The Beauty Queen of Belgravia : Luxuria Lifestyle Sits Down with one of the Industry’s Leading Entrepreneurs
July 3, 2019
Neville Hair & Beauty’s Elena Lavagni, is a true entrepreneur and visionary –and one of London’s most in demand beauty gurus. Here, this inspiring woman, whose name is synonymous with style, tells Luxuria Lifestyle how she keeps her eye on the next big thing.
Q: As director and owner of Neville Hair & Beauty you have been incredibly successful – what sets you apart from your peers?
A: Listening to our clients has always been at the base of our business, hence, the reason we now offer such a variety of treatments. As a business we need to give our client what he or she needs, and we do not expect him or her to fit in with our business. Our clients are cash rich but time poor, and we have to respect that. This is the reason why we created the one-stop-shop so many years ago. For example in 1990 we were the first salon to offer a £20 blow dry – long before of any blow dry bars. Back then I wanted to give my client what she did not know she needed: affordable beauty, because for me beauty is a necessity and not a luxury. And now everyone is waking up to this.
Q: What are you most proud of?
Next year will be my 20th anniversary with Neville Hair and Beauty. In 20 years we have grown our initial turnover by 18 times, we bought the building we operate from, we have grown the team from seven hairdressers and three juniors to 85 team members, we have created a consistent presence during major fashion weeks around the world, including Paris, London, New York, South Korea, China and Vietnam. We’ve also expanded – we launched a second London salon at the Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, with two further international salons in Mykonos and St Barth.
Q: How did you end up in this business?
I was born and raised in a small Italian town, and from a young age I was eager to travel and discover the world. In my early twenties I travelled to London, where I gained a degree in psychology, which I now put to use daily in my business life.
In 1998, while working for a hair salon as a receptionist I created a product business that earned the salon I was working for £12,000 a week. I did this by creating a white label consignment business, sourcing a heat tool (straightening irons) from Italy for £11 a unit and sold it on for £85. This was the beginning of the most famous hair tool of the late nineties. It was here that I knew I could do so much more than be a receptionist and thrived to create and expand a beauty emporium.
My work at Neville began in 2000 managing the business and six hairdressers for its successful owner. In the first year I quadrupled the takings. With a vision to change and expand the business, I worked tirelessly over the next 18 years, I built a team of more than eighty-five people including hairdressers, make-up artists and beauty therapists as well as a marketing and PR department, transforming the hair salon into a one-stop beauty destination.
Q: You are always excelled at spotted trends. So what’s next in the industry?
A: We need transparency in beauty treatments, we need to keep our existing clients happy and we need to give them what they don’t really know they want yet. Right now that’s deluxe treatments at an affordable price. Everyone is time poor and looking for a one-stop shop – where hair and beauty go hand to hand. (This is something we have been doing at Neville for a very long time now.)
A facial price in centre of London is around £150 to £600. As we know, our skin is our biggest organ, and do we really think that a facial at £400 every 6 to 8 weeks is really going to yield ideal results? No, it’s just not often enough.
And that’s when I came up with our new venture: The Facial Bar. The Facial Bar is the blow dry bar of facials. These are medically led facials performed in 30 minutes. As we’e always been very respectful of our clients’ time this is a treatment that is created to fill the gap the clients have while they are waiting for their hair colour to develop. We have a selection of perfectly effective 30 minutes facials that can be performed sitting on a chair. One of the most appealing part for our clients is that the facials cost a quarter of the price charged by professionals in the area.
Also at the moment, in hairdressing, the bigger brands are desperately trying to engage and maintain predominance in our industry, but I believe that the smaller brands (the ones that are more agile and able to keep on with the constant change our society demands) are gaining momentum, the puppeteers are not in charge of the puppets anymore, at least not all of them..
Brand DNA is taking over from celebrities because celebrity endorsement does not carry the weight it once did with consumers anymore. Magazines are biased to their advertisers and the public know this. People want to hear an opinion or advice from a friend, colleague or family member not from a costly TV ad or a double spread ad in a glossy magazine.
Q: How important is social media in the business of beauty?
Social Media has taken over from the traditional means of communication, our way forward doesn’t lie in how we evolve in this climate, but how we jump ahead of our competitors – we need to jump ahead in order to foresee and solve the problems that our clients will have in the future and give them solutions.
Knowing your niche market has become predominant in your success. Social media has not merely created its own community and language but it also communicates in its own world directly to consumers, giving them the ability to give your brand, marketing and exposure while communicating with each other. If your brand is real to them and they feel they are part of you, they will want to create it with you, they will want to feel part of the creation process.
Q: Retail outlets have seen major shifts in the past decade -with former shops that sold clothes now evolving into major lifestyle destinations. What would you like to see in the future in terms of a hair and beauty destination?
A: Neville has always been a lifestyle salon as it is the only way we see hair and beauty. What we do is such a big part of a woman’s life that we have alway tried to integrate it into our client’s life. During the year we host a variety of pop up shops into our premises, from high end jewellery to luxury homewear, accessories and leather goods even luxury sportswear, to mention just a few. Lifestyle shops have been around for a long time in Europe. We used to have Collette in Paris, Ted in Rome, 10 Corso Como in Milan etc – as I am Italian, my heritage always makes me see my business into a global way. I know keenly how connected we all are to each other – this is one of the many reasons why I am driven to always give our clients the best of the best.
Written by Ashley Pearson for Luxuria Lifestyle International