They say that the real difference between being good at something and being great is the drive and determination to keep going and keep challenging yourself in a way that pushes you out of any beckoning comfort zone. It’s something in you that demands that you keep striving for perfection; an unwillingness to accept that where you are now is good enough. It’s a certain restlessness that grips people and just won’t let go; it compels them to aim higher – and achieve higher. That innate drive and determination is famously hard to describe but you know it when you see it, and you see it very clearly in Paul Griffin, the inspiration and owner of Zenith Hairdressing in Galway.
This month, ten years after Zenith first opened its doors, Paul Griffin stopped working just long enough to take stock of where the salon has come from and, more importantly, where it goes from here. If salon owners can be divided into ‘accountants’ or ‘artists’ then put Paul in the second category. Paul Says,
I’ve never had any hesitation about describing myself as creative. To be honest, I think that if you don’t understand that the creative impulse is the starting point then it’s most unlikely that you’re going to ‘get’ any other facet of what we’re about. Though this is a creative endeavour it is also a business endeavour.
Everything we do is about applying trained creativity to the way our clients look and present themselves. That means we always have to have the best stylists and they always have to be superbly trained and professional. My job is to ensure that Zenith has those people and that we manage our business to the highest standards.
Whatever approach this guru of Galway has chosen, it’s most definitely worth looking at. Griffin’s salon is considered the best in the West and even the competition concede that it is his own relentless drive to creative perfection that permeates the atmosphere in the Eyre Street salon. Griffin himself uses the phrase ‘Lighthouse salon’ and he doesn’t mean merely as a beacon of brilliance. He thinks that Zenith can actually illuminate the way for others. And if others want to move towards the light then they must invest in training. The Claddagh native explained,
This is my mantra! That creative impulse that I talked about has to be delivered through professional expertise and the only way that expertise can be gained and utilised is by training. I did it and I insist on all our staff here making the same commitment to ongoing training and up-to-the-second techniques.
I gave courses myself for a year and served as an assessor and verifier for City and Guilds. I’m also an ambassador for PHAB Standards. I’ve seen the best and the worst imaginable and everything in between. And I’ll know exactly the level of professionalism I’m dealing with precisely 30 seconds after looking at someone’s work .That’s why Zenith has ended up with the best stylists and that’s why Zenith has won all the awards.
Recognition must be embraced by someone as driven by professional convictions and commitments as Paul. But that peer recognition comes second to those whose praise is most valued and most desired. Paul says,
Client recognition is what we crave most. I love the fact that my professional colleagues admire us for our standards and creative excellence. But the recognition that really warms my heart is the recognition that comes with a client coming back to Zenith time after time and year after year. These are women trusting their look and feel and confidence to my team and I which makes us feel humble and it gives you a surge of pride because you know that this is the praise and recognition that really matters. These women trust us to deliver the cut and style that makes them feel better and look better. It’s our duty to deliver that cut and style with all the style and verve and professionalism that we can muster. At Zenith we can muster a lot – and it’s a duty that we take very, very seriously indeed.
If all this makes Paul seem a serious and driven man, then he’s not really that apologetic; he is serious and driven. But that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy a party.
We recently had a birthday party for Zenith to celebrate a Decade of Dazzling Design. We got the champers, the prizes and pressies and nibbles and an incredible presentation of the looks we’re showcasing for autumn and winter. Guests were selected from our client base by lottery, and a wide range of promotions, special offers and bonus points was rolled out so everyone could feel the love!!
Zenith’s latest collection, as seen throughout this article, is entitled Seasons, where the images were taken on the grounds of the beautiful Glenlo Abbey, and on the original train from Murder on the Orient Express. The team of stylists produced soft, wearable, commercial looks with colours inspired by nature.
Hair: Tom Walshe and the Creative Team at Zenith Hairdressing, Galway. Styling: Public Romance. Make-up: Caroline Coyne. Photography: Fotissima