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Making the cut

SHILPA NAIR ANAND
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People Style comes naturally to Leo Alphons, one of Kochi’s top hairstylists, who will be flying to Paris to attend a world hair expo

ScissorhandsLeo Alphons specialises in short hair cutsphoto: H.Vibhu
ScissorhandsLeo Alphons specialises in short hair cutsphoto: H.Vibhu

Leo Alphons smiles a lot. Especially when he narrates the unexpected turn his career took. Hair styling was the last thing on his mind when he came to Kochi from Kottayam after completing his engineering.

It is worthy of a film, he says. And as he begins telling the story, turns out it would make for an interesting script. He pursued the engineering course in the hope of landing a job in West Asia. Which he, unfortunately, didn’t. “But then it turned out for the best, didn’t it?” he wonders aloud. He has two salons in Kochi.

Visit to Paris

He sets off to Paris, in a couple of months and “if I get my visa on time,” for a world hair expo in Paris and an advanced course in hair styling from Barcelona. At the hair expo, hairstylists from the world over will showcase trends and latest hairstyles. “There will be around 20-25 of L’Oreal’s top creative hairstylists and around 3,000 hairstylists will participate in the expo.” And in Barcelona he will learn more about hairstyling. Not that he gets to experiment much here. “Nobody comes for very short haircuts here. Anyway what can you do with long hair? Very few people who come for really short hair which is what I love to do.” He has seven stylists, but when it comes to short haircuts, he does them personally. “Otherwise it goes awry and then there is a lot of answering to do,” he chuckles.

And to think he just wanted to start a business, “any business that was low cost.” He thought of starting a DTP business but then that required an investment, he therefore opted for a cheaper alternative. “I figured people would need a place to cut their hair. So why not start a hair salon? I bought a couple of scissors and bought a cutting chair, hired a couple of guys, rented a 200 sq. ft. place and I was in business.” Of the two-member staff, one left in a couple of weeks.

This was in 2005, at Espalanade in Convent Junction. The next year he found someone who stayed for almost a year. “And then he too quit.” That’s when Leo says he decided to take things, or rather the scissors, into his hands, literally. “It couldn’t be too difficult I thought. So I learnt, by trial and error, it wasn’t as tough as it looked.”

That was also the time John Abraham’s long straightened locks were making a fashion statement. “Everybody wanted that look and business was ‘ok’.”

This time fate intervened once again, in 2008, and took him to Thailand in search of a company which manufactured hair straightening cream. “I found the address on a label. I was desperate and I went there looking for the place,” Leo recalls. Needless to say, he found the place. It was during this trip that he went to Kuala Lumpur.

And that led him to enrolling for a foundation course in hair styling and cutting there. He got back and opened Laura in Oberon Mall that year. He followed this up with an advanced course with Toni and Guy, Singapore, in 2010 and with an advanced hair styling and colouring course at Saks Academy, London in 2012.

Last year, he says, he started his second salon at Panampilly Nagar, which is more of a beauty salon on popular demand. Always game for new things, he started Kochi’s first fish spa too. His phone constantly rings, and he gets a call from one of his salons. He perks up and asks hopefully, “Victoria Beckham?...O! Not that.” “See…I told you. Victoria Beckham is a short hair style and very few takers…”

But he has dummies on which he practices hair styles to keep the scissors snipping sharp and savvy. And there is always the hair expo.

SHILPA NAIR ANAND

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