Whenever I go to Manila, there is one man I never fail to see. It’s Stefan, my stylist from Basement Salon in Shangri-la Ortigas. I have the misfortune of having super unruly thick wavy hair (or in OC Mom’s term “wavy-yuck”), which is really hard to tame or cut. Left to it’s own devices it puffs out in all directions like a lion’s mane! Thank God I found Stefan Wilczynski, co-owner and creative director of Basement Salon in Ortigas.
It took me a while to find the right stylist for me. Like OC Mom in Manila I’ve only had a few stylists and I only switch if there is a better option for me. Finding a stylists is a highly personal thing. The perfect one for me, might not be the one for you. But here is what I like about my stylist:
- Someone who is willing to be adventurous and change it up. Ever so often I like to change looks (i.e. colored in tones of red with super edgy layers, a layered wavy and sexy hair, layered bangs, long bangs, blunt cut bangs that still looks good when swept to the left or right, or my current digibond = digital perm + rebond) and Stefan is the only one I trust to do it because he does it while considering the unique quirks of my wavy-yuck hair. And he really takes time to discuss the new style and what it will take for me to maintain it. If I want I high maintenance style, he tells me what I need to do (i.e. blow dry, air dry or scrunch), what products I need to use and how much it costs, etc. so I can decide properly if I am willing to spend that much time and effort, before we go for it. Many hair stylists do the style and then you wonder why you looked so good after the blow-dry, but then you don’t know how to recreate it properly. Here we are discussing what to do with my hair prior to shampoo… (This is the “BEFORE”– dried up crazy hair)
- Someone who perfects and learns new hair technology before practicing it in their salon. I’ve heard from someone that basement was one of the last to roll out the permanent blow dry (not confirmed). I don’t mind at all if they are not always the latest to roll it out, as long as when they do, the staff are excellently trained and really know their stuff. Whenever I asked Basement staff about certain procedures, they answer with confidence and know how. I don’t feel like they are trying to sell me the product or service. Instead, I feel like I am being given an option. Also when I want to try something that they are not familiar with, they are honest about it. I remember asking Stefan about digital perms back when it was new and the digi-perm was not yet invented he told me “we can try it, but I cannot guarantee how your hair will react to it.” But when I asked him early this year about the digiperm, he confidently told me we most definitely could do it and it is a great treatment for me. *Cautionary tale: My cousin had her digibond done at a Korean salon and re-did it after 4 months and it went well, but after a few days, here hair basically got burnt off by the treatment so she had to get a boys cut. =(
- Like OC Mom, I also like the fact that Stefan takes time to cut my hair and doesn’t hurry to get to the next customer. When it is cut and dried, yet it is not perfection, stefan also makes adjustments.
- There are also some styles (like sexy wavy hair) than need to be cut dry so that each hair lock is sculpted depending on how it acts while it is dry. I loved that I learned this from Stefan.
- If there are other things that I want done that I decide on when I am there already (even if it is not what I had an appointment for) Stefan always accommodates me. This is a wonderful policy of his.
- I am able to make my appointments from Jakarta, and when I text Basement from an international number they still reply to me to confirm.
- Stefan always has the same girls help with my hair for more than 5 years now. They give the best shampoos with massage. There is a very subtle difference between the way they shampoo my hair and the ones I’ve had at other high-end salons, and these little details make all the difference.
- They use and sell top quality hair products like Tigi’s Bed Head and so far Stefan recommends only when I ask. He takes time educate me about the process and the product when I ask for it, but never pushes to sell. He only recommends top quality brands as well and I noticed that even if they cost more, I use so much less product, so I don’t need to buy often and the effects are SO much more fabulous.
- Stefan and his team, Baba and her sisters, are also definitely one of the best colorists in Manila. I totally love them. I recommend not more than 3/4 highlights and lowlights and 1 base color. *Cautionary Tale: When I used to color my hair, my friends always asked what salon I got it done, but forgot to ask me who my stylist was. They walked into Basement Salon Ortigas and got the first colorist available (not Stefan). Then they were offered 10 colors and were shocked to be billed Php 10,000 or 200 USD. They are disappointed because it costed SO much and yet the effect was more subtle (and less noticeable) than what wanted – so they feel like they have overpaid. Sadly this happened to 3 or 4 friends of mine. Make an appointment with Stefan and stick to fewer colors, I guarantee you will be happy and only pay at least half that price (this is the rate for really long hair like mine). This is Baba applying color to my hair. Remember the best colorists and hair stylists are always booked, so if you walk in without an appointment you are getting someone who is not as amazing.
- I am unable to go to the salon often. I only go when I am in Manila, so if that’s only once a year, then I only cut my hair once a year. So I need a hair cut that not only looks great when it’s newly cut, but continues to look great after it has grown out. I also usually have my hair thinned out (coz it’s too thick and hard to tame) and there are many stylists who can do this for layered hair, but the problem with it is once it’s grown out in 2 months, I look like a forest creature na. Haha.
- When he tells me he is only going to cut 1/2 an inch, he only cuts 1/2 inch, NOT 3 inches. Don’t you hate it when stylists cut a lot more than they say?!?
- I also love it that Stefan is super nice, pleasant and friendly, but not extremely chatty (like those parlor people who like to ask personal questions about your life and chat the entire time). His team is also is extremely professional – no loud beauty parlor gossip here. They work quietly, pleasantly and efficiently.
- They serve a wide array of refreshments.
- If you are hungry (salon appointments can go on for hours and hours!) they have the menus of nearby establishments in Shangri-la Mall. They order for you and it gets delivered to the salon (or they even pick it up if the resto doesn’t deliver). Basement pays for it first then includes it in your bill so you don’t have to think of taking out your wallet and dealing with the deliver guy during your treatment – your only job is to relax!
- They have the latest fashion magazines from all over the world (I am too cheap to buy these for myself hehe)
- I love the always hip and fashionable (but subtle) music that plays in the background.
“Also, the right hairstylist will usually cut your hair a minimum of 45 minutes. This is because he will still evaluate your hair and see what cut bests suits you. It should not be rushed. Remember, what you see in the mirror (after a haircut) before your hair is blow dried is what you’re going to get for the next two months. A good stylist will take a long time to cut your hair but a short time to blow-dry it.”
– Stefan via Sparks Magazine
Note: my hair is jet black and this session was the session before I got a digibond and I wanted to transition from lighter colored hair to going back to original color, that’s why color is not so noticeable.
In the past, I had a stylists who…
- Was so good, he just knew what looks good on me and refused to do anything new or listen to what I want. (The owner of another very exclusive salon in Manila)
- Didn’t check the state of my hair or discuss what style I want before the shampoo because he felt like he knew my hair already. Beware of these stylists. It doesn’t matter if they have been doing your hair for ages. Assessment and proper communication must happen before anyone lifts a finger (or shampoo bottle).
- Refused to do a style on me, because he didn’t like it on me. (i.e. bangs) WTH?!?
The lowdown: The yellow lights, fashionable ambiance, and trendy vibe make you feel like you’ve entered a hip club, sans the blaring music or cigarette smoke. To add to the club atmosphere, the salon offers probably the widest array of refreshments, housed in a cool bar. Owner and creative director Stefan Wilczynski gives contemporary cuts, complemented by hair pampering treatments (try the Vita Ciment Vial with Top Seal) that will make you want to linger.
The verdict: Basement is your best bet if you’re looking for a young, vibrant salon experience. We especially liked that stylists had their names embroidered on their aprons–that way we could address them properly, not just by “miss,” or “sir.”
How about you, who is your stylist and why do you adore him/her? I would love to hear your personal opinions and experiences! Do share. =)
BASEMENT SALON Ortigas
- EDSA Shangri-la Carpark Building, Shangri-la Mall, EDSA
- +62–638-2222; 638-6666
- Monday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (except special holidays)
- How much : A hair cut from Stefan starts at Php 1600 (you can get a much cheaper cut from the junior stylists but I don’t guarantee the results). 4-5 colors (highlights+lowlights+base) will cost you starting Php 4000/5000 for super long hair. It’s cheaper for short hair. These are estimates from memory, so you should always ask the price before setting the appointment so you don’t get shocked with your bill.
Some of you may wonder why I don’t get a hair cut when I am in Jakarta. Aside from being a creature of habit, there is also my own inability to communicate in Bahasa. Such a shame, because I cannot go to many of the good non-English speaking stylists in the city. I’ve asked some fashionable friends for recommendations for stylists that speak English. I was given recos for stylists that spoke some English, but at 60 USD a pop, I just didn’t think it was worth the risk. If you have recommendations for a great stylists in Jakarta that speaks English and is more affordable I would love to hear from you! =)