Hair Bar, Vietnam’s first blow dry-only salon, opens in Ho Chi Minh City. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Vinh Dao and Romain Garrigue.
“Vietnamese women, every time they come to the hair salon they want something new but they never want to cut their hair,” says French-Vietnamese hairstylist Sandrine Nguyen, the hair and style maven behind Concept Coiffure salon in District 2. It was also the long hair flowing from the back of motorbikes that she noticed about local women when she returned from France in 2005. “They all want it long. Most wait six months, maybe even once a year, and then only cut a little bit of their hair. I thought that was funny.” It’s the reason she dreamed of Hair Bar, her premier blow dry-only salon which opened its doors on Ngo Duc Ke in June. No cuts or colouring, just a 45-minute professional consultation and personalised styling for daily or party gigs and healthy and alluring hair. The blow-dry concept is not entirely new. Hair Bar is the Vietnamese equivalent to America’s Dry Bar, which now has 39 locations in the United States. In 2002, Forbes magazine praised Dry Bar’s owner Alli Web for her ability to create a “$20 million sales business out of nothing but hot air”. Nguyen, 35, wants her blowdry business to be an everyday place filled with confidence, panache and useful options for women rather than just a clone salon to her successful Concept Coiffure. “A lot of women come into my shop and tell me ‘I want to change my hair’ but ‘I’m a very natural person’. I’m also a natural person, yes, but you have to do something,” she says. And so it’s a good time to be a girl. Hair Bar customers start off with a glass of complimentary champagne or mocktail, watch black-and-white movies projected onto the ceiling while getting their hair washed and peruse a glamorous iPad menu of eight style options (five blowdry, three treatment) that serve as a basic menu for customers. For an All-Blowout at VND 250,000 (Dry Bar charges $40), customers walk in and half an hour later transform with possibly Angel Face, a one-sided wavy blowout; Black Velvet, a silky and straight look; or lots of loose curls with Gin Fizzy, which is modeled by Vietnamese supermodel Ha An Vu Vo. “You can dream about beautiful curls in the pictures and you can also have it. Any kind of colour, any kind of cut, perm or styling. But if your hair’s not healthy then it doesn’t make sense,” Nguyen says. Behind the Hair Bar counter is a candyland of coveted hair products from German cosmetic giant Schwarzkopf. Nguyen recommends popular products like 10ml bottles of Schwarzkopf’s Repair Rescue instant repair shots (VND 220,000) to stimulate amino cell rebuild. For long hair with damaged ends, she says to run Miracle oil containing argan after a blow dry (VND 430,000). Some of these products are included in the treatments like the Hair Punch (VND 120,000), a 10-minute blowout with massage cream specially brewed to bring new vitality and shininess to the hair, or the Hair Shot (VND 200,000), which solves scalp problems and hair loss. “Hair is important, just as your skin. If you use the wrong cream for your skin, you can tell the difference. Hair is the same. If you don’t care for it, then it’s also not good,” she says.