At the cutting-edge of her career for the past 26 years, Alison Pilichos has witnessed the life-changing power of hair.
From supporting recovering cancer patients with hair loss to helping boost people’s confidence, Alison, the salon manager at Ishoka Hairdressing and Beauty, has quite literally been through thick and thin with her clients.
No matter what is going on in people’s worlds, Alison has been steadfast with her scissors, offering people not just a haircut, but 45 minutes of escape before watching as they leave the salon with a spring in their step and a newfound confidence.
“Getting your hair done makes a huge difference,” said Alison.
“Whatever is going on in their world, they can almost face it better when their hair is done.
“They say your hair is the crown you wear every day and it can also change your mood and confidence.
“I have worked with some of my clients for 20 years now so you have lived with your clients through all their experiences, the highs and lows.”
Way of life
Seeing the difference that hair can make to people’s lives is the reason why hairdressing is a way of life for Alison.
“I absolutely love my job, I live it and speak it all the time,” said Alison.
“You’ve got to be really passionate about it and it’s a fantastic industry; I don’t think you’ll ever meet a hairdresser who is not happy in their job.”
Power of hair
Devoted to each and every one of her clients, Alison sees at first hand the positive impact hairdressing can make, especially for those who are recovering from cancer.
“I have a couple of clients that come to me for extensions while their hair is growing back after having treatment,” said Alison.
“To be able to give them the gift of hair is absolutely phenomenal.
“A lot of the time with hair extensions, it’s not about giving people full length, it’s about giving them volume.
“Sometimes people have great hair at the back but the sides need filled, so you can fill areas and you can add colour to their hair using hair extensions.
“With the recovering cancer patients, hair extensions are a way to fill the gaps until their own hair grows back.
“It’s always about the health of the hair until their hair comes back.”
Founded 30 years ago by partners Malcolm MacNeil, Philip Bell and Kathryn Longmuir, the award-winning salon in Albyn Terrace has proved to be a cut above when it comes to hair and beauty.
Ever since starting at Ishoka as an enthusiastic 15-year-old Saturday assistant, Alison has put her heart and soul into hairdressing, quickly impressing Philip, one of the salon partners.
“When I first started, I decided early on that I was going to be the busiest stylist that I possibly could be,” said Alison.
“Even before I qualified, I worked alongside Philip on his photoshoots for the British Hairdressing Awards and I decided that I was somehow going to qualify for the British Hairdressing Awards by hook or by crook.”
Drive and determination
Alison quickly fulfilled her ambition and more after being shortlisted as British Newcomer of the Year at the British Hairdressing Awards in 2001.
Countless awards later, Alison still has the same drive for hairdressing today.
“What makes Ishoka so special is the demand for perfection and the highest standards which has never wavered,” said Alison.
“My other passion, and one of the reasons that I continue to be here, is that we are an accredited centre so we train our own staff.
“There’s not a lot of salons left that actually do their own in-house training.”
From perms and highlights to bobs and lobs, there’s no hairstyle that Alison can’t turn her hand to.
“I’m so grateful for the fact that when I trained there wasn’t GHD straighteners, tongs or wands.
“What that gave me was the best of the basics and we still train to this day like that because you never know when the trend is going to change.
“That is the biggest bit of advice I would give anyone coming into hairdressing, learn all your basics to the highest of standards.”
Alison also says lockdown has inspired some new hair trends.
“I think with lockdown, people realised that they don’t actually appreciate their own hair colour so they’re now asking for their own natural root colour to create a root shadow, concentrating the colour pieces more through the mid-length and ends.
“Another trend that is really popular is face framing with colour, so having it lighter around the face.”
As a strong advocate for healthy hair, Alison is delighted to see people embracing their natural hair.
“It’s all about the beauty of working with the natural movement of the hair so it’s great that we’ve come away from the completely straight hair,” said Alison.
“You do still have your clients who like it completely straight but the trend now for sure is movement in the hair.”
Today, one of her biggest passions is training up the next generation of hairdressers.
“I only had the opportunities I had because Philip took me under his wing and trained me,” said Alison.
“So now I feel that it’s my turn to give it back.
“We can only keep the industry going at the highest level if we have people coming behind us.”
Working alongside a great team of partners, stylists, assistants, trainees and front of house staff, Alison says there’s nowhere else she’d rather be.
“I’m still very much in the game,” said Alison.
“I’m constantly investing in my training and striving for the next big thing.”
For more information go to www.ishokahairandbeauty.com