“I’m worried,” says Kimi Safadi. “I’m worried all the time.” You would think he wouldn’t have much to worry about; the Lebanese hairdresser and entrepreneur is one of the biggest names in the industry in Egypt. He has an established reputation; he appears on TV shows and Instagram feeds alike; Cairo’s women flock to him to get their hair done with someone they trust; brides book him by name, months in advance; actresses, models, and socialites are constantly in his chair; and he has opened his own successful business, Toi Beauty Salon. And yet, he doesn’t sleep at night. But, it is perhaps precisely that sense of worry, that heightened degree of giving a damn, that is only possessed by a raging perfectionist, that enabled him, a virtual outsider who came to the country 11 years ago as hairstylist at another salon, to become the household name he is today.
Safadi moved from Lebanon to Egypt in 2006 for a job offer at one of the top salons in the country, after he’d been working in his home country for five years. “I used to work at one of the best hair salons in Beirut,” he recalls. “I worked very hard; I was there every day from 7 AM until midnight. I was a hair stylist, but I was starting out, so, of course, I would clean the store, make coffee, sweep the hair off the floor…everything. You have to do everything to become something in the end.”
Safadi with Egyptian actress Amina Khalil ahead of the 2017 Cairo International Film Festival
Though his move to Egypt was entirely unplanned, when he was offered a job on the spot at a wedding carnival in Beirut – “it was at a time when Lebanon was going through war and there were so many problems in the country. So I said ‘why not?’” – Safady always knew what he wanted. “Since day one, when I arrived in Egypt, I was focused on building a very good reputation. I had a plan in my mind; I had a dream to be something.”
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Hairdressers wield a certain power. Though it may seem superficial, frivolous, like it or not, a woman’s hair has a definitive correlation about how she feels about herself – after all, the term ‘bad hair day’ exists as a thing of terror in global vernacular for a reason. And a visit to the hairdresser is more than just the aesthetics of it to many women, especially if it’s your hairdresser; it’s therapeutic and it’s intimate. Because the person who regularly does your hair, your nails, your eyebrows, becomes more than just that; they become your confidant; they tease out tangles and truths as you sit in their chair.
Toi fashion styling | Happy to have been part of this collaboration, styling @taraemad's hair for @voguearabia showcasing @Okhtein and featuring @azzafahmy @amrsaad and @kojakstudio. Photography by @bassam_allam. And production by @maisonpyramide. . . . #toibeautysalon #hair #chic #beauty #keepingitclassy #loveit #zamalek #cairo #lebanon #lebanese #hairstylist #Egypt #trendy #feelingpretty #style #fashion #hairsalon #photooftheday #elitehair #happiness #glamsquad
Toi salon hairstyling on a Vogue Arabia shoot
At its core, it boils down to building a relationship, and that hinges on trust. And much of the power a high profile hairdresser will acquire comes from the hard earned trust they foster with their clientele. “The interesting thing about hair dressing is that there’s so much human connection in it,” Safadi says. “You need to build that trust between a client and a hairdresser. I have clients who’ve been with me since day one – for 11 years. I know their children and their husbands; I consider them my friends more than my clients.”
The interesting thing about hair dressing is that there’s so much human connection in it. I have clients who’ve been with me since day one – for 11 years. I know their children and their husbands; I consider them my friends more than my clients.
Safadi’s inherent strength – maybe even the reason behind his success – is perhaps not his ability to perfect hair; it’s caring. “It’s not all about beauty; there’s something inside people. If someone leaves my chair or my salon and there was nothing wrong with her hair, but she wasn’t happy 100%, I go crazy,” he says, gesticulating with his hands. “I can give more; why not? I’ll call her up and ask why she wasn’t happy. Was it her hair? Did someone at the place bother her? And sometimes it’s an entirely different personal issue, and we’ll talk about it. This is how I start getting to know my clients – from here, we build a connection.”
One of Safadi's many bridal clientele
And that degree of caring, of constant worry, is why Safadi doesn’t sleep at night. “I feel like I need to make sure everyone around me is happy,” he says. “So I’m always worried; when I go home and I get in bed, I start thinking about what we could have done better or differently. I don’t sleep sometimes.”
If someone leaves my chair or my salon and there was nothing wrong with her hair, but she wasn’t happy 100%, I go crazy.
And it is that same trust that Safadi spent years fostering, which made his clients follow him when he opened Toi four years ago. “I had to take that step because it was always a dream of mine,” he says sincerely. “And it was hard, between the money and the revolution, which delayed the opening. But the hardest part was the expectations. Will people – will my clients – come with me to my new store? Will they leave their regular salon and actually come to my place?”
Lebanese fashion blogger Riri Dada's shoot in Egypt in late 2016
And they did. Since its opening four years ago, Toi has risen to rival some of the most established hair salons in the country, and has tripled its size. The ground floor is dedicated to styling, while the first functions as a beauty and nail spa, where they offer massages, waxing, and mani-pedis. And that’s just the beginning; the salon will open two branches in Sahel this summer, with plans to open in 6th October and the Fifth Settlement.
In a millennial generation where entitlement reigns, where fresh college grads want to clock out at 5 PM and think they’ve done their part and are so very deserving of praise and perks; where people who’ve ‘made it’ believe they’re now beyond reproach, it is refreshing to see someone like Safadi, who has earned success, not just off the back of their talent, but off the fact that they straight up work hard, and still do it until this day.
“If I had to start over again, and I had a million chances to do it over, no I would do this again,” Safadi concludes simply. “It’s my dream.”
*This article was originally published on our sister site Cairoscene.com