Aiko, Blackheath’s new boutique hair salon, may be small, but its owner, Nathan Gooding, has styled the hair of some of our biggest stars… Words by Ben West
Ever struggled to make conversation with your hairdresser? Well, you won’t if you visit Aiko, Blackheath Village’s newest hair salon. Aiko’s owner, Nathan Gooding, has plenty to talk about since, at 27, he isn’t your normal hair stylist – he’s worked with some of the biggest names in music, fashion and film.
For some years now, until opening Aiko, he’s been splitting his time between working at former Blackheath salon, Rokit, before jetting off to the likes of LA, Ibiza and Shanghai to style hair for glamourous photo shoots. When not doing that, he was backstage at the O2 preparing pop stars for their time onstage.
‘I’d always had an ambition to be a hair stylist in film and fashion and music,’ says Nathan, as he effortlessly scissor sculpts a client’s mane into something seriously contemporary, with a casualness only a true master can pull off. ‘My career began in a London salon at 16 as I couldn’t wait to leave school. I knew what I wanted to do early on.’
Things took off the moment he completed a course on image styling for performance at the London College of Fashion: ‘My first job was at the BBC, working on productions as a hair and makeup assistant,’ he says. ‘I worked as a hair stylist on films like the sci-fi thriller Children of Men, which incidentally was filmed in Greenwich and Woolwich.
‘I washed Liza Minelli’s hair’
‘Early in my career I washed Lisa Minelli’s hair, and that got me drawn in. She was great, completely over the top, real fun. I remember the moment that I realised I wanted to do this for a living. At that point I was just the skivvy assisting, holding the hair dryer, but it was enough to get me hooked.
‘My move into music was by accident. A friend working in A&R asked if I could help out on a music video for free, and before I knew it I was working for Sony and Universal, styling their artists’ hair.’
In the last few years, Nathan has worked with the likes of Jessie J, Kelis, Florence and the Machine, Duran Duran, Alexandra Burke, Ferne Cotton, Calum Best, Clean Bandit, Gemma Arterton and Alexa Chung. He’s had stints at London Fashion Week – ‘it’s stressful, but always worth it as there’s always a real buzz’ – and recently completed a UK tour with girl band M.0., who were supporting Little Mix.
Magazines he’s worked for include American Vogue, id, Dazed & Confused and Harpers Bazaar. Celebrated fashion photographer Rankin recently shot Nathan at work for Hunger magazine.
Back to Blackheath
Through it all he worked part-time at Rokit in Blackheath for seven years, until it closed a few months ago. Then the opportunity to open his own salon in the centre of Blackheath Village came up. While it must be the dream of many a hair stylist, one can’t help wondering if committing to a small salon in south London will be exciting enough after such a jet-set lifestyle.
‘This is where my clients are from,’ he explains. ‘I wouldn’t want to leave them. And I love Blackheath – it’s so green, it’s a village, it’s busy all the time, yet it’s peaceful. The salon’s not big, but I wanted something self-contained. I didn’t want some big salon where I’d end up managing people. I’m not worried there are already so many salons in the village, my clients are loyal.
‘I do classic work and current looks,’ he says. ‘I keep in touch with what’s new by going to fashion shows and researching all the time. I see inspiration everywhere. I could be in a coffee shop or see someone in the street and, if I like their haircut, I’ll work out how I could improve it. I like to create haircuts that are practical and not high maintenance.’
He looks out of the window and surveys the passers by: ‘I love it here, watching the world go by in the village.’
Another new salon on the Blackheath block is Daiva, which also has a branch in Greenwich, offering everything from men’s and women’s hair to Shellac nails and threading.
63 Tranquil Vale Blackheath SE3 0BP; 020 8297 9822; daivasstudio.co.uk
2 Fresh Lifestyle
You’ll find hair, beauty and spa treatments for both men and women here, with Aveda-trained hair colourists and also make-up lessons.
43 Tranquil Vale SE3 OBU; 020 8318 2666; freshlifestyle.co.uk
3 Good Looks Natural Beauty
This beauty clinic specialises in advanced anti-ageing products and treatments from Guinot, Environ, Decleor and Eve Taylor and Jane Iredale.
22 Blackheath Village SE3 9SY; 020 8852 0651; goodlooksbeauty.co.uk
4 Chandler Wright
This beautifully designed salon offers a Blow Dry Bar for a quick, £20 turn around so you always step out looking your best.
7 Lee Road, Blackheath SE3 9RQ; 020 8318 2809; chandlerwright.co.uk
5 Neal’s Yard Remedies
Glow from the outside in with the experts in apothecary and a holistic approach to health and beauty.
32 Blackheath Village SE3 9SY; 020 8318 6655; nealsyardremedies.com