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How a session stylist revolutionised hairdressing in Hackney

Published: 24/12/2020

I initially was introduced to Kennaland though a friend who raved about Sophia, the founding partner and Studio Director in Hackney. After some initial googling I learnt that Sophia had been voted ‘The Best Colourist for Blonde’s’ by Time Out, a determined blonde myself, I was intrigued and then overjoyed to discover she was on my doorstep, in London Fields.

Gowned up, I’m surrounded by screens angled away from the window which cleverly create the illusion of exclusivity. Dry flowers hang from the ceiling and dress the wash station area. The environment is tranquil but far from sleepy. Sophia, originally from South London is immediately welcoming, clearly knowledgeable but thankfully devoid of any pretentiousness. She is the friend who would break the truth to you kindly so you act on the advice rather than ignore it. It is clear, she knows what she is doing.

Kennaland was originally based above the Cat and Mutton on Broadway Market, where it was a home for session stylists to create looks for shows and photoshoots. Over time Sophia and her Co Founder, Kenna, found that they were using the space more and more for private clients. In 2012 Sophia’s first child was born and her need for consistency in her life rather than the erratic nature of the shows, made her take the leap to conventional hairdressing. The pub was being sold and Kenna moved to New York where he opened their sister salon in fashionable Greenpoint. But Sophia found another warehouse space in London Fields before settling in Monohaus on Mare Street.

“I’d never previously thought we’d end up in a modern space but I loved the industrial elements and it’s position near London Fields. I kept the polished concrete and left the ceilings exposed just adding the screens which can be moved around to suit. I also liked that there was a working community in situ full of creative industries. It seemed like an environment that was drawing inspirational people and I enjoy that vibe and interaction.”

I have to ask, Lockdown…how has it been? Sophia lets out a sigh, “I was incredibly worried to begin with and concerned for my staff but the furlough scheme and initial grant was a lifeline. I’m immensely grateful that I could keep people on which I wouldn’t have been able to if we were still freelancers. It was a very difficult decision to step away from the session work and take on the commitment of running a shop but I so happy I did now.”

Did you ever worry about your clients and how Lockdown might have changed their behaviour?

“Absolutely, I was worried, you just don’t know how society will react to something like this. What has happened is heartwarming, all our clients returned and we made new ones.” Rescuing bad self dyes?

“Some but generally clients haven’t been too bad.”  She smiles. “Sure, things have changed, the masks aren’t fun but on the plus side I’ve given up wearing makeup as no one can see my face anyway” she laughs.

What other changes have you seen? “There’s a real divide;  some people have gone more natural, embracing their textured hair whilst others have gone for the extreme, I guess desperate for a change. We do less blow drys now, as less people are going out but we sell more products. It seems people are just spending their money in a different way and spending more on looking after their hair.”

I noticed that she has been doing ‘Remote Working’ Sessions, what exactly are these?

“These have been great, you simply book to get your hair done and work at the same time. The majority of our clients were working from home but still wanted to get their hair done, this way they could justify having it done in the day and it saved them booking after work.”

So I can safely justify this appointment, I laugh.
How did it all begin for you?

“I wasn’t massively interested at school but loved science then one day, when I was 15, I got a Saturday job at a hairdressers and was hooked. I loved the mixing and discovering what colours worked with what skin tone or body shape, even your eye colour makes a difference.”

Given your story, Is there any advice you would give from someone looking to start a business?
“You will never be 100% ready, you will always have self doubt but you just gotta to get up and try.”

Kennaland is situated on 143 Mare Street, Hackney, E8 3RH