Hair

The Game Changers

Benaifer J. Mirza catches up with veteran women hairstylists and young turks who made their mark in the Indian hair industry and are here to stay.

They need no introduction. They’re innovators of modern hair and recognised the world over as movers and shakers in the hair industry. To mark International Women’s Day, we get some of the most renowned hairstylists and some promising newcomers to talk about their professional journey and accomplishments. More power to them!


ADHUNA BHABANI,
FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BBLUNT

She started her career when salons were simply salons and didn’t have brand recognition. She is one of the few experts who has been able to transform her salon (and herself, too, in many ways) into a global brand. How easy or difficult was it to bring about that degree of change? Today, when there are dime a dozen salons in every nook and corner of the country, how does BBLUNT maintain its special place amidst all the competition keep reinventing itself?

OVER TO BHABANI
Osh, my brother, and I, in collaboration with Avan Contractor, launched BBLUNT (B stands for Bhabani and also my favourite cut, The BOB!), a ‘destination hair salon’, and the first-of-its-kind in 2004.

Everything has been a milestone – from opening our first salon together to winning hairdressing awards to opening salon number two onto 18, to our first Bollywood hairstyling debut Dil Chahta Hai right to the 50+ films that followed after.

We founded the BBLUNT Academy with a vision of educating and nurturing a homegrown team of stylists, who are honest, like-minded, enthusiastic, thoroughly capable, and can successfully manage things. From just a team of Avan and me, we’ve moved on to a whole battalion of talented stylists called The Shoot Crew – currently spearheaded by Avan. Our latest project was Gully Boy, which we were really excited about. Another significant association we have had is our partnership with Godrej Consumer Products Ltd., a brand that is involved in every step of the way – from the inception of the idea to formulation, design development, packaging, testing, communication, and each product launch. Today, our range of products caters to every hair type, texture, and scalp-specific need, covering care and styling for both men and women.

For BBLUNT, our philosophy is what sets us apart – keep it real! We think that the only person you need to look like is you; our imperfections are what define us! We strongly and firmly believe in it. The idea is not to be a clone and stand out but to encourage you to work with what you naturally have, and express yourself. At BBLUNT, we work with hair in its natural state; we treat it as an organic material. We shape and balance it to reflect you as an individual and reveal your own unique personality.

Our stylists are trained to understand everything, from face shapes to personalities, so that the end result is very individual. Personalising a haircut or style is our motto. We cut, we never copy-paste!

For 2019, we will be focusing on strengthening our franchisee format and adding specialised products to our existing portfolio. Hairstyling for films is and will always be one of the key assets of BBLUNT.


SEEMA V. JERAJANI,
EDUCATOR AND CONSULTANT, SVJ ACADEMY
FOR HAIR AND MAKE-UP

She has always laid tremendous emphasis on the importance of learning. Hardcore ground work and education are at the heart of what she does. She has inspired thousands of aspiring hair and make-up artists and proved how hard work and coninued learning can pave the way to success.

OVER TO JERAJANI
In my career spanning more than three decades, I have always strongly believed in having a good foundation in education. From an L.C.G.I. degree in hairdressing and teacher training from Vidal Sassoon, to studying at the best of make-up and hair academies over the years, it has all given me a strong base and taught me that sky is the limit for one’s creativity and success. Starting out as being one of the hairdressers to participating in the Europe Cup Championship, and now being part of the jury for the world cup in hair and make-up, it has been a great journey. This has been possible only through continued learning.

Some of my studies with world champions are scheduled in March and June this year. I believe that while my work is beautiful and creative, yet to bring a higher level of finesse in my work, I have sometimes even repeated a training program. One evolves when studying, not only in the areas of the art of styling and make-up, but also as an educator. As an educator, I strive to give the best to my students. Many hairdressers and make-up artists think they know it all, but they may just limit their own growth with this thinking.

My work in the areas of hair and make-up has always been creative and experimental, inspiring other artists through the work published in magazines and the hair shows where I teach hairstyles and present my ‘collection of the year’ at Salon India.

My biggest contribution to education in the industry has been the Art of Indian Coiffures, a book teaching Indian hairstyling, which covers Indian hairstyles from 500B.C. to current trends, with step-by-step photos and guidance in English and Hindi. This book hopes to inspire hairdressers and make-up artists from all over the world to continue to preserve the art of Indian hairstyling for future generations.


NATASHA NAEGAMVALA,
DIRECTOR, ‘NALINI’ OF THE NALINI &
YASMIN SALON

She took over the well-establsihed business from her mother Nalini Naegamvala, and ensured that it is relevant, up-to-date, and still at the top of its game.

OVER TO NAEGAMVALA
I had a good role model! My mum introduced me to this industry and taught me the ropes and all that I needed to learn. Of course, I’m still learning on the job, in relevance to the way things run today. I also saw my mum teach and guide my sister, Monisha, during her journey.

Mum and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye in certain areas. But, she’s the one who taught me to understand the differences and use my imagination and knowledge to run the salon. She learned on the job, and it’s the same with me as I learnt it all from her.

So, right from being a little girl who watched her mother create magic on people’s hair back in the late ‘80s to the year 2012, when she handed over the business to me, and until now, my mother has played a big role in shaping my life and career. Thanks to her, I have been able to keep the salon constantly evolving and the business rolling.


NAINA GUNJIKAR,
HAIR ARTIST, HIGH GLOSS (BENGALURU)

Young and vibrant, she pretty much wears the style and the bold and beautiful hues herself, too. How important is it for a stylist to embody the styles she promotes? Is being stylish a pre-requisite to be in this industry, or is it only about one’s talent and skills, or is it a blend of both?

OVER TO GUNJIKAR

You walk into a salon that has two stylists. One has an amazing hairstyle and the other one has a terrible cut and colour. Who would you go to? The answer is, to the latter one because they do each other’s hair!

I’ve always been obsessed with my own hair. This is one of the biggest reasons I got into the hair industry and was able to step into my clients’ shoes. Being passionate about your work really helps. You’ll be a good stylist only if you have first-hand experiences with the services you offer and truly understand the day-to-day maintenance involved.

Apart from that, I think every artist has their own signature look. My hair wardrobe is decorated with years of bleach and colour stains! And while it helps to be impeccably groomed, I firmly believe that in the long run, your work and skill will always matter more.


ASHA HARIHARAN,
FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, BEYOND THE
FRINGE SALONS (HONG KONG AND MUMBAI) &
ASHA HARIHARAN ACADEMY (AHA), MUMBAI

She not only runs a very successful chain of salons, but has also worked with some of the biggest celebs in India, and on movies and TV shows. But what’s most beautiful is that she has always kept her salon and academy very current in their techniques, yet simple in their demeanour.

OVER TO HARIHARAN

As a brand, we have always wanted to give our clients the best and most luxurious services and treatments, without making them pay a big fat premium for the same. And, while we could have easily gone in that space, we have very consciously decided to keep it simple, approachable, and, most importantly, affordable.

‘God is in the details.’ As a hair and make-up expert, salon owner, and an educator, I have always believed in this adage, which is why it has always been important for me to learn and teach the very basics and then keep growing on that. Today, there are a number of institutes that offer three and five-day crash courses on things, such as hair colouring. On the other hand, at our institute, AHA, we train on the same topic for two long months, because we believe in imparting the best and most exhaustive training to our students, so that there is no space for any doubts or confusion when they enter the real world of working at a salon. In fact, we have also developed the training and education side of leading colour companies, which shows our expertise in the area of colour.

Also, I do believe that it’s important to encourage people from across the country, and not just students who are fluent in English. We have trained a number of very talented students, whose primary language of communication is Hindi. We don’t want the language to be an impediment or barrier towards their success. And, believe it or not, Priyanka Chopra (when we were shooting for What’s Your Raashee?) would insist on that one particular stylist from our team who may perhaps be speaking broken English, but still delivered the best blowdry ever!

It gives us great sense of joy and pride to see our students achieving so much, including hair and make-up awards not only in India but also in Germany, Australia, France, England, etc. This is a testimony of our standards of education and training.

So, be it with our clients at the salon or the students at our academy, our aim is to give them all an experience that comes straight from the heart, and that definitely shows in the end result – be it in the form of a happy client or a well rounded and talented stylist.


KANTA MOTWANI,
CURATOR, KROMAKAY SALONS & ACADEMY

She is one of the most grounded stylists in the industry. How has she remained so grounded yet so focussed through these years?

OVER TO MOTWANI

I truly love and enjoy what I do! My profession is therapeutic not only for my guests but for me as well. I think, being rooted is not an effort; it’s just the way our culture is and the manner in which we have been raised.

Also, coming from the service industry, one cannot afford to be any other way. When a client sits on my chair, with total faith and trust, I feel it’s my duty to deliver and empower these women with more confidence. And, this is not only extremely satisfying but very humbling too, especially when you see their gratitude and smiling faces in appreciation of your effort.


ZEEBA MORTEZAI,
OWNER, WHY NOT? BY ZEEBA

She is all of 29 years and runs her own salon. As a young hairstylist and entrepreneur, it is easy to get swayed away by all the glitz and glamour that this industry brings with it. But she chooses to keep her head on her shoulders.

OVER TO MORTEZAI

I have always been simple right from my childhood and all the credit for keeping me grounded goes to my family. Hair and styling have been my passion and I believe in giving complete attention to my work. Of course, the success and the perks that come with it are beautiful, but one needs to stay focussed and grounded to continue to achieve one’s dreams. I go by this mantra.

My work gives me the opportunity to meet and connect with newer people every day. Listening to the stories of my clients and getting to know their journeys enables me to develop a personal bond with them. I’m happy to understand the different perspectives and attitudes and learn to adapt to them all.


AVANI YASHWIN,
FOUNDER, HAPPY IN THE HEAD

She is a new kid on the block. In just a few years, her salon has grown by leaps and bounds. Does she get intimated by competition, especially from the seniors and veterans of the industry?

OVER TO YASHWIN
According to me, hair and styling is a type of art. Everyone can do their own thing and survive amicably, without trampling other people. I don’t think there has been any animosity from anyone. We have very limited interaction, as we don’t enter competition, or go for shows, or have any season or collection launches. So, there has never been any competition for me in the world of hair, as I have never entered any, simply because I just don’t believe in it. I feel that at the end of the day, there is a personal and intimate relationship between your client and you and that is what really matters. So as long as they are letting you do something and are happy to wear what you’ve created,
I am happy and feel accomplished.

It doesn’t really matter whether the world thinks it’s okay or the hair industry thinks it’s the next big thing, or whether it’s trendsetting or not, as long as the person wearing it feels phenomenal in it. So, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to put myself out in this competitive atmosphere. Of course, we are constantly experimenting and trying out new things in the salon, depending on what the client wants and is ready for.

I feel, we all can have our own brand of art, explore and be adventurous without the need to push someone else up or down. Everyone is in a space of their own.

About the author

Benaifer J Mirza