Singaporean takes on Cebu’s B, C hair marketBy Jason A. Baguia
CEBU CITY—For more than 30 years, Francis Lee has been taking care of people’s hair in a professional hairstyling journey that has taken him from Singapore to London to the Philippines.
Today, 51-year-old Lee, a Singaporean, has made a new foothold in Cebu City in the two-story, 24-seat salon called Bridges located at The Gallery along Juan Luna Avenue in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City.
For seven years, Lee has been the only L’Oreal hairstyling ambassador practicing in Cebu. The title is a recognition from L’Oreal in France for the best salon owners and hairstylists.
On the busiest of days, the salon’s staff of 16 caters to a total of 24 customers. This is a far cry from the salon’s beginnings in 2000, when it could only serve five customers.
Back then, the salon was a P400,000 facility on the second floor of a hotel facing this city’s Fuente Osmeña circle. Then the salon transferred to a mall in Lahug before it moved to a bigger and sleeker location in The Gallery in November last year.
Bridges’ new home is an P8 million project, with state of the art hair care facilities and a wine bar.
It has several senior hair stylists and master colorists whose skills were honed by the internationally-trained Lee.
“When I first started out I got a few local hairstylists and trained them to cut, perm; color and everything about hair,” he says. “Now they do everything.”
When he was 16, Lee trained under the Master Class program for hairstyling in the Morris International School of Hairdressing.
“After eight months of intensive training, I was sent to London for two weeks of advanced training,” he tells the Inquirer.
Lee practiced in London for almost six years and continued in Singapore for almost seven years.
When he got tired, he became a foreign exchange dealer in Hong Kong. But destiny in hairstyling would not let him go.
His foreign exchange dealings were affected by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. In two years, he came over to the Philippines, where he tried to venture into the construction business.
Lee says he then returned to his first love, hairstyling, “thinking it was just a temporary thing to pass my time and then venture to some other business.
“That’s why it’s called Bridges,” Lee says, adding that he expected the salon business to connect him to a different one.
But hairstyling caught the imagination of the local B and C clientele. In a few years, Bridges had to move to a bigger facility at another uptown mall where it stayed for another eight years before transferring to The Gallery.
Lee is meticulous in taking care of clients’ hair.
“You really have to look into the texture of the hair. That is why we have spring-summer collections, fall-winter collections from our ambassador in France.”
“You are talking about the trend (in hairstyles) to the client. Then we try to introduce the collection created by L’Oreal,” he says.
Today, Bridges caters to both male and female clients.
“Among Filipino ladies the texture of the hair varies from straight to wavy. It’s pretty interesting to work on,” he says. “We can apply something really bright or morena.”
Lee has plans for the hairstyling professionals in Cebu that would also contribute to the local economy.
“I really want to start a hair academy I am planning to go into franchising later on,” he says.
“Also I plan to start a more affordable salon for the masses,” he adds. “Hopefully by next year, a more affordable salon.”
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