Having grown up in Hong Kong, I’ve always associated the Mandarin Oriental with utter class and indulgent family afternoon teas. However rather than tuck into scones and rose petal jam, I went to try out the Mandarin Salon’s bridal hair and make-up package – a change, but not an unwelcome one!
I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Mandarin Salon (our own Sassy Girl Dervla swears by them) and if they were adored by my coworkers, then I figured I was in great hands. Located on the 24th floor of the classic hotel away from the Hong Kong hustle, the beautifully day lit salon overlooks the harbour. I was actually quite surprised by the sleek, modern design and was greeted at the door by Fatima, who looked after me the whole time.
Fatima’s been in the hair and make-up bizz since she was 16 and she’s been working at the Mandarin Salon for a good 23 years as both a hair stylist and make-up artist. She knows the names and faces of nearly everyone who walks through the door – if she doesn’t, then they’re salon newbies about to be converted. She sat me down, kindly asked if I’d like a drink (you’ll love this ladies, brides-to-be get offered a complimentary glass of champs) and fussed over me warmly before calling over a smiling woman she called Big Maya.
I was whisked off to a back room by Big Maya, who lay me down on an impressive black leather chair for a quick shampoo. For the next ten minutes, I was treated to one of the most magical head massages of my life and was so relaxed I nearly fell asleep; imagining I was actually next door at the Mandarin Spa rather than at the salon. If, unlike me, you don’t fall asleep at every opportune moment, the Mandarin’s got a quirky, thoughtful interior design touch – there are mini televisions on the ceiling for you to enjoy as you get your hair rinsed.
It was over all too soon and then it was time for me to sit down with Fatima again, who pulled over a cart of goodies and began to play with my hair, twisting it this way and that as she chit-chatted with me. Within seconds, we were talking like old friends and I was sharing my life story with her as she provided snippets of her own. She was quick to get down to business however and immediately asked what kind of dress I’d be wearing (I made up one with a high neckline).
“You’re going to want your hair up then. With a high neckline, it’s always better to go up because then you can show off your dress and your earrings,” she explained and I didn’t doubt her for a second. She obviously knew exactly what she was doing.
Fatima (left) and Little Maya (right)
It was at this point that Fatima waved over her ‘child prodigy’, Little Maya. I was again asked a few questions about what kind of make-up I was aiming for (young and natural), which was amazing since I felt like my wants and needs were prioritised every step of the way. After deliberating with Fatima for a couple of minutes, she pulled out an array of gorgeous golden make-up products by Jane Iredale, a brand I’d never come across before which was quite frankly incredible.
I asked why they only use Jane Iredale and Fatima explained, “I came across it years ago and it’s just the best. It’s all mineral based and heals your skin as you apply it all on, it’s amazing.”
Little Maya began by moisturising my face and applying foundation. I had unfortunately gotten a little sunburned running for my life at the Zombie Run the week before, so we ran into the slightly gross problem of how to tackle my sunburn. Politely and patiently, Little Maya helped me sort out the nastiest of it and within minutes my complexion was flawless – you’d never have known. Every step of the way, she and Fatima explained what she was doing and why, setting me at ease and answering any of my many questions with a smile and thoughtful answer.
Little Maya was completely in her element and wielded each brush with the confidence of someone who’d been in the industry for a very long time. As she lined and powdered, Fatima began to curl my hair and to my surprise, began to style my hair as Maya did my make-up. They were a beauty A-team, working seamlessly together as one pinned and the other brushed, and I was done in no time.
I was actually really pleased with the way the whole look turned out, sophisticated and simultaneously fresh-faced. It was exactly what I wanted and more, and I was stunned that I’d managed to get it all done in just under an hour. They’d both taken my personal vision and meshed it in with their own style: Little Maya’s craft bringing a softness to my face that had been eroded by a late night’s sleep and Fatima’s hair styling skills giving me that perfect boost of vintage class. For a moment, I felt exactly like Audrey Hepburn behind the scenes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
You can’t afford to take a chance on your big day ladies, and with this team’s expertise and professionalism, you’ll be absolutely radiant. When you’re at the Mandarin Salon, there’s no questioning the fact that your every want and need is attended to; whether you know exactly what you want or don’t, the team’s got you covered. There’s also a breadth of experience and knowledge that’s evident with each flick of a brush and offhand comment, whether you’re being taught how to get camera ready make-up or learning about Fatima’s experiences overseas in the industry.
“Professional training can only take you so far,” Fatima explained. “You need to have vision. You need to have your own style and it’s also down to the next generation. Like Little Maya, I know she’ll be a celebrity make-up artist and famous soon long after I’m gone because she’s talented. You can’t learn to have vision.”
Quite frankly ladies, there’s vision to spare at the Mandarin Salon.
The bridal hair and make-up package ranges from $2750-2950. See the Mandarin Salon’s full brochure here.
The Mandarin Salon, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central, 2522 0111, www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong/luxury-spa/the-mandarin-salon