Saturday, 28 January 2012

Vintage Beauty Spa: La Belle Jolie

Paint 'em red, jungle red..
There have been a raft of cottage industries, little businesses and concerns that have opened up on the back of a so-called vintage boom. A few are excellent, many are so so and and not a few are rubbish. In any case we now seem to be over served in some quarters, we need no more fascinators, little patchwork brooches or cupcakes. An area in which this is not the case is in hairstyling and beauty where we have to scrabble around to find good hairdressers.  A fair few can style hair for a night out or apply make-up, but far fewer can actually colour and cut hair. Most of us can manage to style hair (or sort of in my case) out of necessity not having the time or the lucre to pay someone to do it for us but only the brave would cut their hair. The rarity of retro friendly hairstylists boils down to the need for real skills, practice and commitment, it is not enough to be a bit crafty, unlike most retro inclined businesses. As for vintage beauty, it has very much become a self-help area, with men and women sharing tips and harassing their elderly relatives for advice.  But beauticians, rather like good hairdressers need good qualifications and training. They also need an understanding of science, anatomy and hygiene systems. I'm afraid a couple of NVQ's don't cut it. Three years of college does. A cowboy salon can, quite literally, harm you. Not surprising then that rather like hairdressers, vintage inspired beauty therapists have been hard to find.

Fortunately though an actual beauty spa with a vintage inspired ethos and theme has just opened in Anerley, right around the corner from Crystal Palace Station (mainline and overground) and very close to the vintage hub that is the Palace these days. It is called La Belle Jolie.

Le Belle Jolie reception.

The proprietor is Ruby Rose who is fully trained and accredited masseuse, beautician, make up artist and hair dresser (although the salon will only offer hair styling for now). She has years of experience in the field. All well and good, London is heaving with beauty salons, so what?

The difference as you walk in is immediate, decorated in soft minky tones using wall paper with Swarovski crystals you are greeted by a burst of Cole Porter from speakers disguised as old wireless sets. The dressing table is Deco, vintage pin boxes and a mini-museum of an antique hair styling apparatus and cosmetics decorate the shelves.  The tendency (also delightful) with retro hair salons has been to adopt a candy coloured late forties - fifties ethos. Ruby has gone more for a 20s/30s age of glamour feel helped by the fact that her shop is in a victorian building. If you were the kind of girl who liked fiddling with her gran's pots, potions and curlers you'll love it. 

Treatment room.

Treatment room.

The treatment room in the back whilst still retro has the feel of a luxe boutique hotel, flickering nightlights and dusky plum walls create a very relaxing space. I am already imagining an aromatherapy massage, with a carefully selected oil, perhaps something redolent of a hot Hollywood evening and Ella Fitzgerald singing gently in the background.  

Reception area.

Deco dressing table.

Bits and pieces.

Ruby is adamant, and I think she is correct, that her aim is to provide high quality, personalised treatment to any customers, whether they are involved in the retro world or not. There is nothing in the place that would intimidate or deter your average South London lady. However from the point of view of someone like me the appeal is largely the fact that I can use the words pincurl, half-moon manicure, Harlow, victory roll, marcel wave, betty bangs and vintage scent without having to embark on a 20 minute explanation. Also I know I am not going to be assaulted by Rihanna warbling in the back ground or eye grinding lighting. I took the pictures with my mobile phone and they don't do the place justice but they give you an idea. I'll admit that Ruby is a friend of mine, and I suspect quite a few people reading this also know her as she has been on the scene, as far as there is one for years. This is therefore not a bandwagon jumping exercise but the fulfilment of a long cherished dream.

Ruby kindly turned me into a ginger Betty Draper.
Future plans include the opening of a further treatment room downstairs and a workshop area so Ruby can teach groups. The back garden/terrace will be turned into a hot tub space. She will also be launching a range of skincare, some of which employ vintage elements. The scented deodorant that comes with it's own little powder puff, the paraffin/petrol free creams that kept our granny's skin so clear, along with modern ingredients.  Ruby is hoping to hold workshops teaching people how to make their own skincare using ingredients from their store cupboard and elsewhere. Not sure I could do that, I don't think soy sauce, taco chips and wine gums would get me far! I must admit there is something very anglo saxon about me so I have never had a facial in my life. However I believe that a little pampering goes a long way. The problem is I don't like salons, the type I would like are often out of my price range and I cannot relax in a room full wipe clean formica and a photographs of adolescents smiling sweetly at me from the walls. Photographs of pin curled starlets, 20's jazz and glasses of champagne I can cope with masochist that I am!

The stylish lady herself.
La Belle Jolie is open Weds - Sunday, with late nights on Weds and Thurs. Ruby is keen to meet any vintage ladies or gents on the loose in the area and their non-vintage chums. So if you are around pop in, she has lots of introductory offers, and tea. To find it. leave Crystal Palace Station, turn left when you get to the main road and it is about 3 mins walk.

She can be contacted here:
Tel: 020 7018 1209

Wed - Thu:11:00-21:00
Sat - Sun:10:00-18:00


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