One hundred years of history from KH Hair
“The business would not be here today without Mr Keith Hall’s foresight and vision. He has remained a constant figure of inspiration and guidance throughout our careers and those of all 300 staff we have at KH Hair”.
Darren Messias and Tim Fee
KH Hair Group is celebrating one hundred years of history which began with a single salon opening on a quiet corner in Long Eaton in 1920 and has since grown to comprise 21 award-winning salons situated throughout the East Midlands.
In the beginning
The first salon, simply named ‘Halls’ was situated on Derby Road in the town on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border, directly opposite what is now KH Hair Group’s head office and training academy. The modest establishment comprised six gentlemen’s chairs downstairs and, in accordance with his forward-thinking entrepreneurial spirit, owner Mr Arthur Hall, installed eight ladies’ cubicles upstairs to form the very first unisex salon outside of London.
In 1939 Arthur Hall’s son, Keith, joined the business – initially somewhat reluctantly – when he was brought in to help fill the gap left by four of the salon’s barbers who had been called to duty following the outbreak of WW2. At only 18, he was too young to follow his dream of joining the armed forces so, after only a month’s training, was allotted Chair No.6 and his passion for hair was born.
The War years
For a short time, Mr Keith Hall’s evenings were spent on duty as a Home Guard, patrolling the River Trent from Sawley Bridge to Shardlow, carrying a flask of soup for his armed companions – two First World War veterans. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1941 as a trainee pilot where he was later earmarked to become a flying instructor, a position he qualified for in June 1942. Shortly afterwards, he married his girlfriend, Joan.
In 1943, his bravery was put to an unexpected test when, while taxiing out with a pupil, a landing Tiger crashed and began to burn. Stopping and running to assist, they realised the instructor was trapped and, although initially drawing back because of the intense heat, he and his pupil, a stout former policeman, saw no option but to approach the flames once more. With the policeman managing to heave part of the aircraft apart, Mr Hall was able to drag the instructor free from harm. This bravery led to him being awarded an MBE ‘for gallantry not in the face of the enemy’. A few months later, along with Joan, he was thrilled to be a guest of Dowager Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace to receive the honour.
Back to business
When the war ended and following a successful career as a flying instructor, Mr Hall made the decision to return to the family hairdressing business. Inspired by the likes of industry legends, Freddy French and Raymond Bessone, he took himself off to London to train with the finest hairdressers of the day including the great Charles Pluckrose of Wigmore Street. This was the beginning of a lifelong commitment to bringing the best knowledge and expertise back to the Midlands region.
The newly-branded ‘Keith Hall’ business grew steadily, with new salons opening in towns and cities including Ilkeston, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Loughborough and beyond and Mr Hall’s vision to change the face of Midlands’ hairdressing entered a new era.
After headhunting Stephen Messias from Vidal Sassoon as art director in 1968, the duo embarked on improving creativity and building pioneering educational programmes which took raw, local talent and developed it to create skilled, professional hairdressers and managers – an ethos KH Hair is still synonymous with today.
In the early eighties, Mr Hall was bestowed the honour of President of Intercoiffure Mondial, an international organisation promoting hairdressing excellence, formed in 1925 by hairdressers from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark and England. He was made an Honorary President in the late eighties.
After building one of the most successful and illustrious careers in British hairdressing, Mr Hall retired in the mid 1980s, selling his 12 salons to the junior partners who had been running them, with the proviso they would continue to operate under the Keith Hall name. Taking Mr Hall’s forward-thinking advice and guidance, Stephen and his joint managing director, Brian Gosnell, turned the business into a more workable franchise format in 1985 and more salon openings soon came along. Keith Hall became KH Hair in 2014 following a further re-brand.
“Mr Hall was an undisputed icon of the industry, spearheading revolutionary concepts which are commonplace today including the unisex salon and the salon franchise format.”
From attic to room to award-winning academy
KH Hair has always been proud to provide exceptional and forward-thinking training and the KH Hair Training Academy has been an integral part of the business model since the early days. Mr Hall’s daughter, Sally, was one of the main trainers, sharing her skills in a small attic room in a semi-detached house in Long Eaton. However, in the early 80s, it became clear this was no longer a suitable space for the fast-growing franchise and the business moved to two converted Victorian buildings in the town which now house KH Hair’s head office and award-winning training academy.
Proud winner of a British Hairdressing Business Award in 2017, the academy continues to take raw talent from across the East Midlands and train and develop young people for a successful career in hairdressing.
The new generation
KH Hair Group is, today, run by joint managing directors, Darren Messias (Stephen’s son) and Tim Fee, who joined the Board in 2004, alongside existing shareholder, Tim Lacey, who retired in 2007.
Darren joined the company nearly 30 years ago and has since worked his way up from the salon floor. As creative director for the KH Hair Group, he leads the acclaimed Creative and Colour Teams as they represent the brand both nationally and internationally at photo shoots, on the catwalks, in the press and at industry shows. In 1994, Darren was a member of the exclusive Fellowship F.A.M.E Team with Errol Douglas and, in 2003, was winner of the Best Men’s Collection at the AIPP Awards.
Darren can often be found judging at leading industry awards and is regularly featured in hairdressing and consumer press. In 2016 he received the Fellow with Honours award from the Fellowship for British Hairdressing , marking his contribution to the Fellowship and the industry as a whole.
Tim began his KH Hair journey in 1976 as a young apprentice at the St James Street salon in Derby. On finishing his apprenticeship, he soon became a very busy and popular stylist, going on to become manager of the salon in 1990. A year later he joined forces with Sally to open the Ashbourne salon, before becoming sole owner of both establishments in 2000. With his astute business acumen and his head for figures, Tim joined Darren at head office part-time in 2004 before leaving his salon life behind and becoming a full co-partner in 2007.
KH Hair may be one of the oldest hairdressing groups in the country, but it’s at the forefront of innovation, technology and trends:
- Creative Team , established 25 years ago, continues to represent the brand at fashion shows and photo shoots from London to L.A
- Colour Team, which was launched in 2014, is busy creating a centre of excellence for colour couture, attending shows and training courses whilst working with all KH Hair salons to ensure the quality of colour care remains at the very highest level
- KH Hair is an active and sought-after member of the Fellowship of British Hairdressing, carrying out master classes throughout the UK and taking to the stage at industry shows to showcase its work
And the award goes to…
KH Hair has picked up some of the most highly sought after accolades in the industry. Including:
- 2000 – Director of the Year – British Hairdressing Business Awards (BHBAs) – Stephen Messias
- 2003/4 – Men’s collection – AIPP Awards – Darren Messias
- 2007 – Gold Star Salon – Fellowship for British Hairdressing Awards
- 2010 – Regional Salon Group – Hair Awards 2017 – Training Academy of the Year – British Hairdressing Business Awards (BHBAs)
- 2018 Eastern Hairdresser of the Year – British Hairdressing Awards (BHAs) – Jessica Neil & Mary Geoghegan
The Group has been shortlisted on several occasions for the BHAs and BHBAs. Individual stylists have also been extremely successful in competitions including Wella’s Trend Vision and Xposure.
2020 marks 13 years of the KH Hair Group’s very own annual awards event which celebrates the success of salons and individuals at a glitzy ceremony attended by over 300 employees and VIP guests. In 2019, 23 awards were handed out on the evening including the coveted Salon of the Year Award.
What lies ahead
As for the future, Tim is set to retire in March 2020, leaving Darren singularly holding the reins of the KH Hair Group – a challenge he is very much looking forward to.
“It’s going to feel strange without Tim sitting in the opposite chair after all these years, but I’m excited for the future of KH Hair and I’m determined to ensure all our salons continue to grow stronger and carry on delivering the very best in customer service and industry expertise”
The Group is also looking to expand its salon portfolio in the future and is always on the lookout for new opportunities and acquisitions.
Meanwhile, centenary celebrations will be in full swing throughout 2020 with events and offers including the giveaway of 100 free haircuts which will be handed out as surprise random acts of kindness to clients chosen by the individual salons.
1920 Mr Arthur Hall opens his first salon in Long Eaton
1939 Mr Keith Hall joins the family business in charge of Chair No.6
1941 Mr Keith Hall leaves the salon to join the Royal Air Force
1942 Mr Keith Hall qualifies as a flying instructor
1943 Mr Keith Hall is awarded an MBE for ‘gallantry not in the face of the enemy’
1946 Mr Keith Hall returns to the family hairdressing business
1948 Mr Keith Hall ventures to London for one year to train with Charles Pluckrose of Wigmore Street.
1968 Stephen Messias is headhunted from Vidal Sassoon
1976 Tim Fee joins the business as a young apprentice
c1980 Mr Keith Hall is appointed President of Intercoiffure Mondial. He was bestowed the title of Honorary President in the late 80s
1989 Darren Messias joins the business as a young apprentice
1985 Mr Keith Hall retires from the business and the franchise model is adopted
1995 The KH Hair Creative Team is formed
2004 Darren and Tim become joint managing directors
2014 Keith Hall is re-branded to KH Hair and the KH Hair Colour Team is formed
2016 Darren receives a Fellow with Honours Award from the Fellowship for British Hairdressing
2020 Tim Fee set to retire
KH HAIR currently has salons in Arnold, Ashbourne, Ashby, Beeston, Derby, Hinckley, Ilkeston, Leicester, Lichfield, Long Eaton, Loughborough, Mansfield, Newark, Nottingham, Oadby, Ripley, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Tutbury and West Bridgford.