Yasmin Unal is the dynamic boss of IMENIO, the bustling hair salon in Thackeray Street. Hairdressing is in her genes. Her mother was a hairdresser and Yasmin decided very early on that was what she wanted to be too. Before attending college, she spent as much time as possible shampooing, cleaning, and absorbing the atmosphere of the salon. At college she proved an excellent pupil. “ I was observant,” she says, “and asked questions. And I was very creative - good enough to do the teachers’ hair for them!” After the intensive two year course, she was offered a placement with Daniel Galvin, one of London’s leading hair stylists. Jo Hansford, described by American Vogue as ‘the best tinter in the world’, was working there at the time, so Yasmin was trained by the best.
She came to Kensington to work with Imenio in his salon in the basement of Kensington Market. He moved to Thackeray Street and when he died, Yasmin decided to take over the business. It was a bold move, since she was only twenty three at the time. But she managed to put down the deposit on the salon and equip it, using the money that guests had pinned on her dress at her Turkish wedding. She kept Imenio’s name for the salon. “He was an amazing guy, and it seemed a nice idea to have his name live on.”
Hairdressing has changed since those early days. “ Back then,” she remembers, “our clients never washed their own hair. They’d come in every four or five days for a shampoo and set. These days you have to give them a style they can cope with. It’s no good giving a client something that looks good if she can’t maintain it.” Other things have changed too. “In those days, most hair styles looked the same. These days there’s a lot more choice. Often people come into the salon with something they’ve printed off the net. They might have seen a style they like on an actress or a singer, or on a friend on Facebook and they want to try it themselves.” Though sometimes, Yasmin will tell you, a hairdresser has to be a bit of a psychologist when it comes to giving a client a new hairstyle. “Very few clients know exactly what they want. They might come in asking for a certain cut, but after a few minutes conversation about this and that, you get to realise that they want something else.” If a client has a new style, Yasmin will always advise them to give themselves time to get used to it. According to her, it takes about 10 days to get used to a new look. Something we should all remember!
As a successful entrepreneur, Yasmin has robust views about running a business. She believes in keeping her charges reasonable, and works hard to maintain the salon’s special atmosphere. And she feels strongly that in grim economic times like the present, with businesses struggling to survive, landlords should be more helpful and realistic and not ask for silly rents. She also thinks that some young people have the wrong attitude to work - often arriving late and wanting to leave early, too often on their mobiles, and too ready to talk about their rights and not concentrate on their duties.
Still, despite these ups and downs, the business goes from strength to strength. So much so that two years ago Yasmin opened a second salon, ‘Imenio Beauty’ a few doors away in Thackeray Street.
After eighteen years, now a mother of two children, Yasmin says she still loves the job - and as far as we’re concerned, long may that continue!