The party season is officially upon us, in the lead-up to Christmas through New Year’s, and before you know it, it’ll be Chinese New Year! There’ll be get-togethers with close friends and family, the annual office party that usually takes a turn for a singles mixer, the Nth house party you’re gonna crash… What every girl needs for the occasion: heels you can stand and/or dance all night in, a designated driver, and plenty of confidence to charm the heck out of anyone, from the nosy relative to the cute colleague from the 7th floor office.
And few things boost a gal’s confidence like fantastic skin and hair. Makeover or maintenance booster, it’s not too late to book a no-downtime, instant-result aesthetic treatment, or to squeeze yourself onto the books at a top salon for a spruce-up before a party.
[Ed’s note: This review was done in September 2016, and revived for this year-end festivities grooming story]
While I could think of a dozen things I need done to my face, a less painful first step was to change up my Plain Jane hair into something more chic, and Kim Robinson at Ngee Ann City (#02-12, tel: +65 6738 8006) was my first stop.
I was led into a spacious Private Room where a large leather armchair is sited before a three-panelled mirror with a TV screen embedded that screened FTV all the way. My jacket is taken from me and hung up in another room, and my bags that carelessly I dump on the floor are carefully sheathed with plastic covers. I donned a black robe, and another cape was draped over me.
I was in dire need of some makeover magic: I’d not stepped into a salon for five months, and I was still growing out highlights from a year ago that I never had the patience to maintain. To make it even more challenging for my hairstylist Timen Siow, an artist from the Creative Team, I’d been keeping my straggly hair in a ponytail, so there were twists and bends in my hair, in addition to my natural curls.
While a hair wash or at least spritzing down with water would tame such hair into straight, obedient strands for easy cutting, there’s none of that here as the Kim Robinson signature dry cut (Cleanse, Cut and Finish, $248 by Creative Team artists), is the name of the game. After finger combing through my hair, flipping it this way and that, the rather serious Timen shared his assessment: I would get a straight bob (“your last cut, this inverted bob, is a passé style”), my fine hair would benefit from a choppy cut (“not too blunt, which is too harsh; not too wispy, because it will cause flyaway ends in our humid weather”), and I would get multi-shading colour, including a change in base colour (“we’ll give you chunky blonde highlights, to bring out the cut”).
He then combed my hair and proceeded with the dry cut, which is based on a client’s individual hair type, curl and how it moves naturally. Cutting has to be done with more precision, and “the hair cut can usually last longer – two to four, even five, months”, Timen says. He also explains how the chemical treatment of dyeing would change my hair’s texturing, drying it to give it more volume. “But isn’t drying the hair a bad thing?” “Don’t see it as a drier texture equals bad. It’s not weaker or damaged, it’s just different,” Timen replies.
After he was done cutting my hair into an even-length bob, my hair looked surprisingly well behaved and straight – and flat. But, I needn’t have worried. Timen was soon adding layers to give my hair more movement and volume.
Cut done, my head was next in the good hands of technician Brian Chow, who specialises in dye jobs and perms. I don’t know how I didn’t know this before meeting Brian, but colourists specialise in certain types of colours and styles. “I’m a blonde person,” he said. “My other colleagues specialise in creative colours such as red and purple. I love ash, and I love blonde.”
He explains the process, which involves adding highlights before changing the overall base colour of my hair (total price about $654). “We’ll lighten your hair, then we’ll do the base colour which will take about 15min. We’ll wash and see. Asian hair has a lot of red and orange pigments, and I don’t like it when I’m trying to create a blonde and there are still some of these red pigments, especially at the ‘virgin hair’ of grown-out roots, because the hair just looks brassy. If that happens, we’ll have to lighten it again.”
He and his assistant added the highlights and foil, popped a steamer over my head, and 20min later combed the base colour through my entire head. “We’re aiming for ash blonde,” said Brian, who explained that Kim Robinson offers a different colour base each season, according to the hair trends.
He’s one of seven colour technicians at Kim Robinson, each of whom has his or her own style and techniques – and corresponding customer base that prefers such. He also has a lot of Caucasian clients looking to achieve that perfect shade of blonde.
As I get my hair washed, he smeared some protective cream around my brows before painting on a lightening dye so that they don’t appear too stark and dark now that I was about to be blonde. After a blowout, I could see my new blonde streaks. But Brian decided that I needed more highlights, so it’s another round with the foils.
“It’s just like painting,” Brian mused philosophically as he and his assistant worked. “You can’t put everything on the paper and expect it to be perfect. Step by step – if we need to add on, we’ll take the next step. And we can’t be too precise, otherwise everyone can have the exact same style. To me, perfect is ugly.”
I wasn’t as blonde as I’d expected to be; certainly, my base colour wasn’t ash. But I had another appointment to rush off to, and Brian told me to come back in a week to finish the touchups. [Ed’s note: I never made it, as those were crazy times.]
Timen returned to perform the finale blowout. He pointed out how he was scrunching my ends with his hand with each blast of hot air, which added a sassy, casual curl. “It’s more interesting if it’s slightly tousled, not so perfect.” I loved it.
My hair texture was now rougher after the chemical treatment, he added. “You’ll find that when you style your hair, it won’t become limp and flat as quickly as before,” he iterated, about my styling woes I’d shared earlier. “Remember, it’s a different texture. It’s not damaged.”
I asked Brian before I left if I needed a special shampoo to maintain the blonde. “No need to make so much effort to maintain the colour,” he replied. “If the colour fades, just come to me.”
I was amused that both stylist and colourist seemed to advocate a care-less attitude – no need to pile on the treatments, no need to aim for smooth, silky locks. And honestly, I did like my new texturised hair, which now stayed in place (with the help of a little product, of course) wherever I tucked it, instead of flopping over my face. [Update: Two weeks later, I noticed that my blonde streaks had a very slight green tinge under the sun, but I didn’t mind and did not see a need to “fix” the colour.]
I had a big party the very next night. I had the heels, I had Uber, I had a good concealer and lipstick. Hair-wise I didn’t have to do much: just some scrunching to amp up the volume, and my new blonde bob was good to go!
Tags: Kim Robinson