On the second floor of a 200-year-old building in central Copenhagen is a hair salon that, at first glance, looks very little like a hair salon. Some 230sq m of parquet-wood flooring are surrounded by white-panelled walls in a light and airy space dotted with artworks and vintage furniture. Even the chairs used for cutting hair are vintage: Eames, modified with a hydraulic pump.
“When a client first arrives, I sit them down, then leave them alone for eight to 10 minutes,” says hairdresser Cim Mahony, who opened his eponymous salon in 2014. “I want them to take in the calmness of the space, feel the silence and relax. I also do a five-minute meditation in between clients. It’s so important to let go of the previous energy and meet someone with a fresh mind.”
It’s all part of Mahony’s mindful approach to hairdressing – a philosophy he’s developed over the past 25 years. His early career, however, was less holistic, more hedonistic. By the time he was 18, he had trained as a hairdresser and moved to London, lured by the cult of Vidal Sassoon. “It was the height of the supermodel era,” says Mahony, who worked as a teacher for ex-Sassoon stylist Lance Lowe. “I was just really interested in cutting hair, but Lance was also doing London Fashion Week with Sam McKnight. Practically everyone was having a wild time – apart from this goody-two-shoes kid from rural Denmark.”
The fashion buzz hooked Mahony; today his CV includes Vogue shoots and Yves Saint Laurent and Bulgari ad campaigns. He worked with the late photographer Peter Lindbergh, and has cut the hair of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jennifer Lawrence. “There was a point when what I was doing with hair didn’t match my personal preference of beauty,” he says. “I like things that aren’t too contrived, a little bit more low-key.”
Naturalness has become his styling signature, but it also informs his choice of products – which are focused on sustainability and sold via an online store helmed by his wife, Lotte. She started with Mason Pearson hairbrushes – “Cim bought one for me in 1989 and I’m still using it,” she says – then added Austrian organic-haircare line Less is More and a handful of other niche beauty brands. Also in the mix is Lotte’s own newly launched label, The Beauty Sleeper – a line of printed silk sleep masks she intends to evolve into a luxury, lavender-laden range of products.
Mahony’s eco kit travels with him, although he’s yet to find an organic hairspray that is quick-drying enough for show styling. “You also can’t lighten hair or cover grey in a way that’s free from harmful chemicals,” he adds. “But as far as possible, the salon is a space to practise what we preach.” A small team of stylists can be booked to sample his brand of “effortless chic”; his own books, however, have been closed to new clients for six years. An exception was in May, when travelling for session work was out of the question. He posted on Instagram that he would be taking appointments. “I thought I might get a few fish in the net… For a month, I was seeing clients back-to-back for 10 hours a day,” he says. “I think lockdown made people question a lot of things – from the big thoughts about life to whether they should get that bob they’ve always dreamed of.”
A word to the wise, however. Mahony warns clients who go for a big change that they will rarely leave the salon happy. “They hate me for two weeks. That’s just the way it is. I’ve had people sitting in the chair crying. But I know that I’m doing something that will suit them. I know they’ll go out into the world and get lots of compliments about their hair. And then they will love it.”
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