A cut above

If you’re a regular shopper at Royal Victoria Place then you’ll have spotted the impressive new Belgravia hair and beauty salon located on the upper floor. Eileen Leahy meets its owner Vesna Mclean to discover why her business is head and shoulders above the rest…


For someone who started working in their trade at the tender age of just 16, Vesna Mclean has done exceptionally well.

Originally hailing from the West Midlands, Vesna is not just a talented hairdresser, but also a prolific business entrepreneur, having established her own salon, as well as a premium line of hair and beauty products – the latest of which she is launching this month. But more on that later…

When we meet for coffee at her Belgravia salon in the Royal Victoria Place, which opened last October, Vesna also tells me she has previously had a successful career in fashion design and also runs a small fine art business selling her paintings.

“I think you’ve always got to think outside the box,” she says as we settle down with a coffee brought to us by her daughter Taya who is now working for Vesna.

“I believe anything that’s different works. If I’m doing the same as every other hairdresser in town then why would you come to me? My goal, right from when I was a trainee was to do things a little differently.”

Vesna tells me she trained under the influential Rizzo Group in Birmingham over thirty years ago and learnt so much from her time there.

“They really were the crème de la crème. I remember they were the first group of hairdressers to dress all their team in black. They were pioneers and brought hairdressing to a new professional level and I really liked that.”

After working her way up the ranks to that of a senior stylist Vesna then took on additional roles elsewhere before opening her own salons around the West Midlands, enjoying a successful career while bringing up her two children.

When she, her husband and family relocated to Tunbridge Wells three years ago Vesna took her time to source the right space for her first salon in the South East.

“We came across this retail space and I knew it was a risk as it was just so big but ultimately I knew it could work. We gutted the whole place and worked really hard to make it look and feel as luxurious, and more importantly, as welcoming as possible and I think we’ve achieved that.”

With its smart grey leather chairs, floor-to-ceiling illuminated mirrors, warm paint palette and flattering lighting it certainly achieves both those goals. The cute cocktail and coffee station tucked at the back of the salon, where clients can help themselves to a drink, cappuccino and some tasty treats, adds to the high-end feel too – as do the shelves of premium hair products which include Olaplex, WOW, K18 and Redken and also Belgravia’s signature hair and skincare lines which Vesna is responsible for creating.

“That’s something you don’t see too often – independent hairdressers creating their own brand. But like I said, I like to do things differently.”

These include the specialist BV8 Silk Flow non-sulphate shampoo and conditioner, hair wax and a glaze spray all of which complement Vesna’s latest patented product: BV8 Hair Extensions which are made from the finest quality real hair and applied in just eight seconds thanks to a clever piece of ground-breaking technology.

“We’ve named it the BV8 Bullion as it resembles a bar of gold,” smiles Vesna before showing me how the clever laser gadget affixes hair extensions swiftly and effectively – and yes, it really is all done in eight seconds as I filmed Vesna doing it.

“We’ve always offered state-of the-art extensions and hair tapes but I’ve been working on this idea for some time now,” she explains, adding that the eight-second application means doing a whole head of real hair extensions will now take around 40 minutes instead of several hours.

“Nowhere else in the UK has this, but after months and months of hard work we are now able to trailblaze the revolutionary BV8 Bullion process here in Tunbridge Wells!”

Vesna adds that she will soon be launching a BV8 website where other salons can buy the products or apply for training. Vesna reveals she eventually wants to set up an academy where her staff can offer expert guidance.

Talking of her team, she says they are all ‘amazing’ and offer clients so many added extras courtesy of their different skillset and experience.

“My colourist Kseniia for example can create all sorts of magic thanks to her knowledge and technique. What she performs here for clients you won’t get anywhere else. She is a colour genius!”

In addition to the hair side of the business, Vesna offers facials and other aesthetic procedures as well as HD eyebrows by beautician Ina.

“We are also hoping to launch a Botox offering by an aesthetician who is also a trained paramedic and offers treatments with no downtime. I’m currently recruiting for a nail technician too, as we have assigned a corner of Belgravia for doing all sorts of gels and acrylics. Belgravia is also the only stockist in Kent that sells French premium skincare brand Thalion.”

Throughout our chat the salon has been buzzing – and not just with the sound of hairdryers. Given the amount of people having their tresses treated this is clearly becoming a popular place in town. Why does Vesna think that is?

“I think because we offer walk in appointments – which most hairdressers don’t anymore – that definitely helps the footfall. Also, we do regular promotions such as 50% off colour and 20% off hair extensions. That always catapults the business.”

As I get ready to leave, after experiencing a superb new colour courtesy of Kseniia and a stylish new bob cut thanks to Vesna, she tells me that she regularly receives positive feedback from her customers and that to her is priceless.

“I’ve had people phone me up to say how lovely or friendly a member of staff was to them while other clients say it feels so warm and welcoming when they walk in here. It really is music to my ears. It’s just those little things that make such a big difference when you’re running your own business.”

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