Singaporean hairstylist Casey Chua has coiffed visiting celebrities and dignitaries such as Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton and Jerry Hall over the course of four decades, but he still gets excited about finding the right cuts and colour mixes for his clients.
“I like to use the phrase ‘real hair for real people’,” says the 61 year-old, who wears his badge of being the go-to person for blonde hair and for colour jobs gone wrong with pride. “I’ve done editorials, fashion shows and fashion shoots, but in the salon, we have people who wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and who have to handle their hair themselves.” A good hairstylist also needs to be able to read his clients well. “They give you a short brief and you have to understand, from their body language, what their requirements are. Everybody’s lifestyle is different. Also, these days, people travel a lot and are very international,” he says.
Keeping it real
Chua, whose training includes six years of precision cutting and colour chemistry learnt at academies in UK, France and Germany, and practised at hip salons in London, and ongoing one-on-one sessions with experts around the world, has a fanatically loyal client base who even fly in from other countries (as far away as Australia and Switzerland) just to have their hair tended to by him.
Clients from India, including an Indian media baron, jet in a couple of times a year.
To mark his eponymous salon’s relocation after 26 years at the upmarket Palais Renaissance shopping centre on Orchard Road to the Hilton Shopping Gallery across the road, Chua has a new website filled with testimonials from regulars and an established presence on social media.
Being around for four decades doesn’t, however, mean outdated, with clients’ children and grandchildren now coming to him. While Chua has been known to stay on top of trends, the rebranding also keeps in mind the needs of the younger clients.
In 1982, when he set up the salon, it was the first one in town that pioneered the concept of appointments. These days though, ever-connected millennials use social media to make their appointments. “We receive requests at 2 am in the mornings on Facebook, they’re probably multi-tasking or they travel… they decide on the spur of the moment. We have to organise ourselves to cater to that,” he says. “Recommendations aren’t done over a lunch table anymore, it’s over social media.” They are also aware of more haircare treatments than the regular perming or colouring.
Their styling needs are also slightly different from the precise looks of the past.
Chua’s brother Paul oversees the staff of eight stylists besides him, some of whom have been around for three decades. Says Chua: “A good personality, attitude and foundation are important. No short cuts. Even if trends change, you’ll be able to adapt.” He laments youngsters who think they can cut hair after watching a video on YouTube. “They’ll never be able to do a rescue.”
The keen yoga enthusiast – “love stretching after standing all day” — has travelled to Bhutan, New Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and Pune and would love to discover more of India and learn more about Ayurveda. As for inspiration, he cites “people watching while travelling, movies and magazines”.
Details: 581 Orchard Road, 02-21 Hilton Shopping Gallery, Singapore. caseysalon.com