One week of work, no pay, no job, but certainly an experience .
Getting a job after I left school in 1983 with no work experience and not a very good set of exams was hard. Rather than scanning newspapers for ads I turned to magazines for job ideas.
Rag Rolling hair was popular in the 80's, Molton Brown made their own version of Rag Rollers - Molton Browners. I noticed them in a magazine and that Molton Brown had a Salon in London.
I decided to write them letter asking if they had any jobs going.
The letter was a success because they called to offer me an interview which I passed and was rewarded with a weeks trial in salon .
I was then left nervously planning what clothes to wear to work from my very limited wardrobe and how I would commute into London.
South Molton Street was an exciting place to be back in the 80's . It attracted lots of glamorous people, with shops like the groundbreaking Browns Boutique, Butler & Wilson Jewellers and Molton Brown. I would get to gaze into these beautiful shop windows to pass time on my lunch breaks . I wouldn't dream of going inside though as they were rather intimidating.
Arriving at the salon I could've easily gone straight back home and let my nerves get the better of me but, as I had travelled such a distance I forced myself on to push open the door. I can still remember my stomach churning as it opened up into the salon and the enticing fragrance hit me . Instead of the smell of perm lotion and hairspray, my senses were greeted by flowers and herbs. It was wonderful. Totally different to any other salon I had experienced before or since. I can remember feeling pressured as I could tell I was being given a great opportunity. This was a really special place. Turns out it was also ahead of time with its environmentally friendly ethos and all natural ingredient products. Everything had a natural feel about it, including the decor - wood and wicker with old style dressing tables stretching across the salon as work stations. I noticed all the walls were white and adorned with beautifully stencilled plants creating an oasis in the middle of the city. The tranquil atmosphere was aided by the fact there were no hairdryers . Instead their guests hair was dried by heat from stylists running their hands through hair using products made from natural ingredients, all poured into brown glass bottles in the basement.
As the days passed I soon settled into a routine, but didn't feel like I was part of a team . I had a buddy called Monique, a trainee, she was nice and showed me the ropes, but generally it seemed that the staff didn't speak to each other unless it was in the staff room. I had been told at an interview with another London salon that apprentices should be seen and not heard, to me that made sense. I was shy, so this situation suited me. I went about the week quietly making myself as useful as possible. I enjoyed running errands for stylists, I even got to go out to buy a Hermès Scarf. I had never even heard of the name, couldn't pronounce it, and was shocked at the prices. I thought to myself, these hairdressers must be on a few bob.
Another unexpected highpoint of the week was seeing a film star in the salon. It was Glenda Jackson who had come to have her haircut. Ms Jackson seemed a little grumpy, but looked just as she did on screen. Chic, stylish and of course she left the salon with a great geometric haircut.
At the end of a long week spent seeing clients in and out of various chairs, sweeping, cleaning , collecting coats and making cups of tea I was summoned to the top floor office to see the salon owner . I was quite excited as I was expecting good news. I had worked really hard and done everything I could to impress and thought I was in for a job offer.
Sadly I wasn't offered a job, instead I was told I was too quiet ! What ! No way - all the staff on the salon floor were quiet. Of course I said nothing back. When I got home and told my Mum and Dad, they were really shocked to hear that I hadn't been paid a bean or even offered money to cover my train fare for the week.
I felt quite downbeat after the experience and blamed my lack of job offer totally on my acting on the advice of being seen and not heard".
Months later, whilst travelling home on the train from work I bumped into a friend of a friend who worked at Vidal Sassoon, a few doors up from the MB Salon. As I told her the story of my trial, she rolled her eyes. It turned out she had watched different people do a "weeks trial " throughout the Summer and not get a job at the end of it . I felt both annoyed and better about myself at the same time. Were they using people for cheap labour over the Summer Holidays , or just being very fussy about who they employed ? I will never know.
I did eventually become a hairdresser, but that wasn't for another 12 years .
L - R Molton Brown Salon - A young Liz Earle modelling Rag Rollers - Molton Brown Hair Products
Molton Brown Celebrated 50 Years of Business in 2021
South Molton Street
See you next Sunday for another Story
Photo credits -
Personal photos all my own
Molton Brown Photos from Molton Brown Official Website
Trenchcoat Photo Zara 2023