Through the whitewashed doorframe I go, into the primary coloured toy town hair salon of Lipstick & Gunpowder. There’s a handsomely coiffed guy in what encroaches upon bondage gear; fag burns litter his top and metal protrudes from his face, and it’s this unlikely sort that is conjuring magic out of thin (h)air. His eyebrows knit concentration over his countenance as he transfigures a woman’s fringe into a shape that is more like architecture than a hairstyle.
Suffice to say the masterpiece that climbs out of the chair twenty minutes later is striking; a post-apocalyptic beehive that curves into a plait proudly sits atop her face in which her dark eyes are accentuated by sunrise tones on the left, and dark ocean on the right. Later on when I quiz her on the experience she is demurely ecstatic about the whole thing; she tells me that, despite the sizeable crowd ogling and snapping away, she was made to feel at ease, even engaged in conversation with the stylists that flitted around her like honeybees round a flower.
And this is the symptomatic of the ethos of Lipstick & Gunpowder; the owner, Matt Dimmack, who I corner over a cigarette, informs me that:
“We wanted to create places where people want to be. Where they feel part of a family; they’re not just customers and employees. People go to get their hair done before they go to a club- where they will be having fun, so why can’t they have fun while they’re getting styled?”
Matt tells me also that the stylists are all shareholders in the company. An important point, because, as he points out, they’re getting a raw deal in the other salons in Brighton; they don’t really get paid much for their efforts. From the show I have just witnessed I must wholeheartedly agree with him; these guys are not just stylists; they are practising what can be more reasonably called art, so it makes sense that they get their fair share, because, after all, without them Lipstick & Gunpowder is just a particularly well presented room with some chairs and mirrors in it.
Which brings me to the décor of the salon; it is mostly white, though not in the way that a doctor’s surgery is white. Nor is it white like so many of the other hairdressers that inhabit the neighbouring streets. There is a feature wall on one side of the room; an enormous Mondrian-style canvas shouts pastel pink and green into the minimalist void of the space. It feels modish and current, but retro too. It’s period appeal doesn’t feel contrived though; Lipstick & Gunpowder defies the mahogany and brass nostalgia of the increasingly common “Gentlemen Barbers”, with its subtle nods to the garish colour palette of the 1980s. Matt said on this matter that he was aiming for “the feeling of that decade but without relying on memorabilia or iconography”. Indeed, he has achieved a timeless look, devoid of the clichés of a Campbell’s soup can or a vintage movie poster, yet still undeniably of that neon tinged essence.
Beautiful though it is, the presentation of the salon is surely not the main draw here; it isn’t the space that will attract the clientele; it is the stylists that are the main attraction at Lipstick & Gunpowder. I managed to engage with one of the elusive so-and-sos, and she seemed absolutely effervescent about the whole thing.
“It’s new and buzzing, and it’s got that fun Brighton feel to it,” she enthused, “It came about when a consortium of talented people were sat round a table saying ‘You know what? This is what we need!’” She didn’t want to give me her name so I promised I would simply refer to her as “the glamorous stylist with the fantastic ruffled shirt”.
It’s not just her sentiment for outlandish clothing that I share; I think the hair industry in Brighton certainly does need Lipstick & Gunpowder; a refreshing tonic to the stale pretension that pervades the salons of Brighton. It’s imperative that you get down. Come on. Chop chop.
Written by Adam Morrison
Images by Chris Bulezuik