Keeping his eye on the mane event
Regardless of whether you’re a dapper gent or fashionista-at-heart, life can indeed get a lot better when you meet the right hairstylist.
A great hairstylist can literally be life-transforming. One who takes the time to learn your preferences, understand your concerns, and marry your needs and wants with a great ‘do customised just for you.
Meet TFCS Hair Mentor Kenneth Ong, who has carried this personal practice close to his heart throughout his increasingly star-studded career. Equally at ease in the spotlight or behind it, Kenneth has worked his deft hands on the tresses of Hong Kong actresses Linda Chung and Grace Chan, Hollywood babes like Victoria’s Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio, and local personalities such as host cum ex-MTV VJ Denise Keller. His portfolio is diverse, ranging from editorial cover shoots, to events, weddings, and commercials.
The 1st runner-up winner of the Wella Trend Vision Awards in 2006 and 2007, Kenneth’s love for switching up his style, and desire for learning and imparting knowledge, is a breath of fresh air. He sits down with TFCS and shares why building and earning trust with his clients is the key factor that determines success in creativity.
TFCS: How did your career in hairstyling begin?
Kenneth: It started in 2000, after I left ITE Balestier and went to Kimage Academy for my NTC3 cert in hairdressing. I was with Kimage for a year, where I learned basic hairdressing skills. Then I moved on to other salons with the intention to gain more experience and practical skills.
TFCS: Describe your personal style
Kenneth: It’s “versatile”. I’m always open to stepping out of my comfort zone and switching up my looks.
TFCS: How important is keeping up with trends in your line of work?
Kenneth: I often get clients who tell me they want a certain hair style or cut that they’ve seen on their favourite idol – but which may not work quite as well for them. It’s my job to help my clients look their best, and up to me to advise them against blindly following trends that may not suit them (which can be quite a challenge at times). “Natural” is a timeless “trend” that will never go out of style if you know how to work with your hair’s needs and bring out its inherent beauty. A good haircut can transform your look, giving you an instant style boost. Colour-wise, ash brown is a great shade that works very well with Asian hair.
TFCS: When you first started out, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Kenneth: I’m never satisfied with my work until my client is satisfied. As a professional, your client needs to trust you before they feel safe with leaving the fate of their hair in your hands. The same principal applies to editorial and commercial work – editors will not hire you to help out with their shoots without knowing the quality of your work, and trusting that you’re capable of delivering the concept required for the shoot. What I enjoy most about what I do, is seeing the smiles on my clients’ faces when they’re happy with my work.
TFCS: You’ve worked with some pretty big brands. What are some lessons you’ve learnt in the course of your journey?
Kenneth: When it comes to something as personal as hair, people from different cultures have their own tastes and preferences. Some clients are more open to edgier looks, while others may prefer sleeker styles. I enjoy sharing my expertise and pushing boundaries slightly to see how far people are willing to try out my ideas. Sometimes, a client may start off being resistant to a suggestion because he or she may not be able to visualise the look, in such cases, pictures can be a great and efficient way to help them “see”. Once the client gets the idea and catches on, they’ll be more open to giving it a try.
TFCS: Many artists in the fashion and beauty industry want to get exposure to editorial work. How did you get started?
Kenneth: I started doing editorial shoots back in 2004, when I was a full-time hairstylist at Hairitage (now known as Anthony Hair Boutique). At that point, I had been working in the hairstyling industry for about 15 years and had established a wide circle of contacts. Despite having accumulated a substantial amount of experience working in salons, I was still considered an “editorial newbie” when I made my first foray into the world of magazines and commercial production. I remember assisting a senior stylist on the project, and with time, I picked up a multitude of skills from working with amazing industry folks on editorial spreads. The experience inspired me to push my creative boundaries.
TFCS: What are some qualities that you find important in the pursuit of your career?
Kenneth: Be conscientious, be prepared, and be inquisitive! Never stop exploring new trends and techniques, and you’ll never stagnate. Having worked with different editors on a variety of shoots, I’ve realised that the ability to problem-solve on your feet and address your clients’ requests and concerns, is also a real asset.
TFCS: What keeps you motivated as a creative professional? Who, or what are your sources of inspiration?
Kenneth: Art, nature and music.
TFCS: As an industry veteran, what are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Kenneth: I would like to guide newcomers to the industry and share my knowledge with them.
Photos: Instagram (@kennethonghair)
Follow Kenneth on Instagram @kennethonghair and check out more of his work @TheFashionCollectiveSG. Keen to come on board and start building your portfolio, or interested in collaborating with us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.