I grew up in Svartå, a small town in Sweden. I was not a girly girl and I wasn’t really interested in hair at all. I wanted to be a vet or a doctor like most kids, I suppose. The idea of hairdressing first came up when I was 15 and I chose to study it at college. My original plan was to do it for a few years and then maybe travel, and hairdressing was a job that I could do anywhere.
I was pretty rubbish for the first few years. Then, during my third year of training, I got quite lucky with one of my first jobs, working in a ‘granny’ salon. Most of the clients were in their sixties or older and were super happy to have a young person there. They let me play around with their hair and experiment. That was when I really started to enjoy hairdressing.
After my training, I moved to Stockholm. I stayed there for about two years, before moving to Dubai. There were obviously some big differences between Dubai and Sweden, and this was at a time when Dubai was just becoming popular with expats, so a lot of people didn’t know much about it. We were only allowed to work with women—you had to have a licence to do men’s hair. Sometimes we did have male clients, but we had to lock the door in case any local women walked in and took off their veil. After two years in Dubai, I moved to London and after a short stint there, I moved to Barcelona in 2004. I needed a change and was looking for something somewhere between London and Dubai.
I met English-Catalan hairdresser Anthony Llobet shortly after I arrived in Barcelona. I think I’d been here for about two months when I started working in his Gràcia salon. We opened the Raval branch in 2004, taking over an existing salon on Carrer Sant Pau—a barbershop that had been there since the Thirties. Originally, there was a theatre on the street, so all the actors would get their hair done there. When we first took over, the retired barber gave me lessons. He was concerned about his clients and wanted to make sure I could give them the same service. There was one guy who came in for a wash and blowdry every Friday for almost 40 years. He would even bring his own hairspray. We don’t have many of the original clients left now, which is sad.
In March this year, I opened the Barcelona Hair Academy. It has been a dream of mine for years. I’ve always felt that the education in Barcelona was a bit dated and I wanted something more modern and more inspirational. I also felt that when I was looking for education and training for myself and my staff, it just wasn’t there—we often travel to London or Paris.
In the rest of the world I think hairdressers have been respected for a long time, but not here. Hairdressing wasn’t really considered a good job but now it is a lot more cool; the whole barbering culture is helping this. It’s about getting a different kind of person who wants to work in hairdressing—there is more of an artistic side to it. We started with one student and now we have a group. I really enjoy the teaching aspect and I’ve always had juniors and trainees. I also learn a lot myself because I’m teaching young people.
Starting the school made me want to go in a different direction. Having worked with Anthony for many years, I decided to go my own way and to create a fresh brand, more in line with my Scandinavian background and my international experience, which is when I created Wit. Starting a business is always difficult. There’s a lot of bureaucracy which is quite scary, but you just have to take a leap of faith. Working with my colleague Cecily has been great, because she has a lot of business experience. Knowing the system really helps.
Getting the chance to work alongside Ray-Ban at Primavera Sound was amazing. We were instructed to do extreme, radical things, although we didn’t think anybody was going to do it. Basically, customers had to sign a release form giving up the rights to decide about their hairstyle. So we could do whatever we wanted. I think we had about 70 customers on the first day. People queued for hours, it was insane.
Working at New York Fashion Week has been one of my career highlights. It’s kind of like a fashion dream, and every year it’s different. For each show, there is one look that is decided by the designer and the lead stylist. They demonstrate it and then everybody has to do exactly the same. It’s a great learning experience. It’s hectic and crowded, but it’s also really fun and challenging. Overall, though, I think the biggest highlight has been creating Wit. I love my salon, it’s like my second home.
I think what sets us apart from other salons is customer service. It’s not just about coming in and getting your haircut. It’s a whole experience, from walking through the door until leaving. Ninety percent is how you do it and ten percent is what you do. If you can make people feel good, they’ll come back.