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Gender-neutral sustainable salon Chop-Chop banished my hair nightmares

TextEmilie Bruyere

Co-founders Kaye Sotomi and Laure Ferrand aim to offer a more efficient, sustainable experience for all hair types that is priced according to the time taken rather than gender

A lifetime of horribly discouraging experiences in hair salons had led me to a very bitter place regarding anything to do with my hair. To me, a salon setting is not a relaxing place to be pampered and enjoy the bliss of a scalp massage, but rather, an emotional hell hole where my appointments cost a fortune, drag on for an extra hour, and still leave me looking like a big ole triangular poof. In some cases, I would even request to leave salons with wet hair, just to avoid stress and disappointment of continuing with another soon-to-be failed appointment. So, after several attempts at different salons in London and beyond, I hit up Google for a salon that might match my needs. A place that would be able to tame my frizzy/thick/curly hair and hopefully (just hopefully) not traumatise me in the process. 

My search led me to Chop-Chop, a salon group that aims to be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale industry. Having launched in 2018, it quickly expanded to three locations across London: in Old Street, Westfield White City, and Wembley. Unlike most salons, Chop-Chop offers varied services for all – regardless of gender or hair texture – and adopts a gender-neutral pricing structure charging all customers £20 for every 20 minutes spent. As a result, this time-efficient and inclusive model draws in a wide array of customers. “They trust us with their hair type, some (come) because we are affordable, and some (come) because they appreciate what we stand for,” says creative director and co-founder Kaye Sotomi. After a horribly stressful day at work, I headed over to Chop-Chop’s Old Street location (with my expectations set relatively low) to investigate further. They were, after all, claiming to do A LOT for A LITTLE. 

Upon arrival, I was warmly welcomed by two team members, and before my appointment began, I sat down with Sotomi to understand a little bit more about how Chop-Chop came about. Neither Sotomi or his co-founder Laure Ferrand had prior experience in the haircare industry, in fact, they had both previously held careers in renewable energy and sustainability, which has undoubtedly informed their approach. Sotomi emphasised that their unique personal experiences as customers gave them an advantage “as customers trying to solve customer-centric challenges. Our friendship group is really rich in diversity, however, there were no concepts out there that catered to this group of diverse friends in the industry,” explained Sotomi. These perspectives allowed them to identify four key challenges that they believed were present in traditional salon models: a lack of efficiency, a segregated industry, a gender price disparity, and the lack of sustainable practices.

Chop-Chop is designed to address these challenges head on. In an effort to accommodate the time-poor with busy lifestyles, Chop-Chop’s salon model is based around offering dry services. By doing this, stylists are able to deliver more accurate cuts, reduce service times for women’s cuts by more than 50 per cent, and reduce their water usage by up to 70 per cent. This created a much more efficient salon model and allowed savings to be passed on to the customers. Catering to all hair types was also of particular importance to Sotomi and Ferrand. Chop-Chop stylists are hired with diversity in mind and additional training is provided to help bridge any skill gaps that their stylists may have. 

I was booked in for a wash, cut, blow dry, and style. This would typically cost me £95-£200 at a more traditional salon but Chop-Chop charges £60. To be even more specific, I paid £150 at my last hair appointment, cried, and left with half-wet hair. The space was bright and inviting, yet pared-back – which felt appropriate. I later learned that Sotomi and his co-founder, Laure Ferrand, had quite literally ingrained sustainability practices into the very foundation of all Chop-Chop locations. “The floors are made of cork (a biodegradable material), walls painted with lime paint, and the worktops are made of recycled plastic,” Kaye explains. They exclusively use PHYTO Haircare products, which are plant-based and have zero water content, and upcoming plans include introducing a subscription model for colours, a new process of recycling hair, and potentially the addition of product refill stations in all salons – so customers can re-use packaging for their conditioners and shampoos. 

My hairstylist Vinnie was extraordinarily cheery and delightful but, at first glance, I noticed that she didn’t have curly hair and my anxiety started to build. Would she be able to handle mine? (Spoiler alert: yes, yes she would).Chop-Chop stylists usually cut your hair while dry, however, considering I was on day six hair, which I had slicked into a pony that morning, a wash was a must. For my cut, Vinnie very confidently suggested adding some layers so my hair would look more balanced and less heavy towards the ends – something that had always bothered me about my hair. I was definitely in great hands, the cut probably took half as long as the wash, and her confidence with the scissors was both astounding and reassuring. I have never had much of a connection to the length of my hair so watching scissors fly around my head isn’t triggering for me.

The next two points are very important. Not only do they fully inform my experience at Chop-Chop, but they also led me to the very clear realisation that Vinnie was my soulmate (in the totally platonic hairstylist to client kinda way, OK?). Firstly, when Vinnie was prepping my hair to be styled, the girl did not mess around. She clearly understood that my thick/frizzy curly hair would drink up loads of product, so when I saw her walking over to me with four bottles of PHYTO creams/serums/oils, I swear I heard wedding bells. The second point, which fully cemented my soulmate inclination to Vinnie, was her magic combination of the firm brush-to-hair tension and expertly placed blow dryer nozzle (not a euphemism, I swear). Through my vast experience in hair salons, I have developed this amazing psychic ability which allows me to predict exactly how good… or bad my hair will end up looking within 30 seconds of the blowdryer being switched on. So I can very confidently tell you that if you have hair like mine, a hairstylist with a rogue blowdryer who ruffles at your hair with an occasional timid brush technique is definitely NOT THE ONE. Essentially you just need a Vinnie in your life.

She finished off my appointment by adding in some soft waves with a flat iron, something I’d never attempted when styling my own hair. While I would have prefered my initial wish of leaving with pin-straight hair, I wasn’t opposed to a change, considering how excited she was to give me my new look. I did get a shit ton of compliments afterwards so not being stubborn served me well. I was out of there within the hour, which for me, someone who is accustomed to spending two hours minimum in a salon, was nothing short of a miracle. Weeks later, I am still super happy with my cut and have found the layers take the re-styling work out of my hands since the cut is nice and has shape and movement. I can be on day five hair and still look like I put effort in (which to be clear, I absolutely haven’t).

All in all, I really felt that Chop-Chop lived up to the hype and dream that they were selling. If you’re time-poor, or even just plain cash poor, this salon offers really high-quality services efficiently and affordably in a modern salon setting. if you have curly or hard-to-manage hair and haven’t had much luck in the past, I would suggest holding on to your hope slightly longer and giving the Chop a try. This experience was honestly the best I’ve had in years, and I didn’t leave in tears, so I’ll definitely be back to Chop-Chop, and my soulmate (Vinnie), very soon. 

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