Olivia Crighton is a New Zealand-born businesswoman and all-around creative polymath currently living and working in London. Working as a hairdresser within the city she went on to find her passion within sustainable hairdressing, setting up her own all-natural salon – Glasshouse. Based in East London, here she shares her inspirations and muses on design and sustainability in the beauty market.
Have you always worked within hair, what was your background in?
I began my hairdressing training when I was just 16, so I have been in the field for quite some time. When I moved to London I actually wanted to change my career as I had a repetitive strain injury in my wrist and I also didn’t want to work with chemicals anymore to protect my health and wellbeing. However, we needed jobs and London was expensive so I stuck with it out of necessity at first, but after discovering a more natural and sustainable way or hairdressing and finding the Organic Colour Systems’ range my love for the industry was re-ignited.
What made you want to set up your own company?
Whilst working for Organic Colour Systems, training stylists in their London salons, I realised that organic and naturally based brands were often seen as an ‘alternative’ option for some clients, but I never came across a salon that truly embodies the ethos and lifestyle I was looking for. I began to see clients in my own home, and discovered that not only were people looking for more environmental haircare, but also for a salon space that felt ‘homely’ and less intimidating than some traditional salons. These are two of the ideals I prioritised when launching Glasshouse in 2013.
You only use natural and organic products within the salon. How important was this choice for you?
Organic and natural ingredients are at the core of Glasshouse and this ethos stemmed from my personal desire to look after my body. I became quite unwell in my youth and had to rethink my entire diet and lifestyle, which then extended to every aspect of my life, including what I was putting on my skin and hair. When I discovered Organic Colour Systems’ range I was thrilled that I could offer my clients a no-compromise hair service that delivered great results without posing any threat to their health or the health of the environment.
You grew up in New Zealand, what do you miss most from there and does London now feel like home?
When I moved over from Auckland where I grew up I had originally planned to stay in London for just 1 or 2 years, but ended up feeling so at home. I do miss New Zealand and my family a lot, but we visit New Zealand almost every year to spend time with them. I also enjoy breaking up London’s winter with New Zealand’s lovely summers. Although I love the idea of my daughter Sadie having a very ‘outdoors’ lifestyle like I had in New Zealand, I have been able to recreate that for her in London and I don’t think she would have the same opportunities as we do here. There are so many galleries, parks, festivals and things to do.
From its interior to the salon’s Instagram and blog, Glasshouse has a very specific aesthetic, what were the influences which molded the look and taste?
Our initial motto was to provide ‘uncomplicated modern hair with care and craft’. As much as it sounds like brand speak it really was important to me to provide a salon where you really could have something simple and beautiful that is not only easy to look after but speaks to who you are as a person. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
In terms of the salon we wanted to work with the qualities the space already had and create a cosy, informal environment. We opted for a slightly minimal and industrial design, fitting with the Netil House building, with lots of greenery. The Journal and the Instagram both have a clean and contemporary feel with muted colours and simple design.
What about trends within the industry? Is that something that you’ve ever paid attention to?
It’s very important to me that we don’t just blindly follow trends. I like to provide clients with something that they will love and that suits them whatever their style. However we keep engaged in interesting beauty trends and we often write about them on our Journal. When we first opened we we’re known for our platinum blondes, pastel pinks and soft hues that were having a big moment at the time. We had an edge as we were able to create these colors with much less of the damage in comparison to conventional dyes. A favourite style our clients ask for time and time again is for is a classic blunt bob in varying lengths.
Do your views on natural beauty and sustainability extend to other areas of your lifestyle?
It’s a huge part of all aspects of my life. I follow a plant-based diet and I am currently studying to become a naturopath which just feels like an extension of my lifestyle and the ethos of my business. I try to maintain a ‘toxic free’ home where possible for my family and so I’m very careful with things like the household cleaning products and detergents I use and always avoid any additional necessary substances such as air fresheners. I love to diffuse essential oils instead. When it comes to clothes I am also becoming more aware of the impact the textiles industry is having on the environment. It’s also not something we think of as being toxic or dangerous, however the dyes, chemicals and fungicides used on clothing is something we need to become more educated on not only as the impact on our environment but also how they might be affecting our bodies.
What are your own beauty and haircare regimes like?
I love to do masks and extra steps when I get time, but on the most part my routines are quick and simple. We recently introduced Evolve skin care products to the salon and shop. They are all hand made in the UK using the best effective natural ingredients. I am loving their cleaning melt and a drop of hyaluronic acid under my usual RMS beauty oil. I wash my hair very frequently so it’s important I use a gentle sulphate free shampoo, at the moment I’m using our first ever Glasshouse product; Glasshouse Hair, Hand & Body Wash, which I also use on my hands and body. I’ll then use my favourite quinoa protein treatment: revamp by Organic Colour Systems, if i get time, to strengthen and repair. And finish with a light weight silicone free conditioner. I keep styling to a minimum, as I am partial to a more natural look, but also because I prefer not to use too much heat on my hair to preserve its health, not to mention the extra time it takes. For makeup, I have a quick and practical routine or base, lips and mascara. I love RMS Lip2Cheek in Paradise and their “Un” Cover-Up – they’re small and versatile glass pots that you can simply use with your finger to cover up any imperfections and add a little colour. ; ideal for a quick touch-up.
As a working mum, what do you do to unwind? Do you have any tips?
Balancing work, motherhood and self-care is hard and I haven’t quite mastered it just yet. But I do take inspiration from my daughter, Sadie. Children are always living in the present as they haven’t really grasped the concept of ‘tomorrow’ just yet. It helps me to engage in and enjoy the moment without worrying about the future. I think in some ways this can be a form of relaxation and switching off from work. I do find that spending time with my friends and family is a great way to unwind. I also love to be in nature or meditate – even if it’s just for 5 minutes. If I have the time, I love running a hot Epsom Salt bath and zoning out.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since setting up your own business?
I’m still learning everyday and the landscape of business, beauty and just world politics are changing all the time. It’s important for me to stay adaptable. In some ways we are quite lucky as we are working with our customers everyday so we really get a good feel for who they are, what they are about and what they want from us. I think staying true to myself and my values without compromise has paid off for us. Hopefully all business’ will take their customer’s health the sustainability as their core value some day and there won’t have to be any compromises for consumers.