Six Years of Cruelty Free Hair
Happy 6th birthday to Perth’s first entirely vegan salon!
Wednesday the 26th of July saw Perth’s most socially conscious gather to celebrate six years of Chilli Couture. Spearheaded by Rachel Walker, the Northbridge salon is entirely cruelty free, but with no shortage of style or elegance.
An entrance hallway festooned with candles and petals set the tone for the indulgent festivities. The party unfolded upstairs where models exuded old Hollywood glamour in sequinned gowns from Australian label Zhivago and guests were fed by Roark and Co., a vegan and vegetarian catering company whose BBQ jackfruit wrap left me going back for seconds and thirds.
Where did it all begin?
Hairdressing for 28 years now, Rachel cut her teeth educating in Australia and the Asia Pacific region and working in various salons before deciding to settle down and start her own. Originally founded ten years ago, Chilli Couture began as a small, three-chair salon with the original owner living upstairs. “The feel was definitely designed with luxury and comfort in mind,” says Rachel of the salon’s aesthetic. Gradually transitioning into an entirely cruelty free salon – the first in Perth – was a labour of love for Rachel, who has been vegan for six years now.
“It was always a goal to transition into this ethos. The difficulty is that when you have a flourishing business, you must make sure that the transition is seamless.”
Rachel spent years researching and testing vegan products to ensure that clients would continue to receive the best service, but with sustainable, cruelty free products instead. “Most people have no idea the extent of animal products used in the beauty industry, nor how animals are still being used for testing. I would say 99% of our existing clientele were supportive of the change – there were a few who refused to come if they couldn’t get cow’s milk in the coffee. But what it really did was open us up to a whole new market and there are hundreds of people looking for the type of salon we are now. So for every client I’ve lost, I’ve gained 100 more. That works for me!”
When she’s not hairdressing, styling, photographing, running presentations and workshops for Original and Mineral, and being published in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Rachel is kept busy with unique requests from clients. “There are a few very inappropriate requests I’ve received over the years. It seems to be a hairdresser thing. We did have a guy call once and ask if we could cut his hair after he’d been strapped down in the chair… I didn’t ask if he supplied his own rope.”
Advice from someone who’s done it
For those considering taking the plunge and starting their own business, Walker’s advice is to be prepared for anything. “Running your own business is a total mental commitment. Don’t ever mix business with friends, and understand that the buck stops with you. But most importantly, business is full of ups and downs. When you’re up, look to the future and think about what could happen to make a change and try to be prepared for it. When you’re down, remember it’s only for now and the next change will be up again, so never lose your faith.” She also attributes her enviable success to her team.
“Having an amazing team is everything. Spend good quality time with your staff and tap into what they want from their career. If you can help them achieve that, then it’s a win for you and a win for them!”
As for what’s next for Perth’s most progressive salon? “Winning Western Australian Hairdresser of the Year! I’ve been a finalist a few times. It’s going to happen soon – I can feel it!”