East London ethical hair salon Stunt Dolly sets the bar high by putting sustainability and animal welfare at the core of their business. I met with owners Dean & David (and their dog Dolly) to chat about all things sustainability.
Stunt Dolly is located right on Kingsland Road in bustling Dalston. The street outside may be noisy, but one step inside their space and you will immediately feel calm and welcome. This warm atmosphere is no accident; it’s been created by owners Dean & David. The married couple and team originally from Adelaide, Australia opened Stunt Dolly together in 2012. David looks after the business side of things at the salon, while Dean, who has been a salon owner since the age of twenty, works as a stylist as well.
Stunt Dolly is a leading salon in a wave of ethical haircare. To Dean & David, ethical means that everything they purchase for the salon is environmentally responsible and does not harm humans or animals. Stunt Dolly carries this ethos through nearly all elements of the business – from the hair products used, to a gender neutral pricing list, right down to the salon’s floorboards.
“It’s taken us two years to arrive at the word ‘ethical,'” Dean explains. “That’s what we are. It’s all-encompassing. The only thing that’s unethical about this place is my potty mouth.”
While Stunt Dolly has always carried vegan and organic products, the salon’s first two years did not necessarily reflect the same stance it does today. In the salon’s infancy, they offered services like nail art and hair extensions, which have since ceased due to a lack of certifiably ethical product sources. Dean & David drew a line in the sand sometime around 2015, when they decided to bring their personal beliefs around sustainability and animal welfare into the business.
The hair product range available at Stunt Dolly is a clear reflection of this decision. Oway and Kevin Murphy are the two main brands used in the salon, both of which are PETA certified. Oway grows its own extracts on a biodynamic farm in Italy, then processes them without using chemicals and solvents. These extracts are the key ingredients in most of the Oway products, but to source other ingredients needed they use fair trade organic farms from around the globe. All Oway products come in a metal or glass container, meaning that their packaging is infinitely recyclable. Stunt Dolly have plans to set up an Oway refilling station, where customers can refill their own glass container with product for minimal waste. Their products smell amazing too – I use the Oway smoothing cream and I bloody love it!
Kevin Murphy is a naturally derived product range from Australia. Their ingredients also rely on sustainable, renewable resources. Every Kevin Murphy product is bottled in recycled plastic, but by the end of next year this will be replaced with ocean safe plastic. They sponsor Green Circle Salons in America, which is an organisation of environmentally friendly salons.
The complimentary teas, coffees and wine Stunt Dolly offers to clients are all organic and fair trade certified. Even the salon’s cleaning products have been chosen to have minimal environmental harm and eco heads have been installed on the shampoo basins to minimise water wastage. “If we could have solar panels installed on the roof we would” Dean explains, “but this is London and we don’t own the building.”
When Stunt Dolly refurbished their space earlier this year, the paints and varnished used were all low vox, which is low toxicity. Dean & David did this so that their employees could come into work and not be breathing in the toxic fumes that they otherwise would be after redecorating. The floorboards in the salon are made from salvaged wood and many of the furnishings are second hand.
One major change that Dean & David would like to see in the industry is a stop to animal testing. “We don’t understand why in the hairdressing industry people still test on animals,” Dean says, “Why? It’s unnecessary…to keep blinding beagles and rabbits to say what works and doesn’t work. It’s just wrong.”
Dean & David express that while they are very proud of the changes they’ve made to make their business more ethical, they accept that they are not perfect. To them, sustainability is a journey upon which they are doing the best they can right now. They are constantly learning and evolving about how to best help the planet, just like we all are.