Women who made it themselves
Claudia Fallah arrived in London from Germany with £300, knowing no one, and without a job. Seven years later she’s running her own successful salon with her own natural ingredient skincare range. Her work is all important, but she also recognises the needs to keep a delicate balance, as Pesta Kaffens discovered….
This petite 35 year old looks half her age with her blonde hair and flawless complexion. She looks like Dresden china - but that’s where the resemeblance stops. She’s anything but fragile - she’s ambitious, determined, focused but sweet with it.
Growing up just outside Munich, her family was always focused on health and wellbeing and her independent spirit emerged at 18 months while her German mother worked and her Iranian father was at University. “I loved it, I was with other children and it was a very positive, socialising experience that made me take responsibility early on."
In the beginning
When she finished school at 17, Claudia did a three year hairdressing and beauty therapy apprenticeship at the best hairdressers in town, Jurgen Sommerfeld. “In Germany, you work and study concurrently and not only learn the cosmetic side but also anatomy, physiology and how chemical processing affects the body.
Being a perfectionist, I only wanted to learn from the best person and if they hadn’t taken me on, I wouldn’t have done the course. During her apprenticeship, Claudia taught herself how to do makeup and began working on salon photoshoots, weddings and working with celebrities and royal families as well.
Plus, she did makeup at the local theatre, which she described as ‘a tremendous time’.
A year later, she was offered a position in Munich with another top hairdresser, Rudolf Niesner, who had a salon in Berlin where she was based for a while. However, at 21, she hurt her knee and couldn’t work, so did a nutrition course. While recuperating, Claudia decided to go freelance and worked between Berlin and Munich, doing a combination of makeup and salon treatments. In 1995, after a year working in Paris, she decided to move to London. She’d first visited at 19, when she went to Salon International and liked the way ‘people were so relaxed, outgoing and more approachable than in Germany. It was just easier to communicate and I felt the energy was better, this is the place where I wanted to live and work’.
Arriving in London with £300, she began to make some good contacts and became a mobile therapist, travelling to her appointments by tube.
"I was really into natural products and used a combination of Ahava and German products". However, tube travel proved frustrating. "It’s probably my upbringing, but I like to be on time and was constantly held up so I’d arrive to appointments stressed out."
She decided she had to take a risk and in 1997, took rooms next to her podiatrist in Marylebone. “I started the salon from nothing and lost some of my mobile clients. I advertised in the Yellow Pages and the local newspaper and got walk-through business through the podiatrist and slowly built up a clientele. I can truefully say I’ve kept every single client from that beginning and my first client has become a good friend.”
The perfect products
In 1998, she moved her current premises where she’d been for five years. But she doesn’t want to expand too quickly as she values her clients.
“I’ve been in this business for 19 years, love what I do and am completely dedicated to my work.
Currently, I supply products to skincare clinics in Harley Street, beauty salons, spas and dermatologists in India as well.
Next year I’m planning to promote my products in Germany, Dubai and the States. When she first arrived in London, a UK manufacturer, who wanted her to develop a skin care range, approached Claudia. Working with a scientist, she ‘wanted to create natural skincare’, using the highest quality and pure plant ingredients without heavy chemicals to accelerate the skin’s healing process, with a nice scent and attractive packaging.
"I wanted to start with one product to see how it went and was very impressed with the results. It became my Intensive Repair Cream and sold like hot cakes.”
She helped source the ingredients from Germany, designed the logo, the packaging and wrote pamphlets, only the products were made at the lab. “In fact, England has the strongest rules and regulations for cosmetics and I was told if you get products tested and accepted here, it’s much easier to supply the rest of Europe. I developed each product individually so I could focus and concentrate on each product. I now have 12 products with three more coming out.”
Although she started doing makeup, she now sees herself 'as a skincare therapist, concentrating on healing.’
Claudia does the usual salon treatments including her own registered treatment, Herbapeel, a deep, heal based peel that has no side effects and only takes a day and a half recovery. Claudia has designed it for all skin types - including ageing, blemished and black skins, which are very sensitive. She gives herself a treatment every year to soften lines and make the skin look radiant.
A true independent voice in the beauty industry, Claudia wants to further existing plans for her products. “At this stage I’m still putting a lot of effort into my company and range, and getting feedback from clients, which gives me energy and makes me feel I’m doing the right thing.”
A Q&A session with Claudia
What’s in your handbag?
My mobile, a small umbrella (always), keys, lipgloss, tissues and I’m never without my Jean Paul Gaultier perfume.
Are you a morning or afternoon person?
I’m an evening person but that doesn't mean I am sleepy when I come into the salon.
What do you wear when you mean business?
When I’m working my uniform is a white cheongsam, but when it is hot I wear a t-shirt and a little apron
What do you wear on weekends?
I live in Pineapple tracksuits. The new ones are quite sexy and fitted but really comfortable and they come in lovely baby blue and soft pink colours.
When was the last time you cried?
I can’t remember.
When was the last time you were angry?
Last week. I’m very thorough and pride myself on offering a very good service and I like people working with me to have the same work ethic. So I get annoyed if I have to keep asking for something to be done.
What’s your favourite beauty item?
My Creme Exfoliant. When I’m feeling low it cheers me up as it has a fantastic smell.
What’s your passion?
How do you relax?
If I have a stressful day, I may do Reiki or meditate. I’d like to start yoga as something just for myself. You need balance in life as everything is good in moderation, but sometimes I’m so close to it that I forget. Otherwise a glass of white wine will do as well!
What’s your ideal holiday?
I’d like to visit a country where I can get to know the culture, meet the locals, try their food and travel around. But I wouldn’t want it to be planned so we could enjoy the beach one day and sight seeing the next.