Kennaland: East London’s basement oasis
Tucked away in a subterrain location, beneath the laced up Victorian boots of the trendy London Fields hipsters who walk along Martello Street, lies Kennaland. A self proclaimed “hair studio” who, in their own words, were “born out of a desire to move away from the traditional salon”. With a celebrated sister salon flourishing in the uber-fashionable suburb of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, you can be safe in the knowledge that these guys know a thing or two about looking good.
From the polished concrete floors to the stripped-back wooden counter tops and vintage barber chairs, everything about this space exudes a laidback, effortless type of cool. The kind most Hackney residents strive to achieve but rarely do. Having been a dedicated devotee to the bleach bottle for more years than one cares to remember, it was recently decided (albeit reluctantly) that these dehydrated locks needed a break. With a heavy heart (and wallet – these guys are not cheap) a visit to Kennaland, for a colour consultation, was made. Speaking with the lovely Sophia, any anxiety about turning to the dark side was eased and then erased. She talked through the process and having come prepared with a picture of – and an expectation of looking like – Elizabeth Olsen, advised what an obtainable result would be. FYI, new hair will not make you look like an Oscar-nominated, intimidatingly beautiful actress. Darn.
On the day of the actual appointment, Sophia was unavailable for personal reasons. Half thinking this might be a sign from the hair gods to turn back now, all hesitancy was quelled when she advised that she had rebooked me with another colourist, Felicia, who was “aaaahhhmazing”. Feeling confident in her recommendation, the appointment was kept. And it did not disappoint.
The staff at Kennaland greet you warmly, like you’re an old friend who has just popped in for a chat. And that sense of familiarity can be comforting, especially when you take off your jumper and your boob pops out of your, very flimsy but not an issue until now, summer vest. Felicia didn’t bat an eyelid and quickly divulged a rather embarrassing story about a time the same thing had happened to her. In a packed bar. Mortification lessened, although not nulled, we had a quick chat about the desired outcome of the visit and a reiteration from Felicia about what a realistic end result would be. Once we were both satisfied that we were on the same page, she talked through the whole process and having mutually agreed on colour and style, she went away to mix up the new colour. In her absence, tea, coffee, beer and wine were regularly offered and in the case of this reviewer, rarely refused. If it’s 11am in London, it’s got to be five o’clock somewhere right? Right.
Once the dye had been applied and the wine had been poured, it was time to sit and let it set for 45 minutes. A varying array of customers came and went during this time and conversation flowed. The eclectic mix of clientele, attractive young men with shaggy, Beatle-esque hairstyles and older ladies with sleek silver bobs, sat side-by-side chatting and making small talk over the scaffolding and wooden planks that make up the workstations. In the background, the soft din of bygone American country music maintained an ever-present but unimposing resonance. With the relaxed hum of conversation continuously rippling through the studio, the vibe was more comparable to that of a hip Brooklyn bar than a basement hair studio in East London.
The end result was most pleasing and, although the prices sit on the more expensive side – £130 for colour without a cut – the many compliments I received afterwards made it worth every penny. There is a strong element of personal touch at Kennaland that is synonymous with the boutique service it prides itself on. The staff takes, what feels like, a genuine interest in you and stop by your station for a chat without it feeling forced or contrived. The feeling is similar to that of being amongst friends. And when taking the plunge with a daring colour or cut, it’s comforting to remember that friends don’t let other friends make bad hair choices!
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