Having celebrated 30 years in business in 2017, Charles Worthington opens the doors of his Chelsea home to talk hairdos and don’ts, fashioning bouffants for the BAFTAs and why he’s angling for the perm to make a comeback
Should you ever find yourself sat across from Charles Worthington, beware the hairdresser’s gaze resting atop your head. With more than 30 years’ experience giving tired tresses a new lease of life, the stylist has an eye for finding the right cut for the right person – and can spot the wrong one a mile off.
“When you’re a hairdresser, you never switch off,” he says, “so if I’m on a train or a plane, I do look at people and think ‘that could be so much better if...’”
He laughs as he says this, but even still I can’t help but pat down my own unruly split ends. We’re in the dining room of his Chelsea home, located – almost literally – a stone’s throw from the King’s Road. White pillar candles line the mantelpiece, stacks of magazines sit in the corner (World of Interiors, House & Garden) and a floor-to-ceiling mirror opens up the room.
The entire house is a mix of Worthington’s varied tastes – artwork is Tracey Emin, candles Byredo and music Robbie Williams’s Feel – but the one constant is the colour scheme: monochrome. It harks back to the early days of Worthington’s career, when his first salon on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street spearheaded a new wave in beauty interiors.
“Salons used to be quite cluttered and busy,” the hairdresser recalls. “Ours was very minimalist, which in those days was quite radical. We pared everything back and had a very simplistic environment.”
That was three decades ago. Now, the stylist has three salons (one on Percy Street, one in the City and one in Covent Garden), and remains at the vanguard of the hair industry, having flipped it on its head when he began his business in 1987. The design of the original salon was inspired by his years studying architecture, and the customer service aimed to give clients more than just a haircut. His product line – sold to PZ Cussons in 2004 – was equally innovative, paving the way for haircare that not only worked but was enjoyable to use, with a pleasant scent and a bottle that looked good on the shelf.
“From the packaging to the fragrance, I steered everything,” he says proudly. “The day we launched it, it just took off. Because I was physically on the salon floor, I knew what hair needed, so I could develop products that would actually deliver.”
Today, such products are commonplace on the market. Similarly with salons: your typical hairdresser favours a black-and-white interior, with tea, coffee and even champagne on tap.
“The industry has become much more professional,” Worthington agrees. “It’s much more service-orientated. Clients want to go into a salon for an experience, not just a haircut. When you’re spending your precious hard-earned money, you want to enjoy how you spend it.”
Hairstyles themselves have also changed, he says. “Hair has become looser and less high-maintenance. So many clients used to come two, even three times a week to have blow-dries; that doesn’t really happen any more. It’s more about the haircut doing the work for you.”
Cue the Vibe collection: a series of haircuts and colours that Worthington launched to mark his 30th anniversary in the business, with the aim to make life simpler for his clients. It’s about easy to maintain hair with a salon finish – the cuts are choppy and layered, styled to suit certain shades (a series of brunette cuts launched at the beginning of the year), and can be easily maintained at home.
While this carefree attitude is something he promotes at his salons, he’s gunning for the 80s perm to make a comeback. The tight twisting kinks are great for crafting angular shapes, he says, and are actually not so far off the low-maintenance looks favoured for 2018.
“Ten years on, you always think ‘how could we have liked that?’ But trends come and go. You can create some amazing shapes with those really tight perms, and they’re very much wash and go. You don’t have to do too much to it.”
Finding a quick style fix is part of Worthington’s USP; crafting easy looks not just for his salon clients but also for the likes of Sharon Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker. He styled the latter’s locks for the BAFTAs in 2013. The turnaround time at such an event is quick and often sees him styling shoulder-to-shoulder with the make-up artist. Luckily, he says, his customers are very trusting.
“Divas are not people. Being a diva is a state of mind,” he laughs, “and people aren’t usually divas with hairdressers. You can be a diva to a clothes stylist, because you can simply take off what you’re wearing, but your hair is attached to your head.”
Yet his clients needn’t be wary. When it comes to hair disasters, Worthington proudly claims that he has never had any. It’s often when people try to be daring for the sake of being daring that the look doesn’t go as planned – the trick, he explains, is to be brave but still considerate.
“I think I’m a thoughtful hairdresser,” he says. “It’s important, even if you are creating something extreme, to make sure there’s a good balance. That way, it will still look good 10 years down the line, even if it does seem a bit out there at the time.
“I’m a brave hairdresser, and I’m not scared of doing something radical – but I’ll make sure that radical still looks fabulous.”