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The VERY colourful history of Nicky Clarke: How hairstylist to stars set up business from scratch

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From a secret heroin addiction to founding his £60 million business empire on a loan with his ex, hairdresser Nicky Clarke’s life has had plenty of colour. 

The stylist, 63, who was raised in a London council flat, founded the business with long-term girlfriend, Lesley Clarke, 68, thanks to a £20,000 loan, and the pair turned it into an empire which was said to be worth £60 million.

He later split from Lesley after confessing to having an affair with a Vivien Westwood model, but the pair remained close, with Lesley even accompanying Nicky when he  received an OBE in 2008.

His star-studded client list over the years included the likes of Princess Diana, the Duchess of York, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie.

However yesterday, he left staff at his salon opposite the Connaught hotel devastated when he informed them ‘with great regret’ he was shutting immediately. 

From a secret heroin addiction to founding his £60 million business empire on a loan with his ex-girlfriend, hairdresser Nicky Clarke has led a colourful life filled with ups and downs (pictured with his ex Lesley)  

The stylist, 63, founded his hairdressing business with long-term girlfriend, Lesley Clarke, 68, and amassed a host of celebrity clientele and friends including Sir Elton John (pictured, in 1997)

The stylist, 63, founded his hairdressing business with long-term girlfriend, Lesley Clarke, 68, and amassed a host of celebrity clientele and friends including Sir Elton John (pictured, in 1997) 

Nicky quickly garnered a star-studded client base which included the Duchess of York, who went on to introduce him to Princess Diana (pictured, Fergie cutting the ribbon as hairdresser Nicky Clarke lends a helping hand at his royal salon opening in 1991)

Nicky quickly garnered a star-studded client base which included the Duchess of York, who went on to introduce him to Princess Diana (pictured, Fergie cutting the ribbon as hairdresser Nicky Clarke lends a helping hand at his royal salon opening in 1991) 

Born in a working-class family with six siblings, Nicky grew up in a council house on the Old Kent Road.

He previously told Daily Mail: ‘My parents had a fairly working class work ethic and they believed in saving for the things they needed to buy.

‘My father was a turbine operator at Bankside Power Station in South-East London. He left school at 14 and had one job all his life.

‘Mum was a Greek immigrant – they met during the war when my father was stationed in Greece. She was a seamstress and earned her own money.’

However his life has not been without controversy. In 2008, it was revealed he had been having an affair with a prostitute behind his then-girlfriend Kelly Hoppen's back (pictured, Nicky and Kelly together)

However his life has not been without controversy. In 2008, it was revealed he had been having an affair with a prostitute behind his then-girlfriend Kelly Hoppen’s back (pictured, Nicky and Kelly together) 

Yesterday, Nicky left staff at his salon opposite the Connaught hotel devastated when he informed them 'with great regret' he was shutting immediately (pictured)

Yesterday, Nicky left staff at his salon opposite the Connaught hotel devastated when he informed them ‘with great regret’ he was shutting immediately (pictured) 

Meanwhile he said money was ‘tight’, explaining: ‘They had six of us children to feed and we lived in a two-bedroom house with no bathroom, just an outside toilet. We used to go to the local baths to bathe.’

His interest in hairdressing started when he was a teenager and he began cutting the hair of his friends and classmates.

He started cutting hair professionally when he was just 16,  landing a gig as an apprentice at House of Leonard where John Frieda worked.

An early bloomer, Nicky his first Vogue shoot at the age of just 17 in 1976.  

Nicky and John later left Leonards and set up a salon of their own on Marylebone Road, taking most of the clientele with them. 

He was working as second in command to John, and together they created the famous Purdy cut. 

He met his long-term girlfriend Lesley through David Van Day, one half of the singing duo Dollar, whom Lesley was dating at the time in 1982. 

Nicky, who began cutting hair as a teenager while at school, was born in London in a council house and was one of seven siblings

Nicky, who began cutting hair as a teenager while at school, was born in London in a council house and was one of seven siblings 

The other half, Theresa Bazar, had her hair cut by Nicky.

But it was then the hairdresser developed an addiction to heroin while embroiled in the New Romantics music scene of the 1980s.

He was part of a crowd that included Boy George and Steve Strange, who both almost died from drug addiction years later.

It was only after Lesley, threatened to ‘kick him out or call the police’ that Nicky was forced to face his demons.

In 2013, he finally confessed to the secret addiction, telling Daily Mail: ‘It’s my biggest regret, and it horrifies me even now, but I have been in rehab for heroin addiction. This is the first time I’ve ever spoken about it.

 ‘It was a very short period of my life and I went in with a small but regular heroin habit that I had for a year. I am sickened when I look back.’

He said: ‘Mine had been a very private habit, it was small but regular. I never mainlined heroin [he smoked or snorted it] – I can’t bear all that dirt.

‘I was there [in rehab] for ten weeks and they gave me nothing, so I had to go cold turkey. I absolutely hated being there.

‘I was silent and huddled for a week. I felt like my life was being taken over because everything you do becomes psycho-analysed, and I just had to get out of there.

After meeting Lesley, Nicky went on to suffer a heroin addiction, spending time in rehab in order to get clean (pictured, the couple in the '90s)

After meeting Lesley, Nicky went on to suffer a heroin addiction, spending time in rehab in order to get clean (pictured, the couple in the ’90s) 

‘When people came out they would go to those narcotics anonymous meetings. I went to about four and I hated it. It was a lot of euphoric recall, and it was so not me.

‘I never touched it ever again but I can’t erase the past. Just remembering the smell made me feel sick.’

After getting clean, Nicky returned to working in John Frieda’s salon when a series of rows saw him leave the salon in 1991.

By that stage, Lesley had given up her job in fashion to devote herself to being a full-time mother.

It was Lesley who came up with a rescue plan for the family after the hairdresser lost his job at John Freida after a series of rows (pictured with their children Harrison, and Tellisa)

It was Lesley who came up with a rescue plan for the family after the hairdresser lost his job at John Freida after a series of rows (pictured with their children Harrison, and Tellisa)   

However it was Lesley who came up with a rescue plan for the family and set about finding a salon so Nicky could branch out on his own. 

He and Lesley took a huge risk, taking out an £20,000 loan to fund their first Mayfair salon, which they filled with borrowed antiques.

Meanwhile, Lesley — also self-made, and the daughter of a milkman — was raising two small children Harrison, and daughter Tellisa, while working full-tilt. 

She has recalled that at home they sat on deckchairs on bare floorboards because they couldn’t afford furniture or carpets.

In 1997, Nicky and Lesley bought a £6 million house, but shortly after they moved there, Lesley discovered he was having an affair with Susie Bick, then a Vivienne Westwood model (pictured)

In 1997, Nicky and Lesley bought a £6 million house, but shortly after they moved there, Lesley discovered he was having an affair with Susie Bick, then a Vivienne Westwood model (pictured) 

Nicky swiftly accrued a high society clientele, becoming one of the most sought-after hairdressers in Britain with royalty and rock stars clamouring for appointments.

In 1997, he and Lesley bought a £6 million house, but shortly after they moved there, Lesley discovered he was having an affair with Susie Bick, then a Vivienne Westwood model. 

Their marriage ended after the affair and Lesley was so devastated that she suffered a nervous breakdown. 

Lesley explained in an interview: ‘Nicky had an affair and when I found out, he stopped seeing the woman [Susie Bick, then a Vivienne Westwood model] immediately. There was no confrontation. But the damage was done.’

Despite splitting, Nicky and Lesley remained close friends and she remained CEO of the family business

Despite splitting, Nicky and Lesley remained close friends and she remained CEO of the family business 

Even in the rancorous aftermath of the split, when Lesley felt ‘pain was raining down on her’, they did not contemplate severing their business links and she remained CEO of the family business as she had been for 29 years. 

‘The business was always going to carry on,’ said Lesley. ‘It’s like a third child and you don’t abandon a child if you split up, do you? We built it from scratch with a £20,000 loan together.’

A haircut with Clarke, whose hands were once insured for £1million, cost £650. 

On one occasion, he was booked by L’Oreal to style film star Isabella Rossellini’s hair. ‘I did three blow-dries for £12,000,’ he explained.

Nicky remained close to his ex, raising eyebrows when he brought Lesley to accompany him when he was given his OBE in 2008 (pictured)

Nicky remained close to his ex, raising eyebrows when he brought Lesley to accompany him when he was given his OBE in 2008 (pictured) 

The business garnered a veritable Who’s Who of clients over the years including Elizabeth Taylor, Kate Moss, Brad Pitt, Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.  

After his marriage to Lesley, he began dating millionaire interior designer Kelly Hoppen, who now stars on Dragons’ Den.

The pair’s relationship started in 2007 after having met at an Elton John party. 

Miss Hoppen was once married to Sienna Miller’s father Ed and has also dated the footballer Sol Campbell. 

Nicky famously went on to date Kelly (pictured) however the relationship fell apart after the News of the World reported £110-an-hour prostitute Natalie Springer - also known as Jet Black - had regularly called to Clarke's £2.5 million home over a three month period in 2008

Nicky famously went on to date Kelly (pictured) however the relationship fell apart after the News of the World reported £110-an-hour prostitute Natalie Springer – also known as Jet Black – had regularly called to Clarke’s £2.5 million home over a three month period in 2008

However the relationship fell apart after the News of the World reported £110-an-hour prostitute Natalie Springer – also known as Jet Black – had regularly called to Clarke’s £2.5 million home over a three month period in 2008. 

Last year, he married fashion designer Kelly Simpkin, 40, with whom he has two young children.

They met 12 years ago when Kelly was a stylist in his salon. He admitted to finding being an older father challenging, saying: ‘I should be driving Ferraris, not changing nappies and getting up at six in the morning.’

He previously told OK! magazine of their relationship: ‘We feel really fortunate that we’re having another child. I’ve got a second chance at this. I have fantastic memories of being a new dad first time around.

Last year, he married fashion designer Kelly Simpkin, 40, whom he first met 12 years ago when Kelly was a stylist in his salon (pictured)

Last year, he married fashion designer Kelly Simpkin, 40, whom he first met 12 years ago when Kelly was a stylist in his salon (pictured) 

‘So in some respects it’s not much different. But I like to think I have more patience now. The truth of it is I’m probably around a lot more.’ 

Speaking yesterday, Nicky announced the closure of the salon, explaining: ‘This prestigious salon has been in Mayfair for over 30 years and has been a huge part of our lives, both personally and professionally,’ Clarke said.

‘However, the last two years have been the toughest we have experienced, with Covid-enforced, long-term closures, rising rates and overheads making the salon no longer economically sustainable.’

He added: ‘This was not an easy decision to make, we have spent months exploring alternative solutions to keep the salon in business but unfortunately these have not come to fruition.

The couple now share two children, with Nicky confessing he is 'around a lot more' with his younger kids (pictured, with Kelly in 2021)

The couple now share two children, with Nicky confessing he is ‘around a lot more’ with his younger kids (pictured, with Kelly in 2021) 

‘All staff impacted will be paid fully and all our obligations to them fulfilled. We’re incredibly grateful to the dedication and hard work of every single member of staff.’

Lesley told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s heart-breaking. I’m really sad. It’s something I never thought would happen, but the pandemic took its toll on us.

‘The lack of footfall in Mayfair, the rents, the rates, no travel because we have a lot of international clients. Mayfair isn’t a residential area any more – we couldn’t even rely on passing trade. It was a joint decision.

‘We tried very hard to keep it going and we both put our own money in. It’s like losing a child. The staff are like a family.’

He has said he’s committed to keeping his salon in Birmingham open, as well as his electrical hair tools business. 

The famous clients of Nicky Clarke: From primping the locks of Hollywood stars in Batman to cutting George Michael’s hair 

Nicky, who has been a hairdresser since he was a teenager, has amassed a wealth of celebrity clients over the years (pictured with Sophie Dahl)

 Nicky, who has been a hairdresser since he was a teenager, has amassed a wealth of celebrity clients over the years (pictured with Sophie Dahl) 

The famous hairdresser has cut and styled hair for Hollywood blockbusters, including Christian Bale's locks in 2005's Batman Begins

The famous hairdresser has cut and styled hair for Hollywood blockbusters, including Christian Bale’s locks in 2005’s Batman Begins 

Nicky, who has been a hairdresser since he was a teenager, has amassed a wealth of celebrity clients over the years.

He has famously styled the hair of  the likes of Princess Diana, the Duchess of York, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie.

Meanwhile he has also been snapped pinning the locks of Sophie Dahl, and said to have snipped others including Kate Moss and Brad Pitt.

In recent years, he has shared photographs after styling hair for films, including Hollywood A-lister Christian Bale in Batman Begins (2005).

Meanwhile he has also primped the hair of various singers for music videos, including George Michael’s locks in his video for ‘As’ (2010). 

Meanwhile he has also primped the hair of various singers for music videos, including George Michael's locks in his video for 'As' (2010)

Meanwhile he has also primped the hair of various singers for music videos, including George Michael’s locks in his video for ‘As’ (2010)

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10758405/The-colourful-history-Nicky-Clarke-hairstylist-stars-set-business-scratch.html