Columnists,Lorraine Cattell,Fashion & Beauty,Top Story l by Lorraine Cattell l 29 May 2020     - 323

Ramani Fernando – The Fabulous Hair Queen & Style Icon


There is absolutely no doubt about it – the world is passing through a most challenging time with many people, businesses, and brands already having to adapt to a changed daily life and what is now a 'new normal'.

Ramani Fernando, the owner of Sri Lanka's biggest hair salon chain and a multi-award-winning hairdresser, knows only too well the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Sri Lanka and the hairdressing industry in general, from manufacturers, sales teams and distributors to individual hairdressers and their clients. Here, she gives her slant on the lock-down and her efforts to return life to 'business as usual' and talks openly about her outlook on hair, beauty, and fashion.

Ramani Fernando Reacting to Coronavirus

While haircuts, styling, colour changes, and other beauty services such as manicures and waxing aren’t the most pressing of all needs during a serious public health crisis, and some may see visiting a hair or beauty salon as frivolous and indulgent, maintaining personal care and appearances can, in fact, provide a positive outlet for a troubled community.

Ramani, can you explain why even in the most difficult economic periods, people still care about their appearances and find comfort in being able to keep their appointments?

We live and work in a world where people judge your value in seconds or less. As I’ve always said, people strive to look attractive and maintain their appearance because when we look good, we feel good. Grooming is necessary to feel the best about yourself. A new haircut or a new hairstyle and you will be surprised to see how much a fabulous makeover can actually change how you feel. And that reflects on your attitude.

As a successful entrepreneur and a major influencer in the hairdressing industry, what was your immediate reaction when you heard about COVID-19 and the lock-down in Sri Lanka?

Every industry has been impacted by coronavirus shutdowns, but for hairdressers and other hands-on beauty service providers, it’s been devastating. As a salon owner, there's a lot of responsibility because you want to keep your staff and ensure that we could come out of this and be able to get back to a state of normalcy. Although there was a lot of pressure on me, I tried my best to stay positive.

I know that you and your team of professionals have been providing amazing support both personally and online to clients and the rest of the hairdressing community. Once you saw the spread of the virus had begun to slow in other countries around the world, were you able to take cues from what they were doing to draw up your own plans for reopening and taking cautionary measures?

After many meetings and discussions with the health ministry along with my peers in the industry here in Sri Lanka, we came around to the decision to reopen with limited essential services, provided that we adhered to protocols and regulations put in place in order to ensure the safety of our clients and employees.

Each country is taking a different approach to reopening and operating its hair and beauty salons. How do you feel about how Sri Lanka has set about lifting its restrictions? Do you think businesses will be able to comply with social distancing measures and implement new sanitation strategies?

Each country has to treat the question of opening up their economies differently, depending on their individual ground situations in respect of the Coronavirus. However, considering the massive damage lockdowns bring about in any economy, governments will be keen to open up certain sectors of their economies as soon as it is feasible and safe.

As for the Hair and Beauty Industry in Sri Lanka, representatives of the industry met with the Health Ministry professionals and high-ups and, after very meaningful discussions, agreed that the hair and beauty sector could open up initially, in a restricted way, following the guidelines of the authorities and expanding their services cautiously. Some allowance is given for services such as cutting hair, where social distancing cannot be strictly implemented.

Some people have used the lock-down as an opportunity to become more inventive and experiment with their appearance utilising virtual consultations and at-home colour kits. Do you think that there is scope for salons to develop rewarding new business models involving technology and online tutorials?

Innovation in the hair and beauty industry is always taking place, and this has accelerated during the lockdowns. While most of these innovations would normally be forgotten with time, if industry professionals get interested in and work on an idea, it may catch on and prove to be worthwhile. Of course, with social media very strong on ‘do it yourself’ beauty tutorials, one cannot rule out some ideas being put to use regularly at home.

Reopening your salons has been going relatively smoothly. What services can you offer at present and what changes have you made to safety and health procedures? Will clients have temperature checks and wear masks/plastic visors once inside?

As I mentioned in my previous answer, after having implemented the rules and regulations laid out by the Health Ministry, we decided to provide the following services:

  • Hair Cuts/Hair Trims
  • Hair Colouring
  • Manicures & Pedicures
  • Arms & Legs Waxing

As for health and safety changes in the workplace, a client protocol has been posted on our social media platforms and at all our salon entrances which state all the precautions a client has to take before visiting the salon.

On arrival the client will be sanitised and has to have their temperature checked before entering the salon. Clients are accepted on an appointment basis only, and are only admitted once the stylist has sanitised his/her work station and is ready for the client.

Ramani, I know that despite the long-lasting effects of the Coronavirus on Sri Lanka, you will set a professional standard for a brand-new world in hairdressing and beauty, post-pandemic. What would you like to add?

The Coronavirus has put us all on the back foot and our focus now is to bring our businesses to a degree of normalcy. Having our salons opened is only the first step, and implementing the guidelines strictly is the most important challenge, so that all clients will feel absolutely safe and confident about visiting salons in the usual manner.

The future is still unknown and our thoughts are only of the present and trying to save jobs. We however are very positive that we will learn our lessons and come out of this a much better society. We are all in this together.

Ramani Fernando - 2 Minutes of Idle Chat

Hair:

  • Who is your ultimate hair icon and why?
    Vidal Sassoon would be my ultimate hair icon. He changed the hairdressing industry with his timeless innovative haircuts which are still popular today, e.g. the box bob, graduated bob, etc.
  • Debunk the biggest hair myth you've heard. 
    Pulling one grey hair makes more grow. The follicle (the little 'tube' beneath the skin that produces the hair) is still alive and will produce another hair to replace the one that was pulled out.
  • What's the one hair product you can't live without and why?
    Hair Mousse – it gives my hair volume. 
  • Who cuts and styles your hair?
    I’m very fussy with my hair and I find Samantha & Kamal, two of my managers, have the patience to cut and make my hair look its best.
  • What would be your top hair tip generally?
    Trim your hair regularly and use the correct hair products on your hair.

Beauty:

  • What is your definition of beauty?
    I believe that real beauty is acceptance of yourself, perceived flaws and all, and to realise that they are a part of what makes you. Kindness to ourselves and others, and to know that with or without makeup the real beauty is you.
  • How do you keep yourself looking so fit and healthy?
    I started working out late in life and that was the best thing that happened to me. I can’t do without it now as it makes me feel more energetic and younger. I also make a point of watching what I eat and being careful with my diet.
  • Can you reveal your best 3 beauty secrets?
    I try to get as much beauty sleep as possible.
    Maintain a good skincare regime, get regular facials.
    I also try to drink plenty of water- at least 8 glasses a day.
  • What colour are your nails currently, and matte or glossy lips?
    Currently my nails are short and nude.
    Personally, for me I prefer matte lips.
  • Do you find the idea of ageing scary?
    I never feel my age as I’m always surrounded by my young staff and young people so it doesn’t really bother me as long as I stay healthy.

Fashion:

  • How would you describe your personal style?
    Minimalistic - I have a love for clothes and I love to look effortless when I get dressed up.
  • What fashion items do you feel are worth splurging on this year?
    That’s a good question. As we don’t know what the year ahead is going to be like, I don’t think I will be wanting to spend money on any clothing or accessories.
  • Do you consider yourself to be a trendsetter?
    That’s difficult to answer as I feel that’s for someone else to judge.
  • What is your favourite item in your wardrobe?
    I have a few favourites, my 'go-to' picks are a simple black t-shirt and a white shirt.
  • Can you give our readers some style advice you've taken?
    I always admire a minimalistic look.
    Less is always more.
    I believe that at any age you should try to dress according to what suits your body type and your age.

Ramani Fernando, thank you and stay safe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lorraine Cattell

Lorraine Cattell (Eyre) is a renowned international British Fashion Journalist. Her articles & interviews appear regularly in magazines & online across the globe.

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