Annie Franklin shares her incredible journey from homelessness to an international session stylist

In the world of high fashion and hairdressing, Annie Franklin's story shines.

Her journey from a tumultuous beginning to international recognition as a session stylist is nothing short of extraordinary.

With unparalleled determination and an unwavering pursuit of her dreams, Annie Franklin has carved a unique path to success.

The early chapters of Annie’s life were marked by adversity and challenges that would have deterred most- she faced the harsh reality of being expelled from school at a young age, setting her on a precarious path.

Annie’s Early Life

Without a formal education, she navigated life through a revolving door of hostels and friends’ couches.

She even ended up homeless for a period.

However, every remarkable success story begins with a pivotal moment, and Annie’s came when a compassionate salon owner recognised her salon skills and extended a lifeline as an apprentice hairdresser.

And so began Annie’s extraordinary journey.

We sat down with Annie to talk about it.

Prestige Hair, Reddish

She said: “It was a challenging phase, marked by difficulties in maintaining mental well-being and finding myself in awful situations. However, throughout all these adversities, hairdressing was a bit of a rock for me.

“In the end, I ventured into setting up my own hairdressing business, which has been operating successfully for approximately 11 to 12 years. Over time, educational institutions approached me, inviting me to share my experiences with students. These talks aim to demonstrate to young aspiring hairdressers that change is possible.

Over time, Annie honed her hairdressing skills and accumulated invaluable experience. Her hard work, combined with her unwavering dedication, culminated in the establishment of her own salon, Prestige Hair in Reddish.

Remarkably, the salon has thrived for over a decade, a testament to Annie’s extraordinary talent and enduring commitment to her craft.

From Humble Beginnings

Annie said: “We started with a really small team, just looking to make ends meet really. I have to admit I didn’t know the first thing about running a business when we started!

“At the outset, it was just me and another colleague at Prestige Hair. But over time, we’ve grown, and now there are five of us working together.

“We’re currently in the process of relocating to a new space, which will facilitate our expansion. Additionally, I’m eager to take on apprentices, which aligns with a bit of work we’ve done with the government, in the Department for Education hoping to offer up more apprenticeships to get people into hairdressing.

Annie’s vision for the industry has continually evolved. She realised that change was needed, and she was determined to be the agent of change.

A Mindful Salon

Her salon, Prestige Hair, transformed into a “mindful salon,” fostering a culture that prioritised the holistic well-being of its staff.

The introduction of “Wellness Wednesdays” provided the team with dedicated time for activities like creative painting, physiotherapy sessions, and massages.

The result? A happier and more contented staff that, in turn, led to improved client interactions.

Annie’s dedication to mindfulness transcends the walls of her salon.

She is committed to mentoring the next generation, recognising that qualifications alone are insufficient.

By taking on apprentices and offering meaningful career prospects after they’ve earned their qualifications, she seeks to break the cycle of young stylists ending up in unfulfilling roles.

Pandemic Pivots

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a significant pivot in Annie’s journey. Fearful of the impact of lockdowns on her business, she took on a job as a hospital cleaner to meet her financial commitments. Yet, in a twist, this unexpected detour rekindled her passion for hairdressing.

She said: “During the chaos of Covid, I found myself in a tight spot. I panicked, not knowing what would happen with furlough and all.

“My salon was closed, no clients, and I had to pay the bills. So, I took on a job in the hospital, cleaning COVID wards.

“They offered more hours, and I thought, ‘Let’s do 70 hours a week just to keep things afloat and ensure my business doesn’t reopen drowned in debts.’

But here’s the twist – it was during those hospital shifts that I rediscovered my passion for hairdressing.

“I realised that many folks enter the hairdressing world, but it can often end there, in the salon.

“As soon as my salon reopened, I knew I needed to bring in apprentices and provide them with more opportunities because, after all, that’s how I got my first break.”

Skills Recognised on a Global Stage

Her genuine love for her craft and her exceptional talent quickly caught the attention of industry insiders, propelling her to prestigious events like London, New York and Cheshire Fashion Weeks and exclusive photoshoots.

While Annie remains discreet about her most recent projects, it’s evident that her career is on an exhilarating ascent, working with celebrities and huge fashion brands too.

She said: “For those who might not be familiar with the fashion scene, you might wonder, ‘What exactly does a session stylist do?’ Well, it varies depending on the specific job. One crucial aspect is working on the runway, where upcoming trends are unveiled.

“Picture it as the place where high-end fashion brands reveal their latest collections. Our role involves crafting the perfect hairstyles to complement these designs. It’s an exciting blend of artistry and fashion, and it’s often a chance to work with well-known models and celebrities.

“Speaking of brands and models, am am fortunate enough to assist on some really exciting jobs and names in the industry, but can’t spill the beans on some of my recent ones just yet.”

Awards, Awards, and More Awards!

Back home, Prestige Hair has been scooping award after award, too.

The Salon Awards Creative Image of the Year 2022 and International Hair Cut Shot of the Year, Best Customer Experience at the Salon Awards last year, and were also finalists for Best Colour and Stylist of the Year too at the same awards

The salon is currently in the running for Best Salon of the Year award, in Greater Manchester too.

Annie was also invited to work on a UK Dyson event, of only a select few, and has styled for Scottish Strictly Come Dancing.

Annie’s story isn’t just about personal success; it’s also about giving back to the community.

Charitable Endeavours

She has embraced charity work, championing causes like blood donation and providing free haircuts to donate to the Princess Trust.

The Princess Trust is an organisation dedicated to creating wigs for children who’ve lost their hair due to illness.

Annie’s philanthropic spirit mirrors her authenticity and humility.

The most amazing thing about this story is that Annie has done this completely off her own back, even self-funding her business studies degree as by her own admission, she didn’t know the first thing about running a business when Prestige Hair struck out on their own almost a decade ago.

The Project X Fellowship

Project X Fellowship is an exceptional hairdressing finishing school in the UK. It’s often described as the ultimate platform for aspiring hairdressers to explore their creativity, expand their skills, raise awareness about industry trends, and develop their unique capabilities.

It’s widely regarded as one of the finest finishing schools available.

Annie said: “I was fortunate to be selected as a fellow, and my mentor in the program was the incredible Lisa Farrell, who’s known for her work with stars like Ed Sheeran.

“Through Project X, I gained invaluable insights into the world of high fashion and cutting-edge hairdressing.

“I was mentored by the best in the industry, honing not just my skills but also my individuality and unique capabilities. It’s not just about learning the basics; it’s about standing out in a competitive field.

“This program empowers British hairdressers to take their careers to the next level, opening doors to incredible opportunities in the fashion and beauty industry.

“Now, having graduated from the program, I’ve come full circle as I’ve become a mentor for the Project X Fellowship myself. It’s a thrilling opportunity to pay it forward, sharing my knowledge, experience, and passion with the next generation of talented hairdressers. I believe that this program is a game-changer for British hairdressers, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Giving Something Back

Looking to the future, Annie wants to give more apprenticeships, to give back to the community that gave her a chance to form a career.

She said: “We’ve been in discussions with the government and parliament regarding the pressing issue of the scarcity of salons taking on apprentices.

“The costs are quite prohibitive, around £20,000, which makes it challenging. However, I’m committed to always having apprentices because that’s how I started, and it’s what built my career.

“I tend to be forward-thinking, always pondering my next steps and where I can go from here.

“So, I don’t often pause to look back, unless someone prompts me to. When I do, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come, and it fills me with gratitude. My biggest goal was once get a place of my own after leaving a sofa or hostel. It’s surreal for me now.

“My current aspiration is to work on a music video. I enjoy all kinds of music, but I’d love to be part of a rap or grime music video. That would be awesome.”

You can check out Annie’s Instagram page here

Best of luck to you, Annie!


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