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All tied up in knots? Let this Midlands local cut you free

Sarah Finlay at work at Knotts Salon. Picture: Nerissa Card
Sarah on a rare day off.


She’s appeared on Durban’s dustbins, cruised the world and worked for one of London’s top salons.

She is also the reason the women, and quite a few men, in Nottingham Road always look fabulous.

She needs no introduction to Midlands locals, but for the rest, allow us to tell you a little bit about hairstylist Sarah Finlay.

Born and bred in the Midlands, Sarah went to school at Nottingham Road Primary, Kings School and Howick High. After matriculating, she trained at Durban’s Congella technikon, before doing her apprenticeship with well-known Durban stylists Perry West and Jenny B.

It was while working with the pair that she became recognisable in Durban. To promote their brand they used Sarah for an advertising shoot, which is what landed her on the city’s trashcans – “my claim to fame”, she jokes.

Once qualified, Sarah joined Knotts Salon, which was owned by her mom, Jean Bowley-Smith. Mama and daughter spent a year working together, before Sarah headed for London, aged 21.


The ad campaign that landed Sarah on Durban dustibins – her “claim to fame”.

There, she walked the streets looking for work, eventually being employed by the legendary Toni and Guy, an international chain established in 1963 by brothers Toni and Guy Mascolo.

After two years, she hit the high seas, working for Carnival Cruises for eight months.

But home called, so she returned to Notties for a holiday and never left, rejoining her mother behind her scissors.

Sarah’s beautiful mama, Jean Bowley-Smith.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sarah’s mom. Sadly, she passed away from cancer eight years ago, but I am told she was a legend in the area. So legendary, in fact, that she lives on in the famous Notties pub – her ashes are under the floorboards. I am told Jean enjoyed a tipple there occasionally.

Took the reins

When her mom passed away, Sarah, took the reins and has, ever since, paid tribute to Jean by running an excellent ship.

Knotts Salon has now been in business for 32 years.

Recently, there were new beginnings for the salon. Having been based near the Country Market for many years, Sarah has moved the business to Robin Road, behind Spar, where she, her staff and friends have created a beautiful, fresh space.

Knotts Salon also incorporates another Midlands’ local’s business – Sarah Garlicke’s The Beauty Box, so it is a one-stop shop for all things hair and … beauty.

The thing I have always loved about Knotts Salon is that it’s like being at home, which, they say, is where the heart is. This business is full of heart. May it continue to grow from strength to strength.


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  1. Hi everyone, hope you are all well. It is getting a tad chilly over here. A beautiful tribute to you Sarah. Miss you guys, lots of love Angela.

  2. Spent many a day at Knott’s salon having my hair done…loved the spunky pink streaks…gee I even got to play Sarah in a play…
    Need to visit to Notties again…
    Love to you all

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