Kim Robinson, hair stylist to the rich and famous, explains why he’s a cut above
With clients such as the late Princess Diana and singer Rita Ora, the Australian-born celebrity hairdresser explains why he is qualified to inspire every Hong Kong woman
“I was 14 when I started training as a hairdresser at the Australian Institute of Technology. I was also working part time after school and on Saturdays at a hair salon. My responsibilities included cleaning up the space, organising the towels and so on. I loved the atmosphere.
My boss eventually offered me a job, but my father told me that I couldn’t take it. He told me it was not something that men should do. In that era, jobs such as window dresser, fortune teller and airline steward were frowned upon. As was being gay. All of dad’s friends used to tease him for having a son who was a hairdresser. But when I won the apprentice of the year award for hairdressing, he shut up. Now he’s the proudest dad I know.
At the beginning, I wasn’t entirely sure if hairdressing was right for me. I just liked being there. It was fun and cool, the people were friendly and I enjoyed it more than being in school. Studying at the Institute of Technology was difficult, and working with Alexandre de Paris, and later with Vidal Sassoon, was very tough and technical. Nothing was ever good enough, and everything was very stiff.
I didn’t discover the love until this one day in Paris. I was working at Alexandre’s salon when I saw Grace Kelly. She just floated past me after Alexandre had done her hair, and I was completely gobsmacked. Something inside me was triggered that day because she looked so gorgeous. And that was the starting point for my book, Go Get Gorgeous.
The book is not about haute couture hair, or crazy things like blue or green hair that only hairdressers like. Instead, it’s about everyday hair for girls. The book is also partly inspired by my experience working with a Chinese model called August who came from an agency. When she first came to me, the agency told me not to cut her hair because she was going to do a shampoo commercial. So we couldn’t do much, she looked plain, and no one booked her for three months.
Eventually the agency told me that they were thinking of axing her as she wasn’t having much success. So with her and the agency’s permission I gave August a dramatic makeover. Immediately after, Calvin Klein booked her, and she was sent later to walk at Paris Fashion Week. She’s now in New York at Ford Models. This is how life-changing hair can be.
Most of the girls on the street in Hong Kong have no style. I see stylish girls elsewhere, such as in New York, London and Paris. The girls here all have long hair, but no personality. That is why I created the book, so that we could show how gorgeous Asian women can look with lots of different makeovers. Every Chinese mother should buy this book for their daughter and tell them to go get gorgeous.
I have clients who have come to me for more than 30 years and they won’t go to anyone else. Some of my clients don’t get their hair done with me all the time, though. But for their major changes, they really trust me. I’ve been trained by masters, and know that the difference is their methodology.
It’s about learning how hair can make a woman’s face slimmer and creating looks that flatter them. A lot of younger hairdressers haven’t had that kind of exposure. They are all about the trend and look. They create the hairstyle, but they can’t make the face small or skinny. That’s something you can’t teach them.
My biggest mentors are my mother and father, I am fortunate to have been supported by them, and they are very honest and truthful with me. And this is something that I believe is the backbone of everything that I now do with my business. It goes back to the truth. I don’t tiptoe around issues, I tell people how it is. And that’s something I learned from my parents.
I’m also honest with my staff and together we’ve created an incredible business based on discipline and honesty. My staff are impeccably groomed so customers can’t tell who is the stylist, who is the assistant, and who is at what level. They are all sharp and clean.
They have all been trained by me, and can go and work anywhere else in the world. They cannot be late, must attend training courses, and they must be dressed impeccably. We have focused on being the best. And as a result, they have clients that book a year ahead of time with them.
If I could have one wish, it would be that all women% love their hair. Most women don’t, and I think it is a woman’s right to feel beautiful. They complain so much about their hair, that it’s not thick enough, not long enough and so forth. And I think that’s sad. I want them to feel empowered, and feel gorgeous. If you don’t feel gorgeous then change your hairdresser.
I still love what I do and I’m so fortunate that this profession is one that I have been passionate about for a long time. It is a lifetime career. I have had a beautiful life surrounded by the most beautiful women, and have had the chance to travel the world.
There are not many hairdressers that can charge what I do, and service the world’s most beautiful and influential women, from Princess Diana to Rita Ora. The average person gets five seconds with them, but I’m with women like them all the time. Because of luck, opportunity and the fact that I have been trained by the best.”
As told to Daniel Kong