A Conversation with Paul Rabbit

It takes a lot to run a successful hair salon, let alone one where your staff becomes a close knit family. Paul Rabbit has done it. This May we are celebrating Fringe Hair being around for 15 years, and a big part of it’s success is due to Paul. So we wanted to put together an interview with Paul from his stylist’s point of view, to highlight the things about him that we all love and admire. So here it is, a conversation with Paul from his stylists.

Where were you born? What brought you over to Canada?

“Okay, well, I was born in the North of England. I started out as a chemist. I got into hairdressing when I was about 21 and, uh, after about 6 years I guess it was, I was trained. I had worked at Vidal Sassoons for about a year or a year and a half and I had worked for different people in England and needed a big change in my life; my personal life as well as everything else. It was really on a whim that I applied for a job in Canada, it was on my lunch hour. I saw it advertised in a trade magazine, applied, and within 2 months I was in Canada. It was that quick, it just went like wildfire! It was easy back then because if you had a job you ultimately got your immigration, there were no problems there. So it was an adventure that brought me to Canada and I thought I would stay about a year. People would tell me I was so brave but I thought, really, I can get on a plane and come back anytime I want. But anyways, I loved it from the minute I got here and stayed and yeah, that was it.”

So how many years now have you been doing hair, total?

“Well, let’s see… 1965 I did my first haircut at OSA, because that’s when I started hair school. So, yeah whats that 50 odd years, 54 years.”

You said that you were a Chemist when you started doing hair, what was it that drew you into the hair industry?

“Well it was more what drew me away from Chemistry, I would have taken anything. It wasn’t that I hated my job, I had a really great job as a chemist, as an industrial metallurgist. I was doing the degree, I had been to boarding school, I had had a lot of discipline in my life, you know? A lot of rules and things like that. It was the 60’s, they were just starting and I just simply wanted to grow my hair and do something different. I had been in institutions all my life it seems.”

So what would you say still drives you and motivates you to continue doing hair after all these years?

“After all these years? Well, this age it’s certainly not new fashion or anything like that. It’s evolved into wonderful relationships that I have with these clients that I have been doing for 30 or 40 years. So it’s not, you know, what drove me at the beginning, but it’s a job that has a really nice social element to it. I love that about it, because I am not a huge social person [outside of work].”

Would you get bored if you stopped?

“Yeah. Because I would miss that element about it.” [chuckles] “I’m getting to be an older man and enjoying things like gardening and such but I wouldn’t want to do that 24/7. I love the 4 days I come into the shop and work.”

Is there a hairstyle that you wish would make a comeback?

“Well they have kind of done that. My favorite always has been a bob. I just like bobs. They certainly have come back in the last few years in all different shapes and forms. When styles do come back they’re always different and if you don’t recognize that, then you’re not doing it right. So, yeah, I am actually very happy with where hairdressing has been in the last few years, it’s right back to all the techniques that I used. I mean it’s not the same, it’s totally different, but it’s the same [principles]. So I’m quite happy with it.”

What about being a salon owner, what do you enjoy about that?

“I like the freedom it gives me. I don’t like really being a boss. But at the same time I don’t like having a boss particularly. I think it all stems back to boarding school and the discipline. Hairdressing attracted me in all sorts of ways but the thought of being self employed was really important to me.”

So as a salon, we are often complimented on our atmosphere and how happy and close knit the stylists are. What do you attribute that success to?

“Well I think that comes from the hiring, besides anything else. When we hire we look as much at personality as anything else, in fact, probably more. I have always said, you can teach skills but you can’t change a personality. I think that’s what it is, because we are very concerned about a person integrating properly.”

What is one piece of advice that you would pass on to a stylist who is just starting out?

“The thing is you’ve got to really bite the bullet for a few years. You really do. You might be really talented but it’s still a combination of so many different skills. Not just hair dressing skills but the social aspect of it. It’s very difficult when a person is young to be comfortable with someone who say is 50 years old. To me that was the hardest bit, was getting over those first few years because you’re all over the place. In the end you can focus in on what it is you really want to do, because there are so many different directions you can go in hairdressing.”

What would you say has been your toughest business decision?

“Ummm.. well, when I was running the salons, firing people was always the hardest. I think any boss will say that.”

What is it like being surrounded by women every day?

“It’s wonderful.” [Laughs] “I don’t know how many men would say that, but I always have. In fact we were just at a get together on the weekend and of course I ended up chatting to all the women. All the guys are over there talking about motorbikes and that.”

What do you miss most about living back in England?

“The history, I mean the school I went to was founded in 1555 and you’re just surrounded by that, you take it all for granted. I love Canada for the newness of it, you know, straight roads.” [laughs] “The newness and everything, but, we do watch a lot of those old real estate shows and it makes me pine for England, to be honest. Just to drive through the country side and look at the old buildings.”

When you do go back, what is the one food you have to have?

“The food? That’s a good one because I cook a lot of foods myself. I think it’s the candies you come across, the chocolates. The Brits are really good for chocolate. There is a little thing called a Walnut Whip and oh my god, it’s to die for. It’s the little things like that.”

What would you say has been your most exciting experience in life, or one of the most?

“It would have to be with the rock band. I was just in the middle of a milestone, you know? Right age and all the excitement. I was a roadie. I happened to be engaged to a girl whose sister was going out with a singer in a band that suddenly took off and got really big. Well, I happened to have a van and so, I was the roadie. They got big, we had a bus in the end.”

What was the name of the band?

“Well they changed it, it was The Shots when I was with them. They changed it, shortly after I left, after about a year. They changed it to The Smoke, and they had about 5 successful albums. Part of it was after I left, but they were big when I was with them as well.”

If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

“Absolutely nothing. I often think about that. You know, the ups and downs, but if you didn’t have those downs… There’s nothing I would change. Because you don’t know what another life would of been like. I’m very happy with my life.”

What is one of the most memorable conversations you’ve ever had?

“Well I’ll tell you what comes to mind, honestly, and it seems a little thing. When I was at Bumble doing a course, that cutting course. I got in the elevator and Michael Gordon was in there. We had a conversation on the way down about Vidal Sassoon and he said he was going to make a movie, which he has done on Vidal’s life. That was a pretty quick conversation but it stuck. I don’t know why.”

If you could give any piece of advice to your 20 year old self, what would it be?

“Have fun, God, have fun. No, seriously, not dangerous fun, but have fun. That’s the age to.”

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

“Well nowadays, I enjoy, basically, cooking , gardening, all the things you evolve into as you get older, but really, I mean my family is everything… my daughters.”

You are an avid book reader, do you have a favorite book right now?

“Actually the one I’m reading is really good. Again, it’s about England and stuff in the war, which seems to be what I tend to go back to often. Again, it’s my roots. It’s called Orphan Girls, two little girls in England during the war years start out in the orphanage and grow up, but it’s a great book?”

What about a tv show right now?

“Oooo, umm, we like This Is Us.”

You always look stylish and cool, where do you get your fashion inspiration from, and do you have favorite stores?

“Yeah I do. In Kelowna right now, Bia Borro. It’s great because for years I never found much in Kelowna so that’s nice. I like different stores for different reasons. Like H&M, I’ll go for a pair of black pants, you know, that kind of thing. But if I want something more trendy, I go to somewhere like Bia Borro. You know I tend to know what I like..” [chuckles] “I’m small so I tend to not want anything to make me look short. My inspiration though, I don’t know. Every now and then of course you see somebody and go ‘wow look at that!’ Because I have no problem admiring men, you know. In fact, I can remember when we were in Vegas, there was a guy that walked in and sat at a table and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I mean, he had everything just right, and he knew it as well. But, God he looked good. So yeah, I don’t follow one trend but I hope I have my own kind of style and I just stick with it because it’s always kind of worked for me.”

What is your favorite food to cook/eat?

“Well, I do enjoy cooking East Indian right now. We did classes a year or 2 ago and I like all the spices. There’s a lot of education you get on spices, yeah, because I was never much for spices.”

What inspires you in the kitchen?

“Good cooking pot.” [Laughing] “I like good utensils actually. Fresh stuff you know, vegetables, stuff like that. I try to eat better than I ever used to.”

What was the first band that you ever saw live?

“It’s laughable, it was The Beatles. It was the first summer out of high school, and my buddy said let’s go see Roy Orbison, it was actually Roy Orbison we went to see. Who comes on first to warm up for Orbison but The Beatles. I had never heard of them, never mind seen them. They had one record out. That was pretty exciting, I mean not from my point of view, because at that point in time you didn’t realize what The Beatles were, they were just starting. You didn’t know they were going to be like they were. I was there for Roy Orbison and so was probably 50, 60%. But, after The Beatles have been on, I thought how to hell is he going to get this crowd under control? Because he is so stoic. But he came out and just took over and it was a brilliant concert.”

Who is your favorite musician or band of all time?

“The Who.”

What about of this decade?

“Of this decade… I really like Lady Gaga. I think she’s a really talented lady.”

We all know you have a deep love for music, what has been your most memorable concert or festival?

“It would have to be The Who, live at Leeds. When they made the album, I saw the album being made. The concert lasted 3 and a half hours, they did everything they had ever done. They did all of Tommy, they even dressed in between. I mean the guy  is drumming and he’s putting a dress on. If you’ve ever seen the movie Tommy, with them in in, they were acting out the movie as well and it was just a great, great day.”

You once went to a music festival with a girl who insisted on being topless the whole time, what was that about?

“Well she didn’t insist,” [Laughs] “there wasn’t any opposition there. I mean you had to be there, it was before Woodstock but it was kind of like that, you know? There were people wandering around in all sorts of states of undressedness. So it wasn’t that outlandish for her to be walking around with no top on. But it was a great weekend.” [Bursts out laughing]

So to wrap it up, where do you hope to see yourself in another 10 years?

[Laughs] “At 83? Haha, I hope to carry on as long as I can like I am, to be honest. At this stage of my life I am just very fortunate. I’ve found that throughout my life. I haven’t really planned old age or anything, as you drift in and you don’t try to hang on too much to your youth, you evolve into it and it’s a lot of fun. I get so much joy out of my kids now, becoming young women. Yeah. It’s just great.”

 

So there you have it! We hope this gives you a small glimpse into the man who drives Fringe Hair. We also attribute a large part of his success to his amazing wife Donna Rabbit, who has loved and supported him fiercely for over 30 years. Between the two of them they have made this salon the place where we love to work and we hope you all love to come and relax!