Fluxus House Singapore: Veteran Japanese hairstylists dish on the techniques and trends of note in 2020
Cut and dried
There tends to be a lot of anxiety surrounding hair changes, drastic or no. We get it. After all, despite the notion that hair, you know, grows, there is a kind of permanence to all mane-related decisions. So, if you're deliberating a fresh dye job or mulling over your next momentous life change in the form of bangs (same), we recommend you soothe those fears by listening to the professionals. That is, the veteran hair stylists from established Japanese salon, Fluxus House. Harbouring a unique concept where a hair parlour doubles as an art gallery, we sit down with founders — Chiho, Koichi, Aki, and Shota Maruyama — to get the lowdown on treating your tresses right, the art behind a Japanese-inspired snip, and more.
So, why Fluxus?
Aki: We drew our inspiration from the 1960s art movement of the same name. Fluxus is a Latin word meaning "flow" and "flux". The fluxus art movement borrowed from a broad range of disciplines — visual art, music, literature, dance — and didn't adhere to a clear, rigid set of principles. "Fluxus" is simple, but hard to define. It is a culture that expresses 'art' in everyday life.
We want to redefine common-sense notions of what a 'hair salon' is, does, and has — creating new value as a hair salon. To that end, we created an art space inside the salon — a free rental space that opens up on a regular basis. We support aspiring art students in Singapore looking for a place to express themselves, and collaborate with designers of accessories and clothes for pop-up shops, and artists setting up solo exhibitions, and so on. More than just a place to cut hair, we want to create a place where you can discover all sorts of new things, a place of flux where people can connect. We thought "Fluxus" was a name that fit perfectly.
I hear you guys have an established reputation in several other countries. What was the biggest takeaway from working at other salons?
Aki: Some of our members have worked in London and Australia; some have also opened salons in Japan.
Why an art gallery, of all things?
Aki: Our professions may be different, but we want to create a starting point for these artists, who would have otherwise been hidden from the world, without a platform to express themselves. In addition, we would be glad if we could create an artistic sensibility in our customers. Those who go to galleries are likely to already be interested in art. Our salon is different — there are many people who may not have that pre-existing passion for art. Through small changes in their everyday life, they inject a little bit of art into their lifestyles — that's the sort of place our salon is.
Are there any major differences between Japanese hair cutting techniques and Singaporean ones, or with other Asian cultures?
Koichi: There's no specific differences between the cut and colouring techniques of stylists in Japan and here, or elsewhere. However, at Fluxus House, we recognise that each customer comes with different hair conditions and concerns. For each and every customer, we take into consideration the condition of their hair and their desired designs, and also the amount of free time they have.
Based on that, we carefully select the chemicals, conceptualise the design, and decide what process is most suitable for them. First and foremost, we ensure that our approach doesn't add stress to their hair or harm their bodies.
Aki: We always consider bone structure in all our cuts, in order to deliver haircuts that truly flatter our patron's facial and skull structure. For example, leaving excess volume in the hair after cutting results in a rigid hairstyle. For our cuts, we make sure to cut off this excess, and to lighten portions of denser hair growth, resulting in a buoyant hairstyle that you can easily maintain even after leaving the salon.
For colour, we consider the possible damage to the scalp and hair as much as we can. We refrain from using overly powerful chemicals, and are careful about not smearing it over the scalp. As hair ends are delicate, repeatedly combing over it or applying chemicals with a heavy hand will cause damage to them, so we make sure to avoid these practices that stress out hair. To ensure the hair holds colour well, we also restore the hair to its original pH level. As a result, our colour & cut services do little to no damage to customers' hair.
I hear Fluxus House has a "subtly punk outlook" when it comes to hair. What does that mean?
Koichi: Our customers come having tried certain hairstyles, believing "only this suits me". We want to challenge those preconceived ideas, and have them encounter a new version of themselves. Shape and colour, bone structure, texture, fashion, lifestyle. Everyone is different — and we give each person something that suits their nuances. For example, for people with an aversion to short hair, simply by changing the length of their sideburns and their neckline by one centimeter, they are able to say "this suits me" to a new style. We are a salon that constantly challenges ourselves to find something new that suits each customer.
Tell me more about the attentive omotenashi service you guys employ at Fluxus.
Aki: To us, "omotenashi'' is treating each and every customer with utmost attention and care. Getting your haircut at a hair salon is a matter of importance. "Omotenashi" goes above and beyond that. For example: Greeting every customer with a smile; keeping wait times as short as possible; offering them tea and sweets so they can wait in comfort during crowded periods; keeping the salon surroundings clean; paying constant attention to what the customer wants — would they like to talk? Would they like to quietly enjoy their book or music? In their hectic everyday lives, we want their time at our salon to be a space of respite. This service from the heart is something all of us at Fluxus hold dear.
If you could sum up the spirit of Fluxus in three words, what would it be?
Aki: The words we would choose are fluid, fate and edge. Fluid (流動的) ties back to the concept of flux and the fluxus movement. We see ourselves as separate from the mainstream, and evolving every day. Fate refers to the Japanese concept of en (縁) — which means destiny, and also refers to the relationships, connections and affinities formed between people, spaces or things. We see Fluxus House as a place of en, where these connections are created — between stylists and patrons, patrons and artists, and so on. Edge: The cutting-edge. We target people at the forefront of style - the chic, sophisticated and edgy who have originality and a passion for experimentation.