Johnny is one of Nigeria’s leading celebrity stylists. He is half french, half Lebanese. He is the CEO of Johnny’s Saloon where most big babes and celebs make their hair. He recently met with City People’s Fashion & Beauty Columnist, who runs the LOOKING GOOD column. During the interview, he revealed how his Saloon business started and why his clients keep coming back.
Please introduce yourself?
My name is Johnny and I am a French-Lebanese national based in Nigeria. My father is Lebanese and my mother, French. I love adventure and am cosmopolitan and eclectic in nature. I travel as much as I can and am always looking to meeting new and interesting people. I consider myself a snazzy dresser and have a unique style. Coupled with a love of learning about new people and cultures, I am always game for a good time in the sun. I work hard and play hard but am mindful of doing so with integrity, respect and empathy for people and their unique challenges and characteristics.
Tell us how your business started?.
13 years ago, I got a call from a friend in Nigeria, while I was working in Dubai, telling me he had a successful salon in Lagos but wanted to leave the country for personal reasons. He asked if I would be interested in taking over his salon. At first, I was sceptical. Why would he want to leave the salon if it was making him money?
I decided to pay him a visit to see for myself and immediately fell in love with Nigeria. It suited my adventurous nature and the people were extremely hospitable. Then after I took the salon over, the owner of the house the salon was based at, decided to sell it and I had to find myself an alternative location. I then opened Johnny’s and my clients followed me to my new address.
What initially attracted you to choose Hair Styling as a career?
I have a passion for hair since I was a child. In order to fall asleep, I needed to hold onto my mother’s hair. My mother then got to me to grow my own hair so I could hold onto it every night when I was tucked in bed. Later on, as I got older, there was a hair salon opposite our house and after school every day, I would sit on the balcony, doing my homework and look at the ladies having their hair done. I would even recognise them when I would run into them sometimes during the city and got to know them all personally, as they did me. One summer’s day I had the courage to ask the owner of the salon if I could come and work for him and that is where my career started.
How long have you been in this business?
Meet one of the Nigerians celebrity stylists, or Johnny is half French and half Lebanese. He is the CEO of johnny’s saloon where most big babes and celebrities make their hair. He recently meets with city people to share how his saloon business started and the secret why his client kept coming back.
Handling a client for me is about adapting to their needs and wants within the confines of what I am able to do. No more, no less.
How long have you been in Nigeria?
13 years thus far. But it feels as if I arrived yesterday. In Nigeria, it is about doing right by the clientele; not looking for trouble; being sincere and polite and; having your own unique character and style. I evolve so that my clients do not get bored with me and invest in the community, either by helping when I can or just being a party to it. I also enjoy learning some of the local languages where I can.
Do you intend expanding your salon business?
I have already expanded my shop at Mega Plaza in Victoria Island and have opened a branch in Ikoyi. I am currently busy with a new business partner, who herself has been my customer for years, in opening a new branch in Abuja. It is not just about expanding the business but about making sure I can maintain Johnny’s standard in doing so. It is, therefore, important that, while expanding, I make sure that the staff are trained to be able to maintain my standards and quality because this is what my clients have become used to. I do not consider myself to be an expert business man but rather as someone who has a passion for what they he does and personal values that drive my decisions and behaviour. Customer service is key and some of my clients have been with me since the beginning. I knew them when they were young and single and now most of them are married, with children. Hopefully, I will have one of my own someday soon, as I am not getting any younger.
We know that a lot of well-known people have their hair done at your salon. Why is this?
After leaving school, I attended 3 seminars at the Academie de Artiste in Toulouse, France. I then moved back to Lebanon to do my apprenticeship. After that, I moved to Dubai and then later to Lagos. I have been in the business for about 17 years now, of which 13 has been in Nigeria.
Who inspires you?
Every stylist or even anyone else for that matter, who loves what they do has a passion for it. Every day, I learn something new from observing what other salons do around the world and locally. Sometimes, I experiment and what I come up with becomes a trend in itself. I believe it is how I feel and what translates to my clients that drive my passion. I appreciate and even care deeply for some of my clients and they come up to me with ideas and ask me what I think and we see if it can work.
How do you handle your clients?
The client is the reason I can do what I love. I initially planned to travel and work in a lot of countries and then go back one day to Lebanon and open a salon. However, the Nigerian spirit and character endeared me to stay and a lot of my clients and I have become friends or even family of some sorts, over the years. I have had to change my mind on my initial plans and may now even grow old here if circumstances permit me to do so. Every year, I say that I will leave next year and yet it has been 13 years already. As a proudly Nigerian businessman, I offer my clients first class services. This is done by employing and training suitable staff. Some of them learn and then go on to work for other salons or themselves, but I do not mind since a lot of them stay. I once had a client say to me that they felt like they were on a first-class flight. They were being pampered and their hair is seen to. Especially since I also offered them beverages and snacks. I entertain them with my quirky personality but also leave them alone when I notice that they want to read or do some catching up on social media. I have TV screens in my salon with music videos playing and also offer some new magazines for the clients to read while they are being attended to. I travel a lot out of and within Nigeria and have done magazine shoots for weddings and fashion shows over the years.
I believe it is because I do not become outdated and boring and keep myself abreast of the latest trends and looks. I offer it to my clients and sometimI believe it is because I do not become outdated and boring and keep myself abreast of the latest trends and looks. I offer it to my clients and sometimes I would introduce it to them, even when they were not really looking to change anything. We also do not harass our clients and as my shop is off the beaten track, so to speak, clients can unwind and be left in peace, especially if they are famous. I have at times even done hair styling at their places or work or homes when they were unable to come to the salon or they were pressed for time. My marketing strategy is based on word-of-mouth referrals. It has served me well and people are more prone to believe that which a friend or esteemed colleague tells them than seeing it advertised on- line or in other formats. As we work with natural hair, our clients will be very unforgiving if we mess it up. Thus, if they know you are doing a good job, why will they go elsewhere? For those who have long natural hair we also straighten it with good and safe products and when they want it to curl again we just leave the treatment and let nature take its course.
What are the trending hairstyles at the moment?
Fashion or trending hair styles are great. But a hair stylist has to always consider the client’s face shape, hair colour and skin tone. Sometimes, blonde hair is the fashion trend but, a very dark-skinned lady may not look as good with blonde hair, as opposed to a light-skinned lady. Some people look good with curly hair and some better with straight hair.
For 2017, we are working on the 360lace illusion baby hair that can be part side-centre or a ponytail and can be colour as per the client’s request. Break out your flat iron—straight, shiny, and centre-parted hair is one of the biggest trends for 2017. But this style only works if your hair looks healthy and not fried. Be sure to mist a heat protectant through your hair before touching it with a straightener Slick your hair up. All the way up. Done in rumpled texture or stick-straight, the high ponytail adds both an elegance and ease to every ensemble. Bonus: the tighter you secure it, the more lifted your face looks.
The Shag was the surprising hit haircut in 2016.
But those layers and bangs have to grow out sometime. In 2017, we’ll see the beautiful result of that. With hair that hits just past the shoulders and bangs that are long enough to be split down the middle, the grown-out shag is the haircut to keep an eye on this year. If anything, it’s a way to hint at a shag without giving it your full commitment Ultra-long extensions aren’t going anywhere. We’ve seen them on Rihanna, Jourdan Dunn, and the Kardashians in recent months, and the trend is poised to make an even bigger splash come January. I, therefore, have it available in my store already.
Inspirational words for those looking up to you.
Do not copy people and do not be envious of their success or achievements. Be humble and live with humility always. Be honest, especially when dealing with clients. Ensure they do not take on a hair style that may not suit their face or body shape. It is better to be direct and even if the client insists against your advice, they may learn that you were correct in the first place and appreciate the fact that you did warn them. On the other hand, it is also wise to be willing to admit you are wrong when in fact you were wrong. Life is not a competition in ignorance but rather
Hmmm, you sure you tell us the truth?