I arrive at Kim Robinson’s Clearwater Bay home a little frazzled. Not only did I get lost on the way, but my hair is doing that thing where it frizzes as if I’ve just rubbed a balloon against it – not how I envisaged meeting this world-renowned hair stylist. But it’s not long before I am welcomed into Kim’s home by the man himself with a peck on the cheek; “Welcome, how are you? Can I offer you some lemon water?” Kim is a true-blue Aussie bloke, and being Australian myself, his familiar accent and warm hospitality immediately put me at ease.
Kim’s home is dark and moody, a theme that is offset by the floor to ceiling windows with views of lush green tree tops as far as the eye can see. It sort of feels like that Aussie song “Home Among the Gum Trees”, and maybe it’s his subtle way of still feeling as if he is down under. Kim has lived in Hong Kong since the 1970s, and even speaks a little Cantonese. “20 percent,” he tells me. “I get myself into trouble with Cantonese, but not out of trouble”. I soon learn that this kind of cheeky response is Kim to a tee, and I can’t help but like him.
As is his home, Kim Robinson salons are havens of beauty and luxury. His Hong Kong salon is situated in the prestigious Landmark Chater House, with his second Kim Robinson salon located in Singapore. “We operate in two cities. Clients travel from all over the world and tell us that we are one of the best operators in the beauty business that they have seen”. And having styled the hair of some of the most famous heads in the world, including Princess Diana, Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss, I do not doubt the accuracy of that statement.
But for Kim, it’s more than flashy interiors, A-list celebrities and a luxury experience.
“I’m in the business of empowerment.”
Kim goes on to show me photographs of women he has styled, and tells me how their lives were changed after their Kim Robinson style and cut. I have to ask; “What makes the way you cut hair different to other salons?”
“The way hairdressers work globally hasn’t changed in the last 50 years.” Kim tells me. “I feel that what I’m trying to do is be more intelligent – I’m working with intelligent women, they’re investing in themselves. $13,000 is a lot of money for a haircut, it’s outrageous when you think of it as a fee. But it’s what’s coming with that haircut. I have to make sure that that’s blowing out the park, I have to make sure that they have something that they’ve never experienced before. They have to feel incredibly beautiful. If I don’t hear them say that – I haven’t done my job… but I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now, I wouldn’t be fully booked all the time and people wouldn’t be returning back if that were the case”.
When I ask Kim how he justifies $13,000 hair cuts in his salon, he goes on to say: “You’d have to ask my clients, they tell me time and time again that they get stopped on the street and asked who does their hair – and to them it’s priceless. So to me, along with having over 40 years experience in styling hair in Hong Kong, the client base that we service is justifying why we command that price”.
Kim is a familiar face in the Hong Kong beauty and luxury scene. And what a youthful face it is. I ask Kim how he stays looking so good. “I’m a diet freak;” Kim tells me. “I go to the right medical doctors to make sure that I am checking my body and that my blood work is done well. As you grow older you start losing people around you to heart attacks and cancer, which I now hear more than people who tell me they have the flu. To me it’s all about the diet and the lifestyle we’re living, and for me, diet is the first thing that I’m concerned about”.
And it shows. But Kim isn’t all about hair and cutting carbs. When he isn’t at the salon, you will find him hanging out with long time friend, Bonnae Gokson – the owner and creative visionary behind Sevva, C’est La B cafes and Ms B’s Cakery. “We’re good friends. Some people come through your life and disappear and some people stay, Bonnae is one of the ones who has stayed. We just had dinner a couple of nights ago, talking about new things that we’re doing. We’re very similar we both thrive off of beautiful things.”
At this point, I can’t help but wonder what two of Hong Kong’s biggest names like to do together on a night out. “We like to go out and try new restaurants – as you know she runs Sevva so I love going there because it’s stylish and chic with a great buzz.”
If anyone knows style – it’s Kim Robinson. So it makes sense that he would be in charge of styling his own Clearwater Bay home. “I didn’t want it to look like a pristine home in the city. The dogs come in and out, the floor is cement like it is outside so that people can walk in with dirty wet feet and nothing is precious here. It’s a country house… there’s a fire burning, it feels Aussie – I love this story. It’s about living a life as I would be anywhere in the world, in the countryside.”
And when it comes to Clearwater Bay, Kim tells me why it was the clear choice for his moody abode. “I used to live in Shek O on the beach, and it just became very noisy. And I was working seven days a week… so when I had the luxury of time off I wanted to move somewhere that was a little bit more private.”
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Kim goes on to tell me that he doesn’t go out in Clearwater Bay often, and prefers to entertain at home. “It’s an Aussie thing, isn’t it? Having barbecues… having friends over for dinner. I love to entertain at home.”
And it seems Kim may continue to entertain at his home in Hong Kong for many more years to come. “I don’t see myself living anywhere else but Hong Kong,” says Kim. “I’ve had great opportunities here to do a lot of things and I can see more opportunity moving forward. We’ll continue to develop our new haircare range that we’ve been working on for the last ten years. I want to put my name on something exceptional, so I really want to make something incredible and I think in the next six months we should be able to launch it. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.”