Sunday 15 September 2019

Hairdressing pair keep family firm a cut above rest

Veteran hairstylist David Marshall is thrilled that his 21-year-old daughter Laura has injected some youthful vigour into his Fade Street salon

David Marshall and his daughter Laura at their Dublin salon. Photo: Steve Humphreys
David Marshall and his daughter Laura at their Dublin salon. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Andrea Smith

She may be only 21, but Laura Marshall has already brought about change in her dad David's salon. While he is hugely talented, slightly eccentric and a real character, you can see that the 67-year-old tour de force is putty in his lovely daughter's hands.

"Laura has changed David's way of thinking, which is not easy," remarks his wife Beverley, while passing through the Fade Street salon. They met in the Hairy Lemon 25 years ago, and like Laura, Beverley is very much involved in the business side of the salon. She and David also have a 16-year-old son, David, who is on course to be a professional golfer and already plays for Leinster.

"Having Laura here brings a lot more meaning to the business for me, and gives me great comfort," says David. "Realistically, I have four or five years left doing this, and it's a lovely thought that there's someone there to carry the torch. Laura is very caring and creative, and she has a great business head and ideas and a strong artistic flair."

While not yet a trained hairdresser, Laura completed a year of business studies and joined the family firm two years ago. It was very much her choice, and she's a very smart, articulate and mature young woman who is wise enough to know that she doesn't know it all yet. She looks after reception and manages the day-to-day running of the salon, and plans to go off to London and New York in 2019 to train for a few years. This echoes her dad's path, as when he was 18, David went to London to train with Vidal Sassoon.

Born in Mohill, Leitrim, David's family moved to Barna in Galway when he was seven. The youngest of five, he attempted to join his dad George's grocery business after school but found it "heavy duty" work. "My mother Kathleen used to say, 'What are we going to do with David?'" he says. "Then one day I read an article in a magazine about Vidal Sassoon, and he was cutting Mia Farrow's hair for Rosemary's Baby and was surrounded by beautiful girls and beautiful people. I thought I'd like to do that."

After a British hairdresser advised him to train with Sassoon, David managed to get an interview, and was seduced by the energy in the London salon. Much to his family's surprise, he embarked on his training in the Sloane Street salon in 1968, aged 17. While he wasn't impressed initially with cleaning the toilets, he fell in love with hairdressing and finished his training in 18 months. By 21, he was managing the salon and is still fizzing with passion for the business nearly 50 years later.

David returned to open his Fade Street salon in Dublin in November 1974. This fulfilled a promise he made to his mum that he would ultimately return home. He wanted to specialise in haircutting and although it took a while for the 'blow dry and set' crowd to understand what the salon was about, it has flourished and remained at the cutting edge of hairdressing for over four decades.

There have been challenges too, including the closure of the Dawson Street branch during the recession, and David becoming ill with rheumatoid arthritis in 2006. He didn't think he'd work or walk again, but thankfully, his doctor, Professor Doug Veale, gives him a slow release jab once a fortnight, which keeps him as right as rain.

He is also not focusing on his training school as much at present as accommodation for the students has proved difficult. The biggest sadness of all was his son Daniel dying in 2014 of acute heroin toxicity aged 25. David was previously married to Jackie Rafter and they had two children. Kate (32) is a retail buyer in London and is very much part of the family. "There are no words to describe losing Daniel," says David. "He was such a lovely boy and what happened is just devastating."

While David and Beverley live in Newbridge with their son, Laura lives in Ranelagh with two pals. She has a passion for colour, and says that as her dad has such a reputation for excellence in cutting, she would prefer to avoid a direct comparison. "When I watch Dad cutting hair, there's something magical about it," she says. "He's fantastic with clients and staff and has an amazing presence. I love the whole thing about him, because he creates living art and has a pretty cool vibe. He's a complete perfectionist, and while it's his best quality, it can also drive me up the wall.."

Laura has given the business a shot of youthful energy and innovation, including recommending adjustments to the business model. One change she recently engineered is making the service more affordable, where previously the price list was more towards the higher end.

"Her thinking is that you make the main course - the haircut - affordable," says David, "and if the client wants extras like colour or conditioning treatments, that's up to them.

I went from €145 for a haircut down to €95, so we took €50 off to celebrate my 50 years as a hairdresser. It has changed the whole vibe to a younger, busier one and I embrace change, especially when it's positive."

Laura adores working with her dad, who is more relaxed and chilled at home and is her chief confidant.

"I love my mum and we're very close, but I would nearly always go to my dad first with problems and issues around boys and break-ups," she says. "My dad is my world and I feel so blessed because I have a beautiful family."

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