Art & Photography / In Pictures

Introducing the Bleach London Pop-Up Bar

AnOther speaks to set designer David White about the inspiration behind Bleach London's Dalston pop-up bar

Wonky Direction by TART for Bleach Bar
Wonky Direction by TART for Bleach Bar

This weekend, Bleach London opens its much-anticipated pop-up bar on Kingsland Road, a mere hop, skip and a hairbrush away from their iconic hair salon. The Bleach London revolution began in 2010, when best friends Alex Brownsell and Sam Teasedale began styling hair out of the back of a nail salon in Dalston. What started as a two-chair pop-up has grown into a cult hair destination, almost single-handedly responsible for the mass of pastel streaks and dip-dyed hair that has become ubiquitious in East London and beyond since 2011.

Named after the dye-job that built their reputation, along with the eponymous Nirvana album, Bleach has become known for a hands-on approach to hair, coupling the DIY aesthetic that they learned as teenagers with an assured artistic vision and acute attention to detail. They now boast a celebrity clientele and a reputed product line. A bar seems like a natural progression for the salon, which has always felt more like a party than a hairdressers. They have collaborated with TART for signature drinks including The Slushino, Ratmilk and Wonky Direction (Sam's sister Lou Teasdale is the official hair stylist for 1D), while the interior comes courtesy of set designer David White. Taking the Dalston space and running with inspiration from Blade Runner, White has reimagined an old Chinese restaurant into an East Meets East London melange of mirrored palm leaf wallpaper, Korean graffiti and exposed fittings. Here, White speaks to AnOther and exclusively shares his reference images which helped to inspire the design.

How did you end up working on Bleach Bar?
I've known Bleach for years now and recently moved in with Alex. As soon as there was even a slight possibility of the bar becoming a reality, we started brainstorming and putting together endless collections of over-the-top ideas.

What was the inspiration for the space?
I'm obsessed with the detail and faux reality of film sets so I wanted to create an environment which felt as though it had been there for fifty years before we stumbled upon it and added a hyperreal layer of futurism. Cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo feel like a 1980's vision of the future so they were both strong influences in the addition of an Asian aesthetic. We also just wanted to create somewhere we could hang out and get drunk which was fun and didn't take itself too seriously.

Is there anything you find anything off-putting in bar design?
Bright lights are the worst, i think all bars should be as dark as possible without causing fatal injury.

"Bright lights are the worst, i think all bars should be as dark as possible without causing fatal injury" — David White

Was set design always a career path you always wanted to follow?
Pretty much, after considering landscape architecture, architecture and interior design I decided creating fake versions of all three was way more fun.

When did you start designing?
I used to build dens and sketch plans for impossible tree houses as far back as I can remember. My crowning glory was a realised den with seven rooms, one of which was 'upstairs'. You entered on a skateboard, plummeting down through steep a cardboard tunnel. Looking back it wasn't my finest moment of design (due to the massive hole it made in the fence) but I'm chuffed I now get paid to think up similarly stupid ideas.

What are your favourite bars / hang outs in London?
I love a house party but Metropolis on Hackney Road is always good for a laugh. Any themed bar that has a pole is good with me.

Bleach Bar is open August 15 – October 15 at 428 Kingsland Road.

Text by Mhairi Graham