When I was invited into Frances Marshall Hair Salon to road test their Signature Balayage I jumped at the chance to visit Sunderland‘s Most Stylish Salon – it’s a thing – you just have to take a look at their Instagram to know that they’re streets ahead of the competition, and they’re just getting started….
Frances Marshall is the brainchild of Amelia and Marshall Hall, the brother and sister duo used their middle names to create a brand that would incorporate both of their personalities, but also be unique and fresh. The result? Frances Marshall was born. They’re not new kids on the block either, the twosome have been primping and perfecting locks for as long as they can remember with Amelia having been selected to work backstage at London Fashion Week.
Located in West Sunniside, an area of Sunderland which has undergone extensive redevelopment, the salon can be found in an impressive listed building. From the outside it’s grand and imposing, on the inside, slick, urban and modern – the perfect juxtaposition of trends which matches the ethos of Frances Marshall entirely.
“We wanted to put our own stamp on things. We wanted to introduce things that had a modern twist and were perhaps a little bit quirkier.” – Amelia Hall
The first thing you notice when you walk through the huge glass doors, is The Penny Wall. It’s exactly as it sounds, a wall, covered in individual pennies, all painstakingly placed by hand and to awesome effect – it’s become the unofficial Selfie Zone for happy clients. The salon is fresh and vibrant and full of smiling faces and although it’s not something I’ve ever noticed anywhere else, it’s very apparent that staff and clients are happy to be here. The colour scheme is neutral and complimented with metallic touches – its trendy, but timeless. The salon has very clear zones – the waiting area, the retail area, the basins etc. everything looks easy, effortless and very well planned.
I’m greeted by an uber smiley Amelia and introduced to my Stylist, Ian, who takes me through the consultation process and what we’ll be doing to my hair. You all know my hair by now, messy, shaggy, long grown out roots, pretty grungy but now that I’m starting to get the odd silver hair, I thought it was about time to cover up the root regrowth. I tell Ian I like my hair to be pale blonde and very ashy, and he prescribes Frances Marshall’s now Insta-famous Signature Balayage with Olaplex, with skinny highlights across the parting area. As far as consultations go, this one was a dream, Ian stretched, flexed and even played a little bit with my hair to get a feel for what he was working with and told me that by using Olaplaex, the integrity of the hair is actually preserved. The lifting process is slowed down so you’re in the chair for longer, but the lift is controlled and where hair is already damaged (like mine), Olaplex is a no-brainer.
INTERESTING FACT ALERT: Olaplex is Kim Kardashian’s go-to when she wants to switch up her hair colour. When she famously unveiled THAT Draco Malfoy-esque blonde bob at Balmain during the FW15 season in Paris, yep, you guessed it, Olaplex took her from that super dark brown to blonde in one easy step.
Ok, back to the story….
Ian fetches me a cafettiere of freshly ground coffee and biscuits on a tray and mixes up the colour, getting to work straight away. Interestingly, he tells me what he’s doing as he’s doing it, something which I find really puts me at ease. he talks passionately about the salon and his time here and tells me that colouring is his absolute favourite thing to do. He says that he loves creating bespoke colours for clients as it can help to enhance features just as well as makeup can.
In no time at all, I’m cooking, waiting for my bespoke shades to appear, Ian explains that the next step is to wash off the colour at the basin and apply the Olaplex 2, which helps to rebuild the bonds from within the hair shaft. I’m taken to the basin (very comfy) and we go through the process of removing the colour, applying the Olaplaex 2, and then Ian selects a toner which is also applied at the basin. He’s a conscientious Stylist, he brings me my phone and a drink of water without being asked and says “In case you need it” with a cheeky wink. I like this guy. A lot.
I’m then treated to the most awesome head massage I’ve ever had, (seriously, if I didn’t make any sex noises then I deserve a medal), before being taken back over to the section. Ian tells me that he’s going to blow-dry my hair straight because he’ll be straightening up the ends with clippers. He tells me that by using Olaplaex and going for the least destructive method of lifting the colour, we haven’t quite reached the pale blonde stage and we’re on “pause” at Sandy Blonde, he’s confident with around two more sessions, we should be where we’re aiming for.
Bleaching hair is hard work and it can be disastrous, trust me, I know! It’s far better to preserve the hair as much as possible and work in stages, than it is to go for full lift and risk coming home with your hair in a bag (I’ve been there too).
Once it’s dry, Ian shows me the back in the mirror and shows me exactly where he’ll be cutting and why – it’s probably worth saying here that I had a minor freak out on the morning of this appointment and decided not to have my hair cut at all. After spending time in the salon and with Ian, I’m pretty confident that he’s not going to scalp me and so I let him trim my hair, he does it the whole time with someone holding a mirror so I can see. Brownie points right there just for that.
Once we’re done, Ian talks me through the colours in my hair, he tells me that the warmth that’s in it now is a necessary stage of lifting and that we’ll absolutely be able to achieve pale perfection, but keeping the condition of the hair is essential in order for it to reflect light and appear shiny – essentially, it’s the best of both worlds but requires a little commitment from both you and your hairdresser. There’s definitely a lot less breakage than when I’ve had my hair coloured in the past, and it doesn’t feel thin and ‘wiry’ like it sometimes can after bleaching. It’s certainly not just hype.
So, down to business, would I recommend Frances Marshall? Yes. Highly. Its a fresh, young salon in the creative district of Sunderland and they’ve carved a niche for themselves with their quirky styles and modern takes on classic looks. They’ve managed to achieve in a very short space of time what other salons strive for in a lifetime – a signature look that can be recognised from a single photograph (#SignatureBalayage). Seriously Voyeurs, check out their Instagram, it’s a thing of beauty.
If you’re in the North East and looking for a salon to take your look to the next level, or just somewhere that you can feel confident that you’ll be listened to, Frances Marshall should be on your emergency contacts list.
As I get up to leave, Amelia asks where I’m off to next and I tell her I’m off to the gym to train. “Hang on a minute” she says, “I’ll put you some braids in”. How cool is that?!
Cool, quirky and modern. These kids are going places, don’t get left behind.
Frances Marshall is at 40 West Sunniside, Sunderland, SR1 1BU
To book an appointment call 0191 5654080