Part 2 Interview with Nina Butkovich-Budden

Originally written for The Hub Magazine. This is part 2 of my interview with Nina, part one can be found here.

One of London’s busiest hairstylists right now, Nina Butkovich-Budden took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to Jean-Paul about Mark Mitanovski’s antlers,Lady Gaga and veterinarian surgery.

Let’s talk about Nina’s Hair Parlour… how did that come about?

I was always interested in bygone eras, and through overdosing on Marlene Dietrich and Jayne Mansfield films I realized I couldn’t find a hairdresser to recreate the perfect 1930’s or 1950’s hair do. I searched high and low and nothing was available. Working as a period style consultant for the Young Vic Theatre at the time I definitely spotted a gap in the market. Around the same time the first burlesque club night opened in London. My dear friend – and owner of the famous “The Girl Can’t Help It” – Sparkle Moore started it all and following her lead several new clubs started appearing catering to vintage aficionados. At first I started working on my friends, then upcoming performers and as the circle widened more and more people searched after a fabulous vintage do! One of my ultimate inspirations was a guy who taught Vidal Sassoon his trade, hair coiffure impresario Raymond of Mayfair. He owned shops all over London in the 1950’s and I thought why not, it’s a good idea so let me follow in his footsteps!

The first Hair Parlour was set within walls of someone else’s salon in Waterloo, soon after the demand was so huge that I had to find staff and move somewhere bigger and more appropriate. I met Issidora our fabulous make-up artist, and suggested she join me on this venture and upon a friend’s suggestion we approached Alfies’ Antique Market in Marylebone, and they took a chance on us. Our top stylist Leila Mauro moved from Brussels to join us, Mark McCarthy took on the barbering and Sami Knight is our creative force. We have a superb team! We specialize in styles from 16th century until the 1980’s with a splash of avant-garde.

I love the history of our shared craft, particularly retro 1950’s hair, and the art and craft of dressing hair for both men and women. Do you think modern hairstylists are loosing touch with their roots (no pun intended)?

Absolutely! Hairdressing is a multimillion pound industry and it’s all about quantity of clients and quick turnover. I’ve previously worked as a salon manager before and it was 30 minutes per client… needless to say, I hated it! Vintage hair do’s take time to create and herein lies the experience itself… it can’t be rushed and has to be researched if you are to create something truly authentic. I am a rebel and the idea of lots of money and creating a chain is not my ultimate stimulant. I decided long ago to keep myself out of the corporate world so small, exquisite boutique style business is my aim. Quality and individuality over mass marketing and high street!

Nina’s Hair Parlour has Retro hair classes for civilians and professional hairdressers. What made you decide to do this?

Well, I thought there was no fun in having your hair done in a period style and then not knowing how to recreate it at home, so we do one- to-one classes for our clients and show them how to do three different styles. Now, they can look fantastic all the time. We still haven’t started the professional classes, we are pretty small and I am über busy so it’s very hard to organize classes at the moment. The team and I are going to sort that out very soon though!

What do you do in you spare time?

Brainstorm!!! I love what I do and cannot stop ideas pouring in, so I sketch a lot and it drives everyone mad!

In our last correspondence you mentioned you were off to Malaysia, was that for work or fun?

We were presenting Marko’s collection on STYLO (Stylo Fashion Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2010) in Kuala Lumpur and Issidora – my partner in crime – and I had a special appearance on their Hair Couture Show…loads of work but we had fun too.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have loads of shows planned with Marko, preparing for September’s Fashion Weeks and working on the new Stella Artois ads, Mad Men DVD launch and millions of photo shoots and editorials…. busy busy Nina!

And your plans for the future?

To do more shows and hopefully, buy a 1950’s Airstream, convert it in the hair salon and travel around States….like Nina The Queen of the Desert hahaha!



Congratulations to

They have won our 100% natural and organic shampoo package for Denu.

The package includes

Denu Divine Shampoo for coloured hair, 275ml.
Denu Shampoo for men 260ml.
Denu Divine Conditioner 275ml.

Thanks to all those who entered, and stay tuned for the next giveaway.


All The King's Men

Your shop has an excellent name. All the king’s men”, In my mind it conjures up the infamous Alexander the Great, who made his soldiers shave their beards off for the purpose of gaining an advantage in hand-to-hand combat so that his warriors were able to grasp an enemy by the beard, while themselves were safeguarded in this method of fighting. Is there any correlation between this story and your shop? How did you come up with the name of the shop?

Wow! I've never heard that story before but i really like it! I came up with the name when i was at trade school in my apprenticeship. In fact my cousin and I came up with it. He was studying hospitality at the same tech and we had a hairbrained scheme to start a barber shop/cafe. It sounds completely bonkers to me now but back then it seemed like we had come up with the greatest idea ever.

It’s a great looking barbershop, the old movie posters, especially the 1949 movie of the same name. How long have you had the shop, and how long did it take to get all the memorabilia?

The shop opened in 2007. I have been collecting all sorts of bits and bobs forever really. The first thing I got were the chairs, they are vintage Takaras and are incredibly beautiful to me. The lines on them are so classic and so sleek. They remind me of the classic, huge American cars of the 50's. I had them for about a year before the shop opened and in that time i had them in storage. I used to go to the storage unit and visit them regularly, and really built the rest of the shop around them. The posters are all vintage Italian action movies and I have sourced them from all around the world. They are so dramatic and so visually engaging, and so old and creased. I love that old world aesthetic. Then the cut throat razors I've collected from op shops and antique dealers, and from friends who have found them in their shopping expeditions and also a few from clients who have had their grandpas razor floating around and don't really know what else to with them, and I like that they have all ended up together in the cabinets. All the other stuff has just turned up over time.

My research tells me you worked at Dr Follicles for a time. Was it hard to start your own shop? And what sparked the idea of going starting your own?

I worked at Dr Follicles for a long time, and it was a great place to work and I made some very good friends there. But my idea was always to open my own shop and that really started back in trade school. In the time between starting my career and opening my own shop, I had been involved on some level in a few different shops from early on in their operation, so when the time came to open my own, I'd seen first hand and learnt from watching what other people were doing in starting up their shops. Some were more successful than others and I think I sort of watched and listened as much as I could to what sorts of things worked and what didn't work. So when the time came to open my own shop, I had a really firm idea of how i wanted my shop to operate.

Where have you worked previously?

I started my apprenticeship in Canberra at Cataldo's in 1995. I did two years there, sweeping, shampooing, coffee making, colors and perms. Lots of perms. Then I finished my apprenticeship at a salon called Globe. It's no longer there. It was a crazy little shop with a great 50's kitsch, John Waters, Vegas, lounge bar sort of vibe to it. It even had a one-arm bandit poker machine in it. It was really different to all the other shops in Canberra at the time, and we had a lot of fun. It was like one big party for a few years. All the staff were really fun and we were like a gang. Then that closed up and my friend Mark Bayre (principal director and owner of Mest) bought it and he's still there and going great guns!

Then I moved to Melbourne in 2000 and started to move towards barbershops. My first job here was at Wax in the city. It was a great little shop. I worked there for a couple of years and then to Dr Follicles in Richmond and then to their Fitzroy shop. And then opened All The Kings Men.

How long have you been doing hair and when did you have your first hair “epiphany”?

Started in 1995. I guess the most important epiphany I had is that cutting men’s hair is where i wanted to end up. That was very early on in the piece.

For readers who want to be a men’s hairdresser…how did you become a barber, did you at any point in your career do women’s hair?

I did women's hair for a while, but pretty much two thirds of my career has been men’s hair. When i worked in salons I saw that a lot of the time they were catering predominantly to women and when most men came in they were obviously uncomfortable there. These were the guys that seemed to like me cutting their hair and it just sort of clicked there. And this is at a time when men really, REALLY didn't get into the grooming thing that much. Now guys are so much more savvy about using products, colors and even straighteners, but at that point guys just seemed to get haircuts to get the hair out of their eyes. But that shift towards men’s grooming is really why you see resurgence in barbershops now. Guys now not only want to have adventurous haircuts, they EXPECT it. It's great really. So now not only is there a market for cutting just men’s hair, it’s a really progressive and dynamic market, which is so awesome. It really has changed so much in that time, it's amazing.

Top five favourite tools?

1- cut throat razor! Easily my favorite!! It's such a wonderfully theatrical tool. And it’s a great symbol of barbers and barbershops. Like Sweeney Todd or that great scene in 'The Untouchables' where Al Capone is getting a shave and the barber nicks him. It's just such a great way of finishing a cut, tidying up the neck with a cutthroat. It just completes the whole haircut experience. And it's such a cool looking tool as well.

2- scissors. Obviously. I use 7'', great for scissor over comb.

3- clippers. We do LOTS of clipper work and i mostly use the good old classic Wahl Super Tapers, although i used to own a fantastic set of Oster rotary clippers, which I often remember fondly. They got broken when a client jumped out of my chair and hooked the cord around his foot and they fell onto the ground and smashed. That was a sad day.

4- Passion Razor. I have had this for years and i love it. Great for longer shaggy, rock'n'roll stuff. Such a simple tool, but I cant imagine not having it. And it looks cool too.

5- ipod. Music is so important in getting the vibe in the shop right. Its important to have some sweet soul tracks to start the day, but also to have some proper rock and roll to drive it home at the end of the day. Sounds silly, but I couldn't get through the day without the right music.

I really love the history of barbering and hairdressing, for example back in ye olde days your barber was your dentist and your surgeon. Another example is the red and white stripe barber pole to signify bloodletting. Do you feel any connection to that heritage?

I love the history of hairdressing, and especially barbering. The blood letting and tooth stopping and leeches and all that is so interesting. It's so kind of macabre and creepy to think that people just popped into the local barbers to get a boil lanced and a quick tidy up. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to do it.

What do you feel are the problems facing the industry right now?

The public opinion thing has ALWAYS annoyed me. I sometimes think people don't really understand what it is we do. It’s such a cliché, but at the end of the day, what we do is make people feel good. We make people feel confident, we listen to people and we form these unique friendships with our clients. That is very important. It's so much more than people like to make out it is.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm in the process of looking to expand the business into a second location. It's pretty exciting actually. I have the greatest staff ever at the shop and I have absolute faith in them looking after it so I can go and start all over again in another shop. From there, I'd really like to one day open a really big, really sleek shop. Still keeping the same philosophy of what we do now, but on a grander scale. And then from there, maybe a girls version, maybe.

All The King's Men

16 Errol Street, Nth Melbourne.