Local hairdressers: Marcus Filotrani & Mark McLaughlin

Local hairdressers: Marcus Filotrani & Mark McLaughlin

Local hairdressers Marcus and Mark flash their blades and get reflective with Jo Reynolds.

What are your surnames?

Mark: McLaughlin.
Marcus: Filotrani.

What tempted a pair of Glaswegians to London?

Mark: I came down when I was 17.  I was looking for something different from what Glasgow had to offer so I came down and found the Big Smoke.  And it scared me witless.  I moved away for a year down to Torquay and found it was horrific in the winter so I came back to give it another try.
Marcus: I was born in London in Greenford, Middlesex, but my mum is Glaswegian.  I didn’t meet Mark in Glasgow, I met him in east London.  It’s just random that Mark’s Glaswegian and I have Glaswegian connections.

Mark, what did your family think about you moving so far from home?

Mark: They hated it at first but I think they recognized it was the best thing I could have did at the time.  At the time in Glasgow it was during the late 80s, early 90s and it was a city turning into a smack shack.  And I was surrounded by that.  I could see my friends just disappearing.  That was the reason I left.  The whole reason.  It was scary.  At seventeen.  Looking back at it you think, that was a real bold thing to do at seventeen, seventeen and a half, but it was either that or looking at what was facing me and what was facing me wasn’t very attractive.
Marcus: I was only in Greenford till I was nine.  And then I went to boarding school till I was fifteen.  And then I moved up to Scotland till I was 21.

Why boarding school?

My mother and father divorced so, without trying to sound like selfpity, I don’t think either of them were keen on looking after a nine-year-old at that time, but I don’t hold a grudge.  My sister and my brother went to private school but I was the only one went to boarding school and I found it particularly hardcore.  I hated it.  And I wasn’t very well behaved.  I held on in there.  I didn’t understand the concept of it all.

Do you think that’s why you’re such good mates, because you both survived backgrounds you hated?

Marcus: I think we’re similar.
Mark: I think we’re similar, yeah, but even though there’s nine years between us, there’s two days between our birthdays.

Are you horoscopic?

Mark: Not at all, but there might be something we’re not aware of.  We do have very, very similar views on different things.  We’re both very, very into our music, which will start a bond straight away.  And also there’s mutual respect.  He’s a pretty cool guy.

How did you meet?

Mark: I had a salon in Brick Lane and I was standing outside flyering for the salon and I suppose whatever environment I created, Marcus liked.
Marcus: Yeah, I was walking past and Mark gave me a flyer and it was a really cool place.  It was 2005 and I was a hairdresser by then, but I was working in west London.  So, I took a flyer and said, actually I am a hairdresser believe it or not, and he said, if you want to come and do a bit of work, come and see me.  I thought the place was pretty cool.  It was the top of Brick Lane and the shop was two doors down from the bagel shops.  It was still cool.
Mark: It was.  It was still edgy.  Those were the years before it turned into the beast it is now.  West London hadn’t moved over.
Marcus:  It was still very vibrant.  I was living in Chiswick and it was a very different environment for me.  So I got in touch with Mark and we had a kinda loose interview as I remember, which was cool.
Mark: My style of management.
Marcus: The thing is, my background in hairdressing is high-end salons in the West End.  Trevor Sorbie is where I trained.
Mark: Apart from Sassoon, Trevor’s probably the best hairdresser this country’s produced.
Marcus: Right through the eighties…
Mark: He was dominant.  Before brand was brand.  Marcus came from West End salons, I was coming from a boutique style, still high-end but a different sort of mantra, more sort of intimate, not corporation-based.
Marcus: Sorbie’s was more established whereas Mark’s side was more contemporary and more current so they would have a lot of celebrities that were more current whereas Sorbie’s would have old school celebrities.  The salon I worked for, there was a team of 15 assistants and 25 stylists and four managers and two floors.  It’s a big operation whereas…
Mark: The boutique was a tighter operation.
Marcus: I was at a point where I wanted to work in my own way and I was still finding out what environment I wanted to be in really.  And Mark’s salon was definitely a cool, contemporary, exciting thing to be a part of.  It was a hub and really cool place.  I started doing one day a week on a Sunday, because Brick Lane on a Sunday is really, really busy and it didn’t conflict with my hours in west.  I was completely exhausted but it was incredible how I’d get on at Stamford Brook and get off at Aldgate and the difference was mental.
Mark: Shoreditch was like Brooklyn.  There was a real youth movement coming through or at least a real, artistic side coming through. It was affordable.

Why did a pair of world-weary, streetwise teens choose hairdressing?

Mark: When you’re a young lad and if you want to be surrounded by women, and if you are quite creative, it’s a great trade to get into.
Marcus: I did an acting course after school and I thought I wanted to do that and I tried to get into that world and I didn’t really have the right approach at all.  And then I was working in bars.  This was in Glasgow.  And then one night, I went to a club and I bumped into a bunch of hairdressers and they were really cool.  So the seed was planted.  And then I went to Vidal Sassoon and I was 19 and there was a guy there called Sharz – I’ll always remember him – he was super cool, man.  And I went and got my hair cut there.  I had a model cut by this girl called Sally and she was 16 and he was overseeing the haircut and I was watching what was going on, how he was instructing her, and the meticulous way of how she was working and I also saw how much enjoyment she was getting from it.  I sat there and I thought, I want to do this.  And I tried to apply to Vidal Sassoon but they said I was too old.  At nineteen!
Mark: I was quite lucky because when I was young my mother owned a hairdresser, though she wasn’t a hairdresser herself.

Are you going to bring out your own range of shampoos?

Marcus: I don’t think it’s us.  We’re not going to slag anybody off because that’s not what we do.  But we’re not salesman and if we don’t believe in a product…
Mark: If we were to do something like that we’d have to take off seven months to a year to go and work out what product and the ingredients and, never say never, but I think that’s a bit further ahead than where we are at the moment.
Marcus: Trevor Sorbie, for thirteen years, only had one salon and I think that was a smart move.
Mark: The one thing you always want is credibility.  We don’t sell products because we don’t want to push it on our clients.  If we use a product and we think it’s good we’ll tell them where to get it, but all of a sudden you can go from being a creative to a being a salesman and the two don’t mix.
Marcus:  I think, actually, what we’ve done in terms of our branding is really strong.
Mark: It’s always been very strong.
How long have you been in the area?
Mark: It’ll be four years next April.

Why here?

Mark: One, we grew up a little bit and, two, it was learning off previous mistakes and, I suppose, ego that was one of the biggest mistakes.
Marcus:  Ego is the biggest mistake in business.
Mark: You want a big salon and you want 13 chairs…
Marcus: And you want all the staff and you want this and you want that…  That’s the worst.  For me, it’s quite simple: low overheads; maximize profit.  Great product: low price.  These are all very simple structures.  If you work to them, you’ll have a successful business.  If you don’t work to them, then you’re bringing in your own ego.
Mark: Just to finish it off, when Marcus brought me over here I fell in love with it.  It’s incredible. It’s one of these quiet little pockets that are really, really nice.  I mean, it’s got white picket fences!

So, growing up moved you from the hip streets of east London to the gentrified streets of west London?

Mark: I think it’s about lifestyle.  We wanted to be able to walk our own line.  And this place gave us the opportunity to march to our own drumbeat.
How did you settle on Marcus’s name being first?
Marcus: Actually it was Mark’s mum who came up with the name.  Again, with ego, we didn’t really have any issues with it.  We do absolutely everything in here and I think people respond to it.  They know that we’re the ones who clean the salon, we’re the ones who take the bookings, we’re the ones who do the shampoos, we’re the ones who do the blow-dries, we do absolutely everything.  You go to any other salon and it’s not like that.  We have no ego.  You meet a lot of stylists who say, I’m not shampooing any more.  That’s ego, man.  It’s silly.
Mark: Sweep up the hair.  You’ve just been paid for it.

You work in a goldfish bowl in the middle of the village.  Do you feel as if you have to be on best behaviour?

Marcus: Totally.
Mark: But we mess up with that.
Marcus: There’s been a couple of times when we’ve got a bit loose and we’ve had to check ourselves but in four years that’s not so bad.  I think Mark’s been really good about being part of the community.  I think Mark’s got to be credited with that.  He’s done more of it than I do.  Our lives are a bit different.  In an area like this, everything we do is word of mouth.
Mark: We also know we won’t suit everybody, but if you give us a chance, we might be the people who suit you.  We never slag anyone off.

Does the job train you to be diplomatic?

Marcus: I don’t think we notice it in ourselves, but there is a lot of filtering going on.  I wasn’t like that when I started.  We don’t slag anybody off because it’s as simple as: that’s not cool.  That’s not how we roll, man.  On the other side of it, we’re extremely opinionated about cultural stuff.  Musically, we’re extremely opinionated.  Politically, there are no boundaries in here.  If anyone’s a bit sensitive about music or art or politics or culture, then we’re probably not the best place for you because, it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all open for debate.
Mark: We set our stall out very early.  We want people to be individual.  We want people to be creative.  We don’t want to talk just about hair, hence why we’re not a boring hairdresser.  We’re not a salon that’s full of fashion magazines.  We have interesting books that people can talk about.  We want to engage in stuff like that.  So you’re as likely to walk in here and hear comedy, music or political debate because hairdressing is essentially individual.

Do you want to talk about the vote?

Marcus: No.
Mark: No.

You often play comedy clips.  Who are your comedy heroes?

Mark: That’s a difficult question like, what’s your favourite album, or what’s your favourite film?
Marcus: Recently I put on Micky Flanagan…
Mark: He makes me laugh.  We quote Peter Kay quite a lot.
Marcus: We know (Kay’s DVD) ‘Live At The Bolton (Albert Halls’) word for word.  It’s the law, basically. And then there’s Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin…  But we’re also really into our music.
Do you go through waves, a comedy week followed by a music week?
Mark: We mix it up.
Marcus: Days more than weeks. But there’s so much exciting new music out there.  SoundCloud (online audio) is a wonderful new platform where you can experience new music from all genres.  And we know a lot of people in music.  That’s always been a big thing.  This is a massively creative area and we need to provide an atmosphere that is true so that interesting people come in, enjoy it and come back.  We get lots of wonderful people in here and they’ve all made it and they’re happy to discuss stories and experiences.  It’s fantastic.

How many times do you say hello each day to people who walk past your salon?

Mark: We try to limit to two times per person and then the third time is a nod.

Marcus, congratulations on becoming a father.  What’s your son’s name and have you styled his hair yet?

Marcus: Thank you.
Mark: Vincent Charles Sergio Filotrani.
Marcus: (My fiancée) Laura’s father’s name is Charles and mine is Sergio.  And funnily enough he (Vincent) has loads of hair.  I’ve had to cut it twice and he’s only eight-months old.

It’s a measure of your professional partnership how much Mark’s covering for you.

Marcus:  Totally.  Mark has been amazing.  He said, just do what you’ve got to do and I hope that I can do the same for him one day.
Mark, if you had kids would you recommend hairdressing?
Mark: I’d recommend hairdressing to anyone.
Marcus: Yeah, same.
Mark: I’ve travelled the world doing hairdressing while meeting lots of great people.
Marcus: I would completely endorse that.  It’s youthful, it’s fun, it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very gratifying and I’ve had an absolute smash.

Did you go into hairdressing expecting to be a couple of councillors?

Mark: As we said, that’s not what we talk about.  Obviously we have our moments when either we’re offloading to our clients or they’re offloading to us, but that’s not what the appointment is essentially there for.  At the beginning of the day, at the end of the day they’re here for a service.
Marcus: But it is a codependency.  People have this idea that hairdressers are there just to listen to clients’ problems but fifty percent of the time it’s us talking and clients are incredibly interested in who we are, and that’s very sweet.
Mark: We’re very lucky in an area like this.  Going back to the east London: west London thing, Marcus coined it really well.  East London is where people are dreaming and west London is where people have realised their dreams.

Thank you, Marcus and Mark.  It’s been a real pleasure.