The house has been cleaned from top to bottom, my mobile’s switched off, and I’ve put some posh biscuits on my best china plate.
My husband (banished to the spare room) is convinced I’m having an illicit affair – or expecting a visit from the Queen.
He’s not far off. In fact, I’ve booked myself in for the ultimate royal pampering experience: an at-home haircut with George Northwood, celebrity stylist and hairdresser to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
George, who also counts Lily James, Stella McCartney, Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley among his clients, cut the royal couple’s hair for two years while they lived in the UK, and famously styled Meghan’s locks into her now-trademark ‘messy bun’ for her wedding reception.
Having accompanied the Duke and Duchess on tours to Ireland and Australia, as well as styling Meghan’s hair for royal events, he’s now back in his West London salon – and offering a unique new service to clients who want one of his exclusive cuts in the comfort of their own home.
The Duchess of Sussex, 39, sporting her trademark ‘messy bun’ during a visit to Cardiff Castle in 2018
Daily Mail reporter Sarah Rainey after her hair were styled at home by Meghan’s hairdresser Northwood
‘We were hugely busy in July, as everyone was desperate to get their hair cut after lockdown, and then we had a bit of a downturn,’ he explains. ‘We did a survey, and were surprised to find a lot of people not only felt nervous about travelling into central London, but also about coming into hairdressers, even with all the new regulations.’
The ‘At Home’ service launched last month and bookings have been flooding in. Customers can book one of 12 stylists, including George himself, for a cut, blow-dry, and – if the right person is available – even at-home colour.
I was lucky enough to get an appointment with the main man. Between the pandemic and a boisterous toddler, I haven’t had a haircut since January, so poor George has his work cut out.
Can he really give my tired, greying hair the full Markle makeover? How will he transform my living room into a luxury salon? And will I be expected to make the tea?
Meghan Markle with a wavy blow dry during a virtual summit with Fortune editor Elle McGirt in late September
George showed Sarah how to style her hair in the manner of the Duchess of Sussex as part of a new service he offers post-lockdown
George, who usually works with an assistant but is flying solo today, calls me from his taxi to discuss logistics, which he and his team have down to a fine art.
I’m instructed to wash my hair before his arrival, without using any styling products or leave-in conditioner, so he can work from a clean canvas. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s wet or dry,’ he explains. ‘If it’s dry by the time I get there, I can spray it to dampen it for the cut.’
In addition, I’ve got to take a selfie so he can see what my hair looks like in its normal condition (limp, lifeless and in need of some sorcery).
Having to wash my hair myself is a bit of a shame – my Boots own-brand shampoo doesn’t feel nearly indulgent enough, and I miss the mid-wash massage.
I don’t fancy dangling my head over the side of the bath, either, so I have to hop in the shower, which is a bit of a faff in the middle of the afternoon.
How to get ready for a home haircut
Wash your hair before your appointment. It can be wet or dry, but if it’s wet make sure you have a photograph of it dry for them to see. Don’t apply styling products or leave-in conditioner.
If your hair is wet, you may need a towel for your shoulders, but they’ll bring a gown.
Prepare an area for the stylist to work. Somewhere bright, with a straight-backed chair is best. You’ll also need plenty of sockets for hairdryers and tools, and a table for their equipment. You may also want to put a sheet on the floor to make cleaning up afterwards easier.
Make sure you’ve got a mask, plenty of hand sanitiser and check your temperature before the stylist arrives.
For the ultimate salon experience, buy some magazines, put on some music and stick the kettle on – but be prepared to make your own cuppa, and one for your hairdresser, too!
George arrives as I’m wrapped in a towel, scrabbling around for something to wear, and I buzz him – the man used to celebrity mansions, not to mention Kensington Palace and Frogmore Cottage – into my tiny fourth-floor flat.
He comes equipped with a suitcase and a black holdall, stuffed full of salon essentials as well as Dettol spray, hand sanitiser and cleansing wipes. Current Covid-19 regulations dictate both hairdresser and client must wear masks, and George also has a pair of space-age goggles in place of a visor.
He immediately puts me at ease, sitting me in an armchair – atop two cushions for added height – and covering my clothes in a chic navy gown. He lays a towel over my sofa and spreads out his tools: a hairdryer, curling tongs, straightening irons and styling products.
‘Working in people’s homes is something I’ve always done,’ says George, who’s been a hairdresser for 20 years and had his own salon since 2014. ‘With my celebrity work, I’m often helping them get ready for premieres and events, so it makes sense to go to their homes. It’s more discreet.
‘It’s lovely that ordinary people can have the same experience. There’s something extravagant about it – you don’t have to go anywhere; you can just put your feet up and enjoy it.’
Certainly, I’m feeling more relaxed than I usually do at the hairdresser, although I can’t get up to put the kettle on.
George starts by combing my hair into a Meghan-esque middle parting, rather than its usual side. ‘This will help freshen it up and cover the greys,’ he explains.
To get rid of split ends, he then proceeds to chop an inch off the length, with some shorter sections towards the front. ‘Meghan has a few shorter bits around her face,’ he explains. ‘They’re long, just belong the chin, so nothing too high maintenance, but they frame the face and open it up.’
Next, he blow-dries my hair, giving it a bit of body with a round-bristle brush, and uses curling tongs to give me tousled waves all over. His whole ethos is down-to-earth – there’s no jargon and his styling is unfussy, or ‘British cool girl’, as he puts it.
‘I remember being younger and feeling quite intimidated going into salons,’ he says. ‘I want to create an environment that is unintimidating and unpretentious. I don’t like that exclusive vibe.’
George, pictured, who’s been a hairdresser for the past 20 years, leads an impressive clientele, including Lily James, Stella McCartney and Alexa Chung
Sarah recreating the bouncy and wavy blow-dry Meghan has been sporting since her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19 2018
Most of his A-list clients come to him through word of mouth – Meghan and Harry included. ‘I got a text from her assistant,’ he says. ‘It came completely out of the blue.
‘Doing their hair was quite a big commitment; I went everywhere with them. It’s all about being discreet and so while I was working with them I didn’t really want to say anything.
‘Then, when they stepped down, I wanted to wish them well and talk about what a positive experience it was. It was such an honour. My mum and dad were really proud.’
Currently only available in London Zones 1-3, he would eventually like to open the new setup up further afield.
‘I was very inspired during lockdown by brands that adapted to the situation, like gyms that did workout videos and local pubs that became supermarkets,’ he says. ‘We realise we need to adapt too; it’s the only way to survive.’
George usually works with an assistant, but flew solo to Sarah’s flat, bringing all his gear to deliver the service
Sarah’s hair before her home treatment with George, which she said were ‘lifeless’ and in need of sorcery
Appointments are booked with a special concierge, who allows for an hour-long appointment.
Price-wise, it’s not cheap – but nor will it break the bank. Women’s cuts range from £50 to £175, men’s from £35 to £125 and a blow dry is £30 to £50, with a £25 call-out fee per household on top. My cut and blow-dry with the boss would cost in the region of £250.
‘It makes sense to do a group booking,’ says George. ‘You could get the whole family done in one go.’
George finishes by smoothing styling cream over the tousled ends of my hair. ‘This gives it shine and seals the ends; it’s like a moisturiser for the hair,’ he explains.
He’s been here just 45 minutes and he’s already worked wonders.
Six Steps To Meghan’s Messy Bun
1) Use heated tongs to curl your hair into loose waves all over. Gently brush these out so they look natural and not too tightly-coiled.
2) Take the top section of hair towards the back of your head and backcomb it to give plenty of volume.
3) Pull your hair into a ponytail at the nape of your neck and secure it using a hairband.
4) Take the ponytail and twist it between your fingers so it forms a coil, then wrap it around the hairband until it forms a basket.
5) Pin the ends to your head using a hairgrip or bobby pin, and use more pins to secure the rest of the bun in place.
6) Finally, pull out a few long tendrils at the front, on either side of your parting. Use your fingertips to gently scrunch the rest of the hair, until you have a neat but ‘undone’ look.
Glossy brown locks with a Hollywood shine tumble down my shoulders, my hair has more volume than it’s ever had, and those greys are nowhere to be seen. It’s the ultimate transformation. But I wonder if George can work a bit more magic before our time comes to an end; can he give me Meghan’s messy bun?
‘I get asked for this all the time,’ he smiles, starting by backcombing my hair – brushing it the wrong way at the roots – to give it yet more volume. ‘I didn’t set out for it to become a thing, but as soon as everyone saw that picture [of Meghan at her wedding reception], they loved it.
‘Working with royalty, you have to do a lot of up-dos that can be worn with hats. They have to be formal, but we wanted to give it a modern edge. The messy bun is perfect – it looks appropriate, but at the same time it’s modern. It was the first time that sort of style had been worn by royalty. It became the go-to way to style Meghan’s hair.’
Next, he ties my hair in a low ponytail and twists this into a bun, which he pins in place with plenty of hair grips.
At this crucial stage, my one-year-old son waddles into the room but George, used to Archie wandering in mid-session with Meghan, doesn’t bat an eyelid. ‘I love kids. The chaos is all part of the fun of doing hair at home.’
To finish the up-do, he pulls a few strands out of the bun at the front – ‘these are very important for the look; it’s quite dramatic’ – and uses his fingers to scrunch my hair all over to mess it up.
‘You start off neat and make it messy. It’s the perfect look for evening events or red-carpet stuff. If it works on a royal wedding day, it can work anywhere.’
Sadly, such events are hard to come by these days. Which means that, having bid George farewell, I spend the first part of my evening hoovering up hair (a definite downside of an at-home haircut) and the second curled up on the sofa, eating the posh biscuits he didn’t touch.
Sarah looking relaxed drinking some tea in her Megan Markle trademark messy bun at home after George’s visit
George told Sarah that getting the Meghan messy bun was one of the most popular asks he received.
George said that royals often ask for formal updos that can be worn with hats, but he wanted to give the Duchess of Sussex ‘a modern edge’ – pictured trimming Sarah’s hair
Both Sarah and George wore masks during the treatment, which can cost £250. Pictrured: George giving Sarah a trim