and attitude. I knew what I wanted even back then.
How did it feel going out on your own and opening your own salon? Can you talk us through what fuelled that decision?
It was really amazing but deep down I was so worried about managing people and the whole aspect of running a business. It was back in the golden boom time of 2001, everything was riding on it and it simply had to succeed. There was no plan B. I just had so many of my own ideas even back then and I suppose I always wanted to do it my way. It was always a matter of it happening but I was in no rush so I waited until I was 30 to do it. I had so much fun in my 20’s that I really couldn’t have had if I owned my own business.
What do you think has been key to your success so far?
I’ve always been a grafter, I’m not afraid of hard work and this industry demands hard work, consistency and of course, skills. I’m never too proud to learn or clean or do anything that will develop me and help me lead my team. I treat my team like a family and I am one of them not just ‘the boss’.
We are also involved in fashion, shows, happenings, photoshoots and all things linked to the industry. It keeps us fresh and moving forward. Understanding what makes our customers have a great hair experience is of super importance and that means you have to be interested in everyone’s experience when they visit. We have to be consistently excellent, it’s as easy and difficult as that.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Being in this new salon/building, feeling the buzz in the atmosphere and seeing lots of happy people enjoying themselves – maybe in a way I’m trying to create that childhood memory.
What’s been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
I’ve been very fortunate in my career and have had quite a few ‘pinch me’ moments but I have to say, having just had the launch of my new salon in the city, that will be hard to top – my family, friends, all my team and many wonderful clients were there to share the night. It was really special. It has taken 30 years to reach this point and I’m so proud of everyone who has been with me for this journey.
Can you tell us about a lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way within your profession?
I wouldn’t say it was a lesson I’ve had to learn but this is something I have been mindful of throughout my whole career from watching others. Don’t run before you can walk, dream big but be patient and don’t be greedy. Be the best you can possibly be and success will follow.
What advice would you give to an aspiring hair stylist?
Get the best education from the best salons. Be patient and find the best people you can learn from. You must work hard to succeed in anything. You have to graft.
Talk us through some of the biggest hair trends this season
Shorter hair is powering back and it’s so fresh if done right. This season it’s all about the cut and the colour. The finish is very relaxed, casual and almost lived in. Don’t get me wrong, there is long hair and it’s getting the ‘Bourgois Blowdry’ as we like to call it – very late 1960’s with a fluffed crown, bit Marie-Ann Faithful, or there’s tonging your hair 80’s style aka ‘Flashdance’. I see even Kylie has returned to her curly look for this season too.
With up-styling and dressing hair for the red carpet we have the messy top-knot, the up and over flick, the gel-back and the barely there wave. Little sweet ballet-buns and dressed up hair that is so unassuming are the ‘must-have red carpet looks’ from New York to London to Paris this season. Hair [for the most part] is taking a back seat to the clothes styling and make-up, this is good and it can balance everything nicely. Hair should not be a confection of teasing, high maintenance and big-blowdrying – this will look ageing and too fussy, trust me.
What’s something you wish you could tell your clients about looking after their hair?
Try not to shampoo your hair as often as you do. Why not just rinse it through in the shower every other time? Then, simply squeeze dry with a towel and apply a little leave in conditioner before drying. We are obsessed with over-washing and too much can really damage the hair and irritate the scalp.
Do you have a favourite look you’ve created?
I love this cut and style I did last year. I know green hair isn’t for everyone but it really suited the models eyes and the shape (although it was pretty edgy) gave softness to the model.
What’s the most dramatic thing you’ve ever done to your own hair?
I bleached it and coloured it pillarbox red when I was in my early twenties. I spent a whole day doing it for going out that night but it was not my colour and made me look very sick – a lesson learned.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about hair?
The more you respect the natural movement, texture and density of the hair the more beautiful the cut will be and the more it will last. It’s like a fabric that requires it’s own set of rules. When you respect what nature has dealt you and work on that basis you will have the hair others comment upon and say how they would love your hair. I’ve seen it happen to people so many times and it is a great part of my skills.
What’s your main focus within your business right now?
Developing and growing my amazing team, launching our industry education for next year and just enjoying this incredible building we work in. Age can bring wisdom and this has taught me to enjoy the now.
To keep up to date with the latest news at Andrew Mulvenna, see more of Andrew’s work or to make an appointment, visit andrewmulvenna.com