A lot can change in a couple of years.
The blow-dry used to be a luxury largely reserved for high-flying executives or your best friend’s wedding; now, popping into a salon for some quick-dry styling is as routine as getting your brows or nails done.
At least that’s what I tell myself as I swing by Duck & Dry’s new Soho outpost for an 18-minute pre-work dry style. The cult London blow-dry bar’s new express service has me sitting in a sleek bright salon in front of an up-lit mirror and feels pleasingly glam for a Monday morning.
Which is surprising, given that I’m in the middle of one of the busiest (and most notoriously chaotic) clothes stores in the capital. Specifically, the ground floor of Primark in Oxford Circus, next to the make-up stand, where the cult London salon has today unveiled its new little sister, Duck & Dry Xpress.
It might seem like an unlikely move for a high-end blow-dry bar that counts Lady Kitty Spencer and Made in Chelsea star Binky Felstead among its regulars but Duck & Dry wants to capitalise on Primark’s footfall, says owner Yulia Rorstrom.
“It’s all about fast beauty,” says Rorstrom, who launched the brand in 2014 and now runs salons in Chelsea, Oxford Circus and Soho. “In the last five years we’ve definitely seen the audience for blow-dries expanding, from the girl who gets a blow-dry for a night out or graduation to those who get one on a daily basis.”
The rise of Facebook and Instagram has been the catalyst, she continues. These days, “you want to look your best every day”, so opening in Primark is all part of her plan to make London’s beauty offering more “accessible”.
At Duck & Dry Xpress, a blow-dry costs just £17, almost half the price of Rorstrom’s other London salons — “not because we’re compromising on quality”, she insists but because the process is more “streamlined”.
The blow-dry menu has been distilled down to six most popular looks — bouncy, straight, wavy, plus three up-dos with braids — and nail and brow services have been condensed. Primark’s new brow bar, Duck & Pluck Xpress, will offer simple threading, tinting and lash applications, while its nail station, Duck & File Xpress, will offer manicures and pedicures with polish or gel — no complicated extensions or acrylic. Appointments can be booked online.
The salon sits inside a store — all part of a growing trend for “retail experiences,” says Rorstrom. Clients can combine treatments with shopping — meanwhile, Duck & Dry can capture Primark’s flow of 30,000 customers a day, “whether it’s an impulse treat while shopping or office workers who pick it as their regular beauty spot.” Comfortingly, it doesn’t feel like a Primark-own beauty service – as soon as you’ve navigated the mountains of make-up and throngs of bargain-hunters, the salon feels like an oasis amid the mayhem.
The space has Duck & Dry’s familiar industrial feel — think baby pink seats and pastel colours — and products-wise, it’s a range of professional brands (largely Bed Head and Candy Coat) and Primark’s own-brand beauty range.
Seeing the Primark-branded curling iron, I’m hesitant — I’m no fan of the chain and haven’t forgotten my 2009 Primark trainers that fell apart in a day — but Rorstrom assures me she’s been “really impressed” by the quality.
Last year, the retailer’s £5 foundation was hailed as a dupe to Estée Lauder’s £33 cult classic Double Wear, and its PS cosmetics range — which includes make-up, skincare and haircare — is certified cruelty-free.
“They’re excellent products in terms of value for money but also quality,” Rorstrom insists, showing me the Primark-branded moisturiser and dry shampoo sitting alongside the Duck & Dry hairspray on the shelf. Primark’s own-brand nail varnish will be used at Duck & File, and its lashes and eyebrow pencils will be used at Duck & Pluck.
It’s all part of a wider vision: Rorstrom plans to roll the service out to a further 40 Primark stores by 2020, including the largest one to date: a 300 square-foot salon in the Midlands opening next month. Form a (dis)orderly queue.