Jo Hansford: Queen Camilla's hairdresser on her secrets for success

Lifestyle | Beauty

Jo Hansford: Queen Camilla's hairdresser on her secrets for success

With clients including Adele, Angelina Jolie, Sienna Miller, Nicola Kidman and the Queen, the celebrity favourite shares precisely what she did to become a hairdressing legend

The legendary hair colourist Jo Hansford MBE is by her own reckoning an accidental success. “I never wanted my own business in the first place,” she tells me when I ask what her grand plan was on opening the very first branch of Jo Hansford in Mayfair back in 1993. “I wouldn’t have ever thought about it had I not been a specialist because, quite frankly, it was all Nicky Clarke and John Frieda and Charles Worthington at that point, all of whom wined and dined the press.” I ask what made her take the leap and she’s characteristically unequivocal. “Well, I was a colour specialist, so I felt there was a niche in the market.”

Like so many stories of success, the are several contributing threads to Hansford’s, not least of which is her sheer determination once she got going. “I think everything is about leading by example. If I can do it, they can do it. I was always the first in the door in the morning and the last person to leave because I couldn’t go unless I knew everything was 100% — it’s about an attitude, about detail.”

It was also, from the off, a family affair, with her husband, who was working in property, helping to find the first Jo Hansford spot on Mount Street in the middle of a crippling recession, negotiating a rate, and, after warning Jo that they were “haemorrhaging money”, backing a further spend on a PR to do that aforementioned all-important wining and dining. “Thank God I had a very high energy level! But that first two years was a bit of a nightmare; I was out every night and in the salon every day!”

Jo Hansford

It paid off. The press learned about Jo’s exceptional skills, and her client list burgeoned after a short period of trying to fill seats “with anyone we could lay our hands on — we got in aunts and grandmothers and anyone to come in and have their hair done so we looked busy.” Today, the famous heads who place themselves in Jo and her team’s hands is stellar, including Adele, Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Hurley, Sienna Miller, Nicola Kidman, and Queen Camilla. I of course ask her for tidbits on the latter, but she’s resolutely discreet (which I’m sure is one of the reasons the A-list love her so much), just saying, “I’ve been doing her for 35 years, and we’ve adjusted her hair slowly — like with everyone over time skin changes and muscle tone changes and hair has to be updated, too.”

I ask her how she retains big names, and she believes it is this mix of trust in skill and trust that the tales told while in sanctity of the hairdresser’s chair remain there. “That’s important to them because they are in the media. We’re a very safe place for them — our job is to make people look glamorous and happy, not to delve.”

Thirty years in, having weathered three recessions and covid, and with a staff of 90 across Jo Hansford’s two branches, what’s next? “I don’t ever see us expanding into a group salon situation. My daughter is a great manager, which by the way is half the battle to having a successful business, and I have told her she’s the next generation. Vidal Sassoon taught me that, he always said ‘what are you producing for the future?’ And he was right.” In that case of Jo Hansford, that future looks pretty assuredly bright.