“I teamed up a lot of different people, a production designer helped me flourish along with architects and other friends. I wanted it to feel like an art studio rather than a hairdressers.”
Tracy Cahoon has been styling hair for over 25 years. 16 months ago, she opened Cahoonas in Peckham Levels, a Hair Hub with a twist.
What were you doing before you opened Cahoonas?
My background is in fashion, music and short films. I’ve worked with celebrities, musicians, artists, fashion directors, photographers like David Bailey, Corinne Day, fashion shows for the likes of Pringle, J.W. Anderson, music videos for Metronomy and Amy Winehouse. I progressed quickly through my 20s and I had a lot of ambition. I like to move on fast to the next thing but it depends on circumstances of life as well. I became a mother so I kind of released myself from my agency to see what would come naturally.
When I heard about Peckham Levels I came to the first ever meeting, pitched my idea and that was it, the ball was rolling, I went to all community meetings and made sure that I knew how people felt about regeneration and gentrification. Peckham is on the regeneration side because it’s all about locals working together.
I had an idea and I wanted everything to stop me because I’ve got creative ideas and I selfishly didn’t want to compromise. I’d already done a pop-up and I knew what I wanted to do. I teamed up a lot of different people, a production designer helped me flourish along with architects and other friends. I wanted it to feel like an art studio rather than a hairdressers.
What brought you to hairdressing in the first place?
My mum’s a hairdresser! I helped her out, I used to stand on a chair in the kitchen and shampoo clients for her before she had her first salon. The fabric on the chairs here were designed by my cousin. I told her I wanted to bring the colours and vibrancy of Peckham into the fabric. So, it’s about history, creativity and family.
Do you have advice for someone looking to start their own business or salon?
Just do it and get on with it because that’s the only way you can find out about business. But you also need to have an idea about your style, your approach, your ethos and your manifesto. Because there’s a lot of good people out there so you need to know what you want from it.
Can you tell us any interesting facts about hairdressing?
Hairdressing is a bit like psychiatry. When someone’s sitting in front of you and they’re in your hands, you’re consoling their look but they also tell you about themselves. You’re almost like a cranial therapist as well because you’re working with someone’s head. Here at Cahoona’s, we like to take our time but we have a laugh as well. The view, the light, the experience of coming here, it all goes hand-in-hand with each other.
Why is Peckham the right place for you?
Peckham is a place for artists and it’s my home from home. I’m from Portstewart in Northern Ireland, my mum has a salon there and everybody knows us in the community. So for me, community is really important. London particularly has always set trends for hair. I came to London in the 90s and grunge was in which I loved, I had pink hair. During recessions, people can’t afford to buy new clothes or shoes, but they will get a haircut.
What are your plans for the future of Cahoonas?
I want the business to have longevity. We’re growing slowly but surely because we’re relying on word of mouth. I am the businesswoman, the manager, the finance person, the visionary eye and that vision goes beyond what’s happening today. But I’m also part of a team, we’re a charismatic tribe. I’d like the studio to be used for creative shoots and other brands. I want it to be a creative base for hairdressing and potentially beauty and fashion. I’d like it to be different.
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Credit: Ash Chalk (interview & photography)