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5 minutes with: Belle Cannan

The founder of Salon Sloane on leadership, her career in hair styling and the women who inspire her

20 March 2023

Belle Cannan
Belle Cannan with a client
Salon Sloane is at the south end of Pavilion Road
The interior of Belle Cannan's Salone Sloane

To mark International Women’s Day earlier this month and Women’s History Month, we caught up with Belle Cannan, founder of Salon Sloane on Pavilion Road, a collaboration of world-class hair stylists, colourists and next-generation talent that has tended the tresses of people including Salma Hayek, Amal Clooney and Suki Waterhouse. Read on to discover the highlights of Belle’s career, her leadership style, and her advice for young women today. 


Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

I think it is important for me personally to take the time to reflect on the progress I have made, and to have the courage and determination to achieve my dreams and goals. It doesn’t matter what background you have, mine was ordinary.

At the beginning of each year, I always write down my goals in a little notebook that’s in my bedside table and I read it frequently to see if I am on track, or if I find them challenging.


What was it like for you as a woman starting out as a hairstylist?

I was really lucky to know that I wanted to be a hairdresser, and I just reached for my goals. I had the ability to do it, and although I faced challenges along the way, I kept to it from when I left school to what I do now. 

I started at Vidal Sassoon in 1984 and the training was unique and inspiring. I was fortunate in that every gender had equal opportunities. It was a culture of creativity and commercial skills. It took a lot of effort to have the confidence, but I was in a salon that gave you lots of opportunities and rewarded you. Also, it was a very emotionally intelligent way of connecting with people: making them smile and feel happy.

I trained in the Salon on Sloane Street that’s now the Prada boutique and, when I started my training, Sassoon was doing the hair for the British Olympic athletes at the Games in LA and I thought, “Wow! What a great company to work for.” My mother used to go to Vidal Sassoon and have her hair done in South Molton Street, so I used to stand by the side of her chair and think, “Oh, I want to be a hairdresser one day and work here.” And I did; I went on to work there for nine years. 

After Vidal Sassoon, I went to work for Nicky Clarke and then opened up my own business with Josh Wood, Real Hair, in Chelsea Green, with John Vial as our creative director. 


What achievement in your career are you most proud of? 

I remember being in complete awe of Vidal Sassoon himself and feeling so proud when he and his wife would come to have their hair done with John Vial at Real Hair later in their lives. 


Were there any obstacles in your career?

One of the biggest hurdles I found when opening my business was the financial side. I really didn’t understand profit and loss, but I learned quickly. We were really busy and more concerned about looking after our clients and making them smile [than the admin side of things]. 


Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

It’s in my nature to be strong and determined but I was lucky to start my career at Vidal Sassoon, where there was very strong equality for women. I never felt that my gender was a problem.  

I want the people who work for me to succeed, so I try to give them every opportunity to learn and grow in the business.


What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?

Respect has to be earned; it’s not given. People can follow your orders and do very little, but you want people to feel good around you and enjoy their work. I always try to lead by example.


What are your thoughts on leadership?

I would never ask somebody to do something I wouldn’t do myself, which is important for anyone. It sets an example of leading a good team and, ultimately, making sure that the team is happy.  

I’ve always cared about the people that work for me; I make sure that they’re always rewarded. I always want to empower people starting out in their careers with me. I want to increase their currency. I want them to grow, and then hopefully, they’re staying with me because I’ve given them more skills. That can be from managing the salon, ordering stock, making appointments and trusting them as my right-hand person and giving them something beyond their training. 


What guidance would you give to young women thinking about their careers?

If you have the courage to do what you are passionate about and what you enjoy doing, you will get there. Don’t be afraid of trying – if you don’t, you will always regret it.

And finding that work-life balance is key. You’ve got to love what you do. I always said to myself that the day I walk through the door and I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, then that is the day I’m going to hang up my scissors. Because I’ve always been led by my passion in my career.

I think it is important, especially for younger women in their careers, to strive and have the confidence to be able to do that. They have got to have the values, and if they get set back, they learn from it. I’ve had challenges in my career, and it set me back, but you get back, and you think, well, I am going to achieve it.  


Who are the women that have inspired you in your career?

Estée Lauder – I was always amazed by the brand when I was young and I still am today; Carine Roitfeld, the French fashion editor, model and muse; and Odile Gilbert, the French hairstylist, who worked on runway looks and editorial work.


If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be?     

The late Queen Elizabeth, Michelle Obama, and Coco Chanel.


Find Belle at Salon Sloane, 186 Pavilion Rd, SW3 2BF; 020 7259 0068

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