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Alexan­der Mc­Queen’s loss is Ca­nary Wharf’s gain as Blow Dry Ex­press opens for busi­ness, writes LAURA EN­FIELD

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Ex­press at Ca­nary Wharf

A brush with the late, great fash­ion icon Alexan­der Mc­Queen made hair­dresser Sara-Jane Lil­wall re­alise she wanted busi­ness suc­cess not fame. And she has suc­ceeded, hav­ing just opened the third branch of her Blow Dry Ex­press chain in Ca­nary Wharf, aged 29.

It of­fers wo­man-on-the-go styling in un­der 30 min­utes from 7am to 7pm and prom­ises it will keep them look­ing seek and pol­ished for three days.

“I love Ca­nary Wharf. It is like a planet of beau­ti­ful, smart busi­ness peo­ple,” she said. “There is nowhere like it. On the Tube in the morn­ings I’m very aware ev­ery­one has re­ally long, shiny, thick, clean hair.”

Born and raised in ru­ral Ros­son-Wye in Here­ford­shire, she first picked up her styling scis­sors as a teenager.

Her drive and vi­sion was ce­mented a few years later when her dream was to be a star of the fash­ion world. Af­ter land­ing a job for fash­ion de­signer Mc­Queen at Manch­ester Fash­ion Week she thought it was com­ing true.

“I was as­sist­ing on his show,” said Sarah-Jane who now lives in Wap­ping. “He shim­mied past re­ally fast and I thought it was the most amaz­ing mo­ment of my life.”

But in­stead of boost­ing her ex­pec­ta­tions the ex­pe­ri­ence gave her a heavy dose of re­al­ity.

“Af­ter­wards I re­alised it wasn’t that nice and there was no money in it and that I would al­ways be fighting for ev­ery job and get­ting paid noth­ing and talked to like crap,” she said. “It was a wake-up call that the fame most girls want at that age wasn’t for me.”

She took the plunge and moved to Lon­don in her early 20s and started work­ing for Head­mas­ters, within months land­ing a fully-funded place on a man­age­ment de­gree course.

A role as their youngest man­ager, aged 23, fol­lowed and she worked 12-hour days, striv­ing to im­press.

She said: “I have not come from riches but I have got what I wanted be­cause I have al­ways cared about what I have done. My salon went from £100,000 loss to £100,000 profit within a year.”

Hard-nosed busi­ness de­ci­sions such as sack­ing staff and not tol­er­at­ing late­ness did not make her pop­u­lar with ev­ery­one, but the young en­tre­pre­neur said she learnt valu­able lessons along the way.

She be­gan with pop-ups in Spi­tal­fields and opened the first Blow Dry Ex­press in Liver­pool Street two years ago us­ing her own sav­ings and in­vest­ment from a client.

Aldgate fol­lowed in 2016. But with the Ca­nary Wharf salon Sarah-Jane said she felt like she had fi­nally made it.

“It is the first time it hasn’t feel like a dream. I re­ally feel like a busi­ness­woman now,” she said.

She says her build­ing blocks for the busi­ness are fair pric­ing and a stream­lined book­ing sys­tem where clients can see how much each time slot costs. Cus­tomers au­to­mat­i­cally get a free treat­ment on their sec­ond visit and a free blow dry af­ter spend­ing £300.

Sarah-Jane said: “I have used what I have learnt over the years and I’m not ex­pen­sive be­cause I’m no frills. It is high qual­ity but and you shouldn’t feel in­tim­i­dated about com­ing here.

“The in­dus­try goes wrong when peo­ple get greedy and think their name is more im­por­tant than the client. Or if they are a suc­cess they can put up their prices.”

Read­ers can get 20% off a blow dry un­til Au­gust 31 by quot­ing WHARF at the Ca­nary Wharf salon.

Sarah-Jane said the most pop­u­lar style for women in Ca­nary Wharf is straight hair with added bounce

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