Claudiaexpat introduces her hairdresser in Jakarta. As you will see, he gives much more than a haircut!
In my Discovering Jakarta, I added Roberto, my Italian hairdresser in Jakarta, as a valuable address. I want to introduce him to you properly though because his shop is THE place where the different expat communities meet. Moreover, his story deserves to be shared.
When I arrived for the first time at Alfons, the beauty parlor that Roberto Lorini has been managing for years in Jakarta, I initially only felt relief at being able to explain in my own language why I didn’t like the colour my hairdresser in Italy had dyed my hair, or how I wanted my hair to be cut.
I quickly understood though, that I had arrived in a place where the time honored and beautiful traditions of an Italian welcome embraced the passion of other cultures.
Here was a place where the spoken languages are Italian, English, Bahasa and a bit of French, where the people you meet are from Indonesia, Italy, USA, Britain, Spain, Korea, Portugal…and many more.
The person responsible for this lively hub of humanity (mostly made up of women, but at Alfons they are not gender conscious) is Roberto, a hairdresser in Jakarta and an explosion of amusing and jovial repartee.
He easily moves between clients pausing every now and then to tell one a bit about himself, whilst checking the colour of the lady besides you. Then effortlessly, he returns to you remembering that he has promised to give you the name of a supermarket where they sell the best quality meat.
As a young man Roberto started working in Milan. His family had no means to support his studies so he found a job at Coppola’s (one of the most famous hairdressers in Italy) whilst also studying at night to become a hairdresser.
He immediately distinguished himself for the finesse of his cutting style and started a brilliant career that kept him in contact with the Milanese jet set for fifteen years. “I had everything I could wish for”, says Roberto. “I worked a lot and was in contact with interesting people. I wore the latest fashions and could afford anything”.
But as happens to so many, Roberto was not fully satisfied. While few have the nerve for radical change, Roberto took up the challenge to explore the world.
In the beginning, he just traveled, touring the globe with his partner of many years, and was immediately drawn by the passion of discovery. It was his desire that brought him to this part of the world.
It was 1994, in former President Suharto’s time. “It was very hard at the beginning”, says Roberto. “I can’t deny I went through long periods of loneliness and financial difficulty. However, I loved this country from the very beginning. At that time everything was calmer, more relaxed, there was not the confusion and chaos we experience today, I felt good”. Roberto started working as a hairdresser in Jakarta straightaway and was immediately noticed for his skills and modern approach. He was the first hairdresser to bring highlights into Indonesia. With his professional reliability, he made himself known little by little within both the Italian and international communities.
As a strong supporter of the “reject kembali”, an expression in Indonesian that means “what you give comes back to you”, Roberto worked hard and slowly built his network of contacts. They in turn supported him through some difficult times and regularly went to him not just for the right haircut but also for some good advice and encouraging words. Gradually, Roberto became the social icon of the Italian community in Jakarta. He was a big part of it and so too were some of his initiatives. He pioneered the publishing and printing of an international cookery book printed in three languages, Italian, English, and Bahasa, with a wide group of ladies. “It has been wonderful”, Roberto smiles. “Each one of us submitted a recipe and we also involved some Italian nuns who revealed their cookery secrets. The fact that it was published in three languages made the book even more interesting. For a period of time it sold like hot cakes, it was highly talked about and snapped up by people who saw it in the shops”.
As I was saying before, Roberto’s parlor is like a seaport. Despite never having been a fan of hairdressers or beauty salons, I found every possible excuse to go there often – I set my social calendar with friends there, I passed by just to say hello and of course, whenever I could, I would go for a shampoo and blow dry. I definitely think Roberto is the best hairdresser in Jakarta.
Roberto is supported in his work by a team of talented young people who take turns to wash, colour and blow dry. Together, they cover all the needs of his multicultural clientele and take impeccable care of customers. At Roberto’s you can always find a good coffee, a great massage and laughter. “If things have gone this way for me, I also owe it to my team”, says Roberto. “Even if it’s been difficult, and sometimes it still is, I take care of their needs too as these people have been with me since I started working for Alfons, with an undeniable loyalty and devotion. I check on them, train them, but most of all I share good and bad times with them. Having sincere friendships is a typical trait of the Indonesian culture, and it’s something that helps me immensely, especially if I go home at night and feel a bit lonely”. Roberto has no family with him. However, in this big and contradictory country, he has found a wider and more colourful family. They are made up of people from all kinds of backgrounds that meet daily in his shop to share stories and feelings in a lively intellectual and convivial way, and often between a curl, a touch of polish and a brush stroke.
Roberto is in Jl. PanglimaPolim 9 No 1, KebayoranBaru, tel. 021 7220416 (call for an appointment). See you there.