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The Interview: globally renowned creative colour director Nicola Clarke

Kelle Salle
21 March 2023

Nicola Clarke is a globally acclaimed Creative Colour Director with over 25 years of experience in the hairdressing industry. She works with celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Sienna Miller, Madonna and Kate Moss.

Nicola’s hairdressing journey began when she started working at a local Essex salon on Saturdays. She then went on to train with Robert Wright at the Berkeley Hotel, where she decided to combine her love of chemistry, drawing and painting by becoming a colourist.

After that, Nicola worked at the Andrew Jose Salon. Jose was the former Head of Education at Vidal Sasson, so she had the opportunity to work on photoshoots and that was when she met the legendary hairdresser Sam McKnight. She went on to assist McKnight during Fashion Week and she was later hired as a Head Colourist at Umberto Gianni’s salon and moved to John Frieda Salons in 2001, where she still works today.

In February 2018, Clarke launched her first salon, Nicola Clarke at John Freida Salon. The launch of the salon, which is situated in the heart of Fitzrovia, marked exactly 40 years since the launch of John Freida’s original salon on New Cavendish Street.

For four decades, Freida’s salons have been recognized as setting the global standard for hair care. His legendary attention to detail was evident across everything from cutting to styling to colouring techniques, resulting in his reputation as an unparalleled perfectionist. Widely considered to be the global authority on pioneering cutting, classic, flattering colour and wearable blow dries, Freida is famously able to cater to all needs, and his salons have become the go-to destination for beautiful hair.

Nicola Clarke

The Nicola Clarke salon in Fitzrovia

From celebrities and beauty experts to discerning clients, John Freida Salons are acknowledged as the home of world class hairdressing in a relaxed, elegant setting. Kate Moss, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet were some of the celebrities at Clarke’s launch dinner.

The salon, which is on London’s Margaret Street, set a new standard in terms of contemporary luxury. Spread over two floors, the extensive space offers colour services headed up by Clarke and her team. The stunning location features polished concrete floors and counters, contrasted with soft leather seats and chrome shelving, accepting the overall minimalist ambience. The contemporary table and chairs on the ground floor provide the ideal workstation for clients to take their laptops to work whilst their colour develops.

For Clarke, opening the salon was the next chapter in her hairdressing career. “John Freida is a great friend and we have always had a great working relationship. He gave me the support and confidence to move forward and progress, which was great. I always wanted to work in a salon that was fun – it was important to me that it worked practically for the team and also was a gorgeous place for clients to come and have amazing hair. It was also important that we had the best products that were researched and hand-picked by the team,” Clarke says.

When the salon first launched, Clarke was targeting her international friends in hair and beauty with the hope that they would visit while filming. She was also hoping to attract clients from the John Freida Salon in London’s New Cavendish Street. The salon was well received by consumers and the press. The colour team, which Clarke leads, is one of the best in London. They are renowned for the quality trends they produce – their ‘glow lights’ in particular have been incredibly popular with clients.


Nicola Clarke is an ambassador for biotech haircare brand Virtue

In 2018, Nicola Clarke became the UK ambassador for internationally acclaimed biotech hair care brand Virtue. All of Virtue’s products contain Alpha Keratin 60ku, a pure whole human protein that when used continuously will transform the health, quality and appearance of hair. Alpha Keratin 60ku is virtually identical to keratin in its native form and is accepted by the hair as a natural extension of itself. It has been clinically shown to restore structural integrity for improved overall hair health. What sets Virtue apart from other hair brands on the market is that they address the cause of hair damage as opposed to the symptoms.

The brand’s ranges are Care (shampoos and conditioners that rebuild and restore hair with each use), Correct (transformative treatments that heal, nourish and repair hair), Create (multi-tasking stylers that help, lift, hold, protect and perfect styles) and Refresh (reinvigorating products that transform hair in need of a pick-me-up).

“Virtue’s breakthrough Alpha Keratin 60ku, a patented, self-regulating human protein, coupled with the premium formulas in the range means that my clients and I see a visible difference from the first use,” Clarke says. “From enhanced colour to added vitality, I can trust that my clients’ hair will always look its best, whether that’s straight after an appointment with me, or two weeks later with the help of Virtue – they are truly game-changing products.”

Clarke’s view of the industry has changed over the years since working in fashion, film and hair. “I’ve been able to develop great relationships with clients and learn the importance of how beauty can really impact a client’s mental health,” she says.

The one thing Nicola Clarke has learnt about beauty during her time running a salon is the importance of maintaining relationships with clients. To ensure her salon remains committed to providing consumers with high-quality services, training for all is key. “We are constantly improving as a group, from the longest serving stylist/colourist to the youngest on the team,” Clarke says.

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