A cut above the rest
Kim Robinson and Suze Orman tell Janice Jann it’s worth jetting across the globe for a world-class haircut
Why would American financial advisor and bestselling author Suze Orman jump in a plane and fly all the way to Hong Kong just to get her hair done? The 61-year-old face of The Suze Orman Show, who has motivated men and women across the world to get out of debt and become financially savvy, could surely find a good enough stylist in the USA, couldn’t she? Apparently not. “The real reason is because of this man,” the star tells Time Out as she points to Kim Robinson, the Hong Kong-based celebrity hairstylist who has beautified the heads of celebrities like Michelle Yeoh, Cindy Crawford and the late Princess Diana, and who has a reputation as the city’s most glamorous (and pricey) hairstylist, with cuts that average $8,000 a session. Orman says she has been getting her hair styled by Robinson, owner of the Kim Robinson hair salon in Chater House, for the past three years and often travels halfway across the world or flies the stylist over to her for her gorgeous tress treatments. Why? Let them reveal all…
Hi Suze. So, tell us, you fly from the USA to Hong Kong just for a Kim Robinson cut. Why can’t you find a hairstylist who’s a little closer to home?
Orman: I wish I knew. Here’s the problem: obviously there are supposedly plenty of great hairstylists so I go see one and I look great for that second and then I go home and I can’t duplicate what they just did. But I’m always in the media so it doesn’t work. My hair is a big deal. The number one question I’m always asked by my viewers is ‘where did you get your hair done?’ And when I don’t feel like I look good, people can feel something’s off. They don’t know what’s off but they don’t listen to what I’m saying, which they need to. When I don’t look right, I get emails asking: “Suze, were you feeling okay?” I don’t know why I can’t find somebody. They’re good but they’re not Kim Robinson.
What’s Kim Robinson’s amazing secret, then?
Robinson: I cut hair dry and in a shape so that when it’s shampooed at home again, it looks almost identical. That’s why I’m booked all the time. Because you’re paying for the haircut that’ll last long after you leave the salon.
How did your collaboration start?
O: Kim and Kathy (Suze’s life partner) are long-time friends. We were in Hong Kong visiting our friend Joyce Ma (of Joyce Boutique) and the first thing Kim said when Kathy brought me to him was ‘aiyah! Sit down, I can’t stand what I’m seeing’. And he gave me a haircut and a hair colour in the time it takes for other salons to shampoo my hair. It was like a master taking control. I do personal finance and there’re a lot of people who also do it but I have a way of delivering that resonates. It’s not just about numbers and investments. It’s the passion and the ability to see something in somebody that they can’t see themselves. That’s why I’m the only Suze Orman out there, really. There’re a lot of hairstylists but there’s only one Kim Robinson. He’s this stylist of potential. Good luck meeting that again.
Has this uncanny ability always been there?
R: When I was a child, my mother said I would always give her friends fashion advice. When I’m looking at a girl or woman, the hair is the most important accessory she can have – more so than a bag or shoes. Because it’s the frame of your face. I see 90 percent of women worldwide without a cut or style. Of course it’s just my opinion. Suze happens to like my opinion. There may be other women who don’t like it. So it’s just the relationship you have that somehow fits and gives you confidence. Confidence is a form of power. When you feel great about yourself, you can go do anything.
O: Power attracts money and powerlessness repels it. A woman can hide her body in clothes and her acne with makeup but when your hair is screwed up, there isn’t a damn thing you can do but wear a hat. Most women don’t look good in hats and when you’re in humid Hong Kong in the middle of summer, you’re not going to be wearing one.
We second that! Have there been any experiences where women haven’t shared the Kim Robinson opinion of what looks good?
R: Yes, over the years. You don’t always hit the nail on the head. But I’ve learned that having dialogue and communication before you go for the scissors makes a difference.
We’re still amazed by this whole idea of jetting across the world just for a haircut, however good it is. How often do you actually get to see each other?
O: Two or three times a year. If I could, it would be a whole lot more. The rest of the time I suffer. I’m lucky enough that I can afford this easily. It’s not a stretch for me.
What advice would you give to women who can’t afford a Kim Robinson haircut?
R: I think every woman needs to budget her beauty. Pay more than what you would normally pay for a haircut and don’t have many of those other frilly things. You can look good long after leaving the salon. The cut should last three months and look good all the time.
O: Kim actually saves me a lot of money. I’m 61 and I have grey hair so my roots show [fast]. I used to go to a place that caused me to get new highlights all the time. So Kim tells me ‘Suze why don’t you just buy this home hair dye’ that, for US$10, we apply ourselves and can go months without new highlights. That saves me money and saves my hair. Why didn’t anyone else tell me that?
How important is this kind of investment in your clients?
R: I come from a simple Australian farm. I’m not from some high society background and I view people from a real point of view. I don’t look at the money at the end of the day. The money will come if you give quality.
How do you invest in such intimate relationships with your clients when you have so many salons all over Asia?
R: I train with my staff on the Mainland, in Singapore, in India
all the time. Training, training, training. We are always upgrading on the quality. Just like you can’t replace Suze Orman – to some extent you can’t replace me. But what we try to do is capture the essence of the person.
What’s Kim Robinson’s essence?
R: I cut sexy hair. And sexy hair (points to Suze) has no age.
And Suze, do you feel sexy?
O: When Kim cuts my hair, I do.