To many, Kim Robinson is a superstar; to himself, he is more of a storyteller. We spoke to the man whose hands style the world’s most beautiful women and who believes that beauty is about more than just looking good.
When asked how he would describe himself as a hairstylist, Kim Robinson’s response is to argue that the best descriptions will come from his clients. One of those is SEVVA and Ms B’s CAKERY founder Bonnae Gokson, who is also a close friend. The two have known each other for years, and Gokson does not hesitate to call Robinson a “maestro” with regard to his craft.
“Not many people have his eye for beauty and meticulousness to details,” writes Gokson exclusively to ECHELON. “He was mentored and trained by Alexander De Paris on Europe’s couture shows and has practised on so many of the who’s who, from Audrey Hepburn to Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell to Princess Di and more. I respect his diligence and passion for his art highly. Kim is not stagnated to the past and his work is constantly evolving.”
How did you discover your love and talent for your profession?
I was 18 when I first started this love affair with beauty. I fell into it by chance, and I’ve loved it every day since. I don’t look at myself as a hairstylist, however; I look at myself as a storyteller. When I look at any woman, I see where she is incredibly beautiful and where she needs help, and I create a “look” for that woman. I look at her hair, her makeup, how she dresses and I also look at the proportions of her body, and many other aspects.
You grew up in Australia, were trained in Europe by some of the masters of the hair industry and styled some of the most beautiful women in the world. What made you settle down in Asia and open your salons in Hong Kong and Singapore?
I’ve been very, very fortunate! I did settle down in Asia because when I first stepped foot on Asian soil, I embarked on the most amazing adventure – a true love affair with Asian beauty. I’ve been here for 45 years and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s simply the most amazing place to be!
In your opinion, is there any difference between Western and Asian women in terms of the way they like to style, look, and embrace their beauty?
There is a difference between Caucasian and Asian women. Not just in the look but also in how they embrace beauty. The culture is different. You have women who live in the north of China and north of Asia, and women who live in the south having a whole different aspect of beauty. You can’t paint them with a single brush. In the same way, women in New York aspire to have subtle and brown hair, while women in Los Angeles want to be blonde. Women in Beijing will usually prefer black hair for sure, while our clients who live in Shanghai are more open to having multi-shading and all types of different colours. So, you can’t paint it so black and white.
You’ve said before that “you are in the business of empowerment”. Can you elaborate on that?
When you feel beautiful, you feel confident, and confidence is a form of empowerment. I believe that at the end of the day, trends come and go, but when you have a cut or look that makes you feel beautiful and incredibly confident, you can own the street! To walk out of the salon or wake up in the morning looking into the mirror and loving what you see – that’s priceless.
A lot of people correlate their hair with their emotions. For example, people change their hairstyle when they encounter a huge change or sudden sadness in life. As a hairstylist, how do you use your experience and tools to motivate these people?
As a hairstylist, we need to sometimes navigate these things. I don’t always suggest things like, if you’re going through a divorce you should cut your hair off. However, I’m always an ambassador for change. Change for good could mean changing your look to change your life.
At different times in your life, you want different things. I think it’s up to us as story creators to see what kind of story you are looking to create now, where you want to go in your life now, and how you feel now. Six years ago, sixteen years ago, twenty-six years ago, you might have felt differently about your look; today you might have a different frame of mind. I really embrace change.
Can you give us an example of how you’ve transformed a woman by transforming her look?
I had a model come to me many years ago, her name is August. She is from China and was sent to me by her agent. She told me she was here because they wanted to promote her for a commercial for a shampoo product. She had lovely long black shiny hair. In the end, she didn’t get the commercial. She then stayed in Hong Kong for three months, quite miserable because she couldn’t speak any English. She came back to the salon by herself, and through translation said that she wanted me to give her a new look so at least she could go back home to China with something special because she didn’t make any money while she was here.
I called the agent who said she was useless and couldn’t work at all. I then cut her hair into a very chic undone looking bob; it was kind of a sexy, trendy thing at that time, and it still is. It’s very undone, very French looking. She booked a runway position with Calvin Klein the very next week and the rest is history. She now works for Dior, Chanel, and all the fashion empires. She is probably one of the top Asian models in the world today for beauty advertisements. She became a great friend. She has kept the hair and tries to maintain the look because it has been very successful for her.
In your opinion, why are people afraid of change? How do you get them to trust you and inspire them on their journey of change?
People get so comfortable in the way they feel sometimes, and unfortunately what worked for you when you were seventeen, doesn’t necessarily have the same effect when you are forty-five or fifty. Perhaps the length can be a little shorter and fresher, and perhaps they need to have a softer look. You have to work with someone you have confidence in so that they can recommend to you what would really work for you.
Most people focus on looking after their skin and not as much on their hair. Can you tell us why is it important to take care of our hair as well?
People do focus a lot more in general on things other than their hair. As you can see on the streets, there are a lot of girls with hair that isn’t particularly great. That’s probably a very Asian thing. I do believe skin is very important and you should take care of your skin. However, your hair will love it if you take care of it too. I think it’s important as we grow up to maintain the quality of our hair because it will be too late once the hair starts to fall out and you start to lose your crowning glory. The hair is the frame of your face. You will look more beautiful if you have good quality hair.
What do you enjoy the most about your career?
Recreating and reinventing people. I enjoy taking any woman on a journey to find her true beauty. I believe this is something I was born to do and I was given a gift. I can see what needs to be done, and 90 percent of the time, clients tell me that they’ve never felt so beautiful before and they get stopped on the street all over the world by people saying how beautiful their hair is, asking where they got it cut or had it coloured. This is something I hear all the time!
What is your definition of a beautiful woman?
Confidence. A woman who knows who she is and loves who she is. It’s not about aesthetics. At the end of the day when a woman is happy and smiling and you can tell that she is in touch with herself and has discovered herself. This is what true beauty is.
Kim Robinson, Landmark Chater, Chater House, 8 Connaught Rd Central, Central, +852 2121 8484
Originally published in ECHELON Issue 7