Online entrepreneur launches HK's first 'Beauty Week'
Beauty Week celebrates the range of salons in the city, writes Gemma Soames
"I am your spa girl," says Jennifer Barba. "Any time I go anywhere, the first thing I do is book a massage. Even at the airport."
So dedicated is she to her beauty regimen that she launched an online business, Prettybooked.com, designed to provide a comprehensive directory of Hong Kong's salons, from the largest chain to the smallest independent brand.
Before she launched it, she had been collecting a database of the places she would visit, listing their price points and services. "Mostly, I used it for friends and family who would ask me when they came over, 'Hey, Jennifer, I want a foot massage and I'm in Causeway Bay, where is the place to go?"
She decided to formalise it, building her site before setting out to enlist salons.
Fast-forward 18 months and Barba is set to host the city's first Beauty Week to publicise the range of treatments and salons available in the city. Running from August 4-10 the Beauty Week is geared to both the public and professionals.
"It's a celebration of the industry," says Barba. "Lots of participating salons will have something special on offer, and we're running events to educate people. The make-up and hair styling event idea came from YouTube make-up videos. Before I go out, I'll watch one on how to do a smoky eye, even though my husband always laughs at me."
For the masterclass on August 8, make-up artist Megumi Sekine, a contributor to Vogue and Elle, will be giving advice on the latest beauty trends, while hair stylist Stella Look will demonstrate how to get the salon style at home.
Kim Le Sambolec of The Cosmetic Concierge will talk about skincare, while Balance Health's nutritionist, Sheena Smith, leads a skin and diet event on August 6.
"The sheer amount of products in the market makes it hard to find the truth," says Barba. "So I want to bring in an expert to get the facts straight. You know, what is the right SPF? What's retinol? And should we really get rid of oil?"
"I've spoken to everyone, from the biggest salon chains to the smallest outfit in Kowloon, and it's been a huge learning curve," says Barba, adding that it was hard, initially, to get the spas on board. "It was like selling a car to a Martian because none of them had come across the concept before."
But eventually they came around, and today she lists about 300 companies on her site. The salons upload their profiles, and users can log on to search for information by treatment, location and price, and browse for reviews by Prettybooked users. They can then either use her online booking service or contact the salon direct.
Barba is expecting large numbers of visitors at Beauty Week. "Hong Kong is a very beauty-focused city. Plus, women have a more holistic approach to beauty here - people want to fix things from the inside out. Even during a recession, women may cut back on buying handbags but they will never cut back on their hair or their nails."
Beauty Week runs from Aug 4 to 10 at various locations. For tickets and details: prettybooked.com/beautyweek