In the life of many women of color, finding a hairdresser comes third only to finding God and finding a husband. In other words, our relationship with a good hair magician is one of the most important relationships we will ever have. For the afro adorned, the pool of hairdressers to whom we can confide our crowns is quite narrow outside of the United States where the naturalista movement has really taken off. The pursuit of nappyness is even more complex when you travel.
Whether I am on business travel or vacation, I dread spending the night moisturizing, twisting and styling my own locks. If you are like me, when you travel you de facto resign yourself to a period of laziness where you refuse to lift a finger. Even if it is in the direction of your own head. For me, a go-to hairdresser is a must-have along my major travel circuits.
Shockingly, the African continent is not as welcoming as you would imagine to women with natural hair. In Abidjan, there are two yes T-W-O natural hair salons. That was until the opening of Naturellement salon de Beauté a few weeks ago. Naturellement held their official launch party on May 14 in the salon itself.
Two natural hair queens co-own the space: Ayebobo Niang, a Guinean national relocated to Abidjan about a year and a half ago, and her business partner Djenéba Bamba, a local Ivorian who spent many years in neighboring Ghana. Theirs is truly a turnaround story born from personal frustration. Ayebobo recalls, “Moving around between France, Ghana, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, I have always had trials maintaining my natural hair. The last time I went to a natural hair salon I paid over CFA 30,000 (EUR 45) for a shea butter treatment that honestly I could have done at home.
The staff at more affordable salons just did not pay as much attention to the customer experience as I would like. Djeneba and I have been friends for years so when she called me and told me she was thinking of closing down her salon business in Abidjan I saw an opportunity. I asked if she would be willing to re-launch with a focus on natural hair. Outside of braids and weaves, hairstylists in many African cities do not really explore new hair trends. Furthermore, natural hair requires a distinct set of products and techniques that people do not always know about. I told Djeneba I would help her and we would turn things around. Now we have a full appointment book and traffic is growing.”
During the afternoon of the launch, the Naturellement salon was buzzing with around 50 invited guests. We drank cocktails provided by African Happy Hour and ate hors d’oeuvres while we mingled with fellow prospective clients. The two winners of the salon’s Facebook page competition for “the best-looking afro in Abidjan” received complete makeovers. The salon stylist gave the two women fantastic updos in a protective style sure to last them several carefree weeks live during the event. Other staff of the salon explained the ingredients of the organic homemade hair products stocked on site from the brand Gaia Cosmetics. The salon also featured stunning commissioned portraits by Hug-Lionel Photography and some interior styling by la Boudoir Rose by Shirley Ann who added Ankara covered panels to the walls to perfect the aesthetic. Ayebobo explains, “I had never thought about this line of business before but in the quest to resolve my own hair dilemmas, I realized many other women are facing the same predicament and I said to myself, ‘I can help solve this problem’. Naturellement aims to provide beauty services with a conscience to the natural hair community while paying attention to the customer experience.”
The salon’s offerings include deep conditioning treatments starting at CFA 8,000 (EUR 12), bantu knots at CFA 5,000 (EUR 7.50) all the way up to faux locs for CFA 40,000 (EUR 60). They offer different price points for those who are in transition from relaxers to natural hair and do blowouts as well. Although the salon is relatively small with only three hairdressing stations, Ayebobo has bigger plans. “Our aim is to open 2 mores salons in Abidjan by the end of 2017 and expand into neighboring countries as franchises.”
When you travel – whether for business or pleasure – you want to look your best. You will likely take pictures. You might Snapchat. Someone might interview you at the conference you are attending. Now when you come to Abidjan you can skip the frantic call to your stylist to “do something with my hair” the night before your flight. Babi’s got you covered. You can now Visiter L’Afrique nappy and happy!
Photographies by Hug-Lionel Photography