Feature: young business owner Chris Gilbert on setting up Pinups, the salon of his dreams, in Rainham

Chris Gilbert with the specially commissioned 'skull' picture of Marilyn Monroe

Chris Gilbert with the specially commissioned 'skull' picture of Marilyn Monroe - Credit: Archant

Is it time Rainham had a makeover? A new hairdresser in Upminster Road South reckons so.

Trainee Sherri Robinson and assistant Dan Plunkett attack Chris's scalp

Trainee Sherri Robinson and assistant Dan Plunkett attack Chris's scalp - Credit: Archant

Operating out of an old florist’s shop, Pinups is a unisex salon with a difference – or so owner Chris Gilbert hopes.

Chris Gilbert gets to work on a customer

Chris Gilbert gets to work on a customer - Credit: Archant

The shop sports zebra print wallpaper and a specially commissioned metre-tall painting that is half Marilyn Monroe and half skull.

Former Redbridge College student Chris, 22, says Pinups is his dream salon – the place he would have wanted to have his hair cut when he was younger.

“I wanted Pinups to be inviting,” he said.

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“I took a bit of time out from working to set this place up, and in between I had to go to hairdressers myself.

“If places looked too posh I felt nervous and put off. If everything’s shiny it looks lovely, but it’s intimidating.

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“I know people who used to travel to Camden because they had piercings or tattoos, or dressed differently.

“When I was younger I was always hoping to discover this type of salon. I couldn’t find it, so I decided to create it.”

But the shop, which opened in November, isn’t just for alternative types – Chris says he gets customers from all walks of life.

“I’m so pleased to get the old-fashioned older generation who want perms and shampooing,” he said.

“I get the Essex girls who come in for the big bouncy blow-dry, and then the alternative clients too.”

Examples of the salon’s racier styles include one customer who sports a fire-red do finished off with a leopard-print fringe.

The shop’s transformation into Pinups was almost as revolutionary as the haircuts, as friend and assistant Dan Plunkett, 19, explains.

“We found this place in Rainham after a shop in Hornchurch fell through,” he said. “Everything was great until we got in – then we started finding things wrong with it. The electricals had to be ripped out and there were holes everywhere – the place was in a complete state. There was a massive conservatory in the middle of the floor because it used to be a florist’s.”

With Dan’s help, Chris set to work painting and decorating the salon he’d always wanted to visit – but it was more than just the shop’s appearance that represented a dream come true.

For Chris, who has been working in salons since the age of 14, setting up shop came after a string of jobs that left him wanting more.

“I gained a lot of experience and knowledge from working for other people, but each time I progressed within my trade I felt I could push and aspire for just that much more,” he said.

“Once I was in management, I dedicated most of my time to my work. I was improving clients’ hair and profit margins but it wasn’t for myself – it was for someone else.

“You can only do so much when you work for someone else.

“With the support of previous employers, family and friends I felt that, regardless of my age, I could venture out on my own and handle the responsibility.”

So does Chris have any advice for those considering taking the leap into setting up a business?

“What I’d advise would be to take the risk,” said the Barking resident. “Don’t be scared to fail, and don’t let any obstacles slow you down.

“Ignore any negative comments but be open to constructive criticism – and enjoy the process.”

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