Perhaps one of the haircut artists who has fixed the hair of the most famous celebrities in Cuba is Dorian Carbonell Fernandez, owner of the beauty salon Donde Dorian (At Dorian’s), specialized in men.
Behind each transgressive change in the image of a celebrity…. the platinum blonde sported by Lionel Messi once, the fun innovations in Rihanna’s hair or Kim Kardashian’s extensions, is the hand of a stylist. His face rarely appears in front of the cameras, but, interestingly, the fruit of his labor is one of the most admired.
A model during his youth, Dorian wanted to study Social Communication at the university, but one day he discovered that his real passion was barbering, and then decided to dedicate to it with perseverance. Seven years ago, a hairdressing salon opened in Havana, and its main virtue is that it has led many Cuban men to take their image more seriously.
Donde Dorian and the Newfound Taste of Men in Cuba
“When I started in this field, I realized that Cuba had no beauty salons for men that were as specialized as those for women. Traditional barber shops don’t always offer quality styling and some were lacking hygiene because, oftentimes, the same blade was used for ten clients. I wanted to strike a difference, and that’s why I focused on the potential of this market niche, “Dorian explains to PanamericanWorld.
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The first Donde Dorian was born in the home of this young entrepreneur, who caught the attention of young people, entertainment stars and artists. His immediate success allowed him to improve working conditions, until he was able to move to the current headquarters, located on 25th Street in the popular neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado. At this new venue, customers can not only opt for a haircut or bleached hair, but also enjoy facials or a snack bar service.
“Welcome to Donde Dorian, we’ll take you right into the VIP lounge, where Dorian is waiting. “They greeted us at the door, and from the moment they showed us in, the experience became an interesting one. On both sides of the isle, several stylists showed their best creations for the men who had decided to visit the beauty salon that day. Bold discolorations, asymmetrical cuts, more conventional styles …everything is available on those styling chairs. Clients can also opt for the VIP lounge, where, for a higher price, they will receive image counseling from Dorian Carbonell himself.
Celebrities in Cuba prefer to style their hair with Dorian
Although at present many Cuban celebrities come to this space for their usual haircuts or to rethink a change of image, the fact is that Dorian came to this path, little by little, and without even intending it.
“When I was younger, I liked the spotlight and I invested a lot of money going out. I was part of the fashion world, so I knew what young people liked and how they wanted their hair shaved. Now I’m getting bald, but I used to be very presumptuous and I liked to fix my hair”, this Cuban stylist, one of the most recognized in the country, tells PanamericanWorld.
Through his own connections with the world of entertainment, one day some Cuban artists (singers Leo Garrido, Raul Lora, Leoni Torres, El Magnífico, the Yonki, as well as various dancers) began to patronize his barbershop. His hands trembled, but Dorian took up the challenge. Each one started bringing other people and this is how the news about a stylist who had a different image and workstyle spread throughout Cuba like wildfire.
“At first I was impressed and it made me nervous. But all this brought about increased fame. See, when you fix an artist it helps to promote yourself”, confesses Dorian, who recognizes that his greatest skill is in working with men, although his venture has also expanded toward the ladies.
With the airing of acclaimed television programs, such as “Sonando en Cuba”, another challenge came for this haircut artist. Dorian was chosen to work on the image of the participating coaches and dancers of a show that paralyzed the entire country during primetime hours.
“I work more comfortably with artists than I do with clients, because the artist trusts you as a professional and knows that whatever you come up with will favor his career. The artist knows that there are times when he/she needs a change, as in the case of a video clip, just to transform his image and refresh it a bit. The rest of the customers are usually more traditional”, says Dorian.
Dorian has inspired Cuban men to consider hairdressing
In Dorian’s hands, each cut and style defines the essence of an artist. Each session with clients lasts depending on its complexity, but Dorian assures that, if it is a really striking job, it could take up to three hours.
“In the case of singer Leoni Torres, his style is usually more conservative, although from time to time we try different styles to change things up a bit. Reggaeton artist Chacal is more aggressive because his image is more controversial. When it comes to a makeover we decide together. Sometimes I am the one to propose it, but other times they suggest it”.
“Among the hair styling proposals that distinguish this beauty salon, one of the most striking is the application of colors to the hair of Cuban men”, says Dorian, while one of his assistants prepares a purple dye for a young man.
“Ten years ago a man sporting a dye was something frowned upon, but I dared to do it. Now that we have access to the Internet and people are looking for trends, it is more common for them to go green, pink, yellow or gray. I like to combine colors to come up with a personalized proposal “.
That is why one of the main merits of Dorian is to have led Cuban men to the barbershop, when oftentimes men are the ones who find it more difficult to invest money in improving their image.
“I think that Cuban men are also doing more and more things to their hair. They come to my salon not just looking for a dye or a haircut. I also try to educate my clients in the use of specific shampoos for their scalp, or if they do an aggressive color job, I indicate what treatment can be used to re-nourish their hair and moisturize it “.
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From the fighter fish to the Orishas: proposals from a unique venture
Another characteristic of Dorian’s work is his commitment to art and difference. Far from the dissimilar barbershops and hairdressers existing today in Cuba that are fundamentally seeking economic gains, this stylist has endeavored to develop his more artistic side, and that is why today he is a reference in the world of Cuban Hair Styling.
Can you imagine a collection called fighter fish inspired by the daily struggles of Cuban people? And another named Orishas that taps into Afro-Cuban roots? Proposals like these have come from the creative mind of Dorian Carbonell, and many young people are wearing them in the streets of Havana today.
“I wanted to feel good as a creator and designer, and that is why I launched proposals, such as last season’s collection,” Fighter”, a fish of many colors that for me has many similarities with Cubans, because they are presumptuous and they are fighter”.
“The most recent collection is entitled “Orishas”, in which I took the Yoruba religion as reference. Here I work more the afro part, and I combine the braids with modern costumes. This is a very fashion collection. It is inspired by the saints because I play with the colors of each deity”.
A Message for Entrepreneurs
A young man who took out an appointment has been waiting for a few minutes, and it is almost time to end the interview. “A pleasure to have met you”, I said. “Let’s close with a message for the rest of the Cuban entrepreneurs: What would you really want to tell them?”
“Constancy, discipline and a lot of sacrifices. When I started my business, I worked every day early and did not stop until 11 at night. I only rested on Sundays. Perseverance and respect for the customer are fundamental. We hairdressers have to give thanks for having been given the opportunity to shave and style heads”.
By M.C.Ramón / Photos: Abel Rojas – PanamericanWorld – Havana