In the heart of Katutura’s Grysblock stands a seemingly makeshift corrugated iron structure which gives the illusion that it is nothing to write home about at first glance.
However, on closer inspection, the homey container is abuzz with activity, with people coming and going from it.
This outwardly bland container is the latest attraction in the neighbourhood. On 2 June, it was unveiled as a luxurious concept salon named The Gossip.
In 1999, Merino Kandjii had a dream of becoming a hairstylist. However, due to a shortage of finances, he was unable to do so until now.
“I used to work as a barber on a part-time basis at a salon when I was in high school. When I graduated, I went on to study styling at the Tygerberg Technical School in Cape Town,” he explained the initial steps in his hairstyling business.
While the idea of hair-styling for a man may have been foreign at the time, Kandjii was taken with that idea after he was compelled to roller-set some of the clients at his first job while he was in high school.
“It was not easy for me trying to be a male hairdresser because society made it challenging. Many people assumed I was gay because one rarely found straight men in the profession… Some of my relatives also had a problem with it, because of the homosexual stereotypes, and they also worried that I wouldn’t make money as a hairstylist,” he stated.
While many would have succumbed to the external pressure, Kandjii stayed his course, using the multitudes of skilled hairstylists in South Africa as his inspiration to go on.
“At that time, a vast majority of men in South Africa who were straight practised the profession. They broke the stereotypes, which helped me to continue,” he added.
In order to realise his salon business dream, Kandjii partnered with Patrick Held of Held+partners.
Held+partners is an unconventional investment company, which puts strategic emphasis on providing entrepreneurs with concept development, support and implementation, and also gives them access to limited funding which could still bring alive their business concepts.
After various consultations, the concept of The Gossip salon was birthed. They realised that a vast majority of people opted to go to the central business district (CBD) area in search of stylists as opposed to using hairstylists in the townships.
“We wanted to do something which would make people appreciate the township, something vintage, so we developed this idea. It also caters to the tourism aspect of the township because tourists can visit it too,” he beamed.
Still, some of his clients were a tad sceptical about the location of the place and their safety due to stereotypes held about townships.
However, Kandjii and his team managed to break that thinking.
“Our service sets us apart from the rest. We also give each and every one of our clients individual treatment. We engage them on a personal level, and cater to their every need”, he noted.
Apart from making his clients look and feel good, one of Kandjii’s objectives is to change the notion that hair- dressing is a lowly profession, which is vital for various aspects of life, be it for looking presentable at the office or leaving people in awe at an event.
His hopes include opening a training academy for prospective hairstylists in the future.