100 salon staff are brought in to get a snip of high quality How many hairstylists in Hong Kong get an all-expenses paid international study tour? It is equally unlikely any are paid more than bank managers or drive company BMWs. That may be because Stefan Hair Fashions has no branches in the city. 'Hong Kong's hairstyling of Asian hair is the best in the world,' says the company owner, Australian Steve Ackerie. He has brought 100 of his best stylists to the city for a two-week conference on emerging Asian styles. They will get a chance to hear ideas and observe techniques of top stylists from L'Oreal and local hair salon Il Colpo. After opening his first salon in Australia at age 17, Mr Ackerie now oversees 50 salons and more than 500 stylists. Ten per cent of his clientele in Australia is ethnically Asian, and the number is growing. Mr Ackerie not only admires the artistic sense of the city's hairdressers. 'Hong Kong is very influential in terms of hairdressing equipment. It made hot irons a world trend. Although equipment may be designed in Europe or Japan, it is manufactured in Hong Kong and China.' He has already run five such conferences in Hong Kong, and visited the city over 100 times. 'Hong Kong is my best friend,' he says. 'Hong Kong has changed since I first came 30 years ago. Most hairdressers were European. Now they are local Hong Kong people.' He rates the cuts here as 'very high quality and very stylish'. 'Hong Kong people are hard-working and committed; it has paid off and can be seen on the world stage. At home, top staff are well rewarded, with some managers paid more than A$80,000 (HK$438,000) a year and provided with company BMWs. 'Your greatest asset is your staff; you can't spend too much on them,' he says, justifying the bill for bringing employees here. The Australian government has given him an employer of the year award five times. 'It is a beautiful feeling to bring 110 people to a five-star hotel.' Mr Ackerie currently has no plans to expand beyond Australia into Asia. He relaxes by playing golf and honing his offshore power boating skills - he is the national champion. Channine Kennedy, 29-year-old manager of one of Mr Ackerie's salons, says she had 'so much more opportunity to grow as a hairstylist and as a person' working for Mr Ackerie compared with her less-fortunate friends in the trade. This is her third trip to the city with Mr Ackerie, and she is 'inspired a little more' each time she comes. 'It gives me a lot more motivation in my work,' she says. 'The shopping's great and so is the culture. Seeing something different from Australia is so nice and everyone's really friendly.'