Every client that walks into my salon is my million dollar client, and I make them feel like a million dollars,” says Shireen Abrahams, the owner of Syzygy Salon in Loop Street.
Ms Abrahams, still as chatty, energetic and hardworking as ever, has been a hairdresser in the city centre for more than 30 years.
“I’ve been in the CBD since my career started, but I’ve been in this shop for almost four years. I was in Shortmarket Street for 16 years and down the block for 15 years before I moved here. I started at a salon in the Golden Acre when it just opened, and I have clients who have been with me since then.”
Ms Abrahams said the name of the salon, Syzygy, comes from the word “synergy”, which means “the coming together of everything”.
“I’ve tried to build my business on that – the coming together of people, beauty, everything. I want to celebrate all things beautiful.”
She said one of her objectives in life is to try to uplift people. With this, she tries to employ young adults to give them a chance to network. “You meet so many people here, you never know, the youth can meet and connect with someone that will point them in the right direction.”
Having been around the block, Ms Abrahams says, she has gained valuable insight into working with different types of hair.
“I worked just about everywhere, from the city centre, to the Atlantic Seaboard, even in Mit-chell’s Plain. I’ve learnt to work with afro hair – to blow dry it. When I was an apprentice, I struggled because afro hair keeps bouncing back and I would struggle for hours, but I learnt to do it. I’ve worked with thick, frizzy hair. Some of my co-workers used two hairdryers while blow-drying thick hair. I struggled, but I learnt to do it.”
Working in the busy CBD has also taught her to be flexible and to be accommodating to her clients. The salon is open seven days a week, from 6am till late.
“There are not many shops in the CBD which are open seven days a week. I work hard.
“And it may not be a lot that I have, but it’s enough.”
She said she opens her doors at 6am because many of her clients are professional people who have to be at work early. “I realised that with the hospital being a thoroughfare, doctors and others who work around there come to work early, so I opened earlier. I have officials, doctors and professionals now coming to do their hair earlier in the morning, and it works.”
So what is it that everyone looks for when they visit the hairdresser?
“Everyone wants a facelift,” Ms Abrahams quipped.
“When clients walk out of my hairdresser, you want them to look like they’ve had a facelift. I like to make my clients look like they’ve been in a magazine.
“I do whatever it takes for you to have confident hair, and I think every woman wants that.”
And, of course, there must have been some hiccups along the way. One of the most memorable – or horrific – moments of Ms Abrahams’ career, was doing Mayor Patricia de Lille’s hair just before elections in the 1990s.
Ms De Lille had to make public and TV appearances, so she visited the salon to have her hair coloured and relaxed.
Ms Abrahams had an apprentice working with her at the time, who was very intimidated by Ms De Lille. “By the time my apprentice had to rinse her hair, she couldn’t do it because Patricia was on the phone. When the relaxer came off, her hair came with it. It fell out.”
Ms Abrahams, who was horrified, was surprised at how relaxed Ms De Lille was. “She was a lovely woman. She took it in her stride. It was so funny and she was so amazing because she wasn’t really upset or phased. She just said she needed to look presentable.”
Ms Abrahams said Ms De Lille’s bodyguards fetched her everyday to fill in the hair and make her look good before she appeared on TV.
“I’ve had many famous people, millionaires, politicians and models walk through my doors. But no matter what, I am the same person; I’ve just tried to grow.”
She said one of the reasons her clients keep coming back is because she is honest and reliable.
“I build relationships with my clients. When you walk in here, I want to get to know the person. I want to see pictures of how you want to look. I want to know your hair and how you perceive your hair, but I also want to make you believe you can wear your hair however you want.
“I want a business where people are relaxed and most importantly, happy, because I believe happiness is the key to life.”