I love Amsterdam. The most fast paced city of the Netherlands, where Fashion and Art are so important. Where the nightlife is blitz and the people are friendly and open. The tourist fly around my face as I am walking to the Pieter Cornelis Hooftstraat, the street of high fashion and where beautiful designers like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Cartier, Valentino, Michael Kors and Chanel have their boutiques.In the same street lies the salon of Ernesto Cabal, “Kbal Super Natural” one of Holland’s best hairstylist and colorist you can find.
Born and raised in Panama city, Kbal discovered he had a natural feel for when it comes to fashion and detail. But the real passion he found lies in hair. As he likes to say: “ The hair is not just an extension of the face, but it defines your personality, it makes you look more beautiful and it boosts your confidence”. He started his career by learning everything he possibly can at the Hair-Academy of Panama City, and has never stopped learning ever since. Going from class to class to finally reach the master classes, he is always eager to learn. When he was a student he moved from Fashion week to Fashion week, gaining experience. Every year he goes to the season academy in London, learning all that´s new, but always keeping his own touch.
As I enter the door of his salon, the hallway itself is spectacular. Painting and sculptures on the wall, red carpet on the stairs, very warm and all very inviting. I´m greeted at the salon door by Kbal himself of course; he´s serving me a big smile and I feel welcome from the first instant. As I look around in the salon, it feels like a living room. Well, a professional living room that is. A mirror from the floor to the ceiling, with special lighting that recreates natural light, so when you exit the salon and see in the window outside, the color is exactly the same. The wash corner, has an amazing chair made for relaxing. The color red is everywhere, but in a good way. It´s in the chairs, some decorations, the sofa. Colorful, yet tasteful. It is his favorite color, significating his passion; in life, in hair, in cooking…Everything.
And I must add one thing; it has been proven that women are attracted to the color red, it makes something loose in a woman. Once you´re standing in the salon you get the feeling you are the center of attention, which is true, because you are. Kbal works alone. One hairstylist, one client, all the attention you need and deserve, all the time. Available every day of the week from mornings to late evenings, even on Sunday if you want. Your wish is there, for him to make come true. Driven with his passion and enthusiasm he works, every day, doing what he loves, doing it like no-one else can. His salon is now in its 5th year, 5 beautiful and successful years, with many more to come
As we begin to talk I was curious about where he started out, in Panama.
The professional level of the hairstylists in Panama or Amsterdam are basically the same, but the clients are a lot more different. In Panama city every party or event is an excuse to go to the salon. Men and women. And they want it all. Not just the cuts but, the styling, coloring, touch ups, even make up and clothes if necessary. The beauty salon there is a complete package and the people go a lot more on a regular basis than in Europe. It´s almost like a ritual. One of the best things I learned in Panama City is the experience, learning the profession. With high demands of the clients you learn to work fast, efficient and you connect with your client, building a relationship.
My salon here is basically the same, they get all my individual and personal attention, alone. There are no other stylists and clients here so there is no distraction whatsoever, no waiting lines and very important; a lot of privacy. You need to be able to listen to the wishes of your clients and what he/she doesn´t want, and not having to deal with other people’s business. The power of my formula is The Dutch sobriety with the Latin American passion. That brings out the best of everything and makes every customer happy. They come to my salon for their hair and beauty, so that is the ultimate goal. The thing I enjoy most is when the client gives me a big smile from ear to ear and that it makes them want to come back, again and again.
The Clientele is very diverse, everybody´s welcome here. I have national clients, as well as international, sometimes I speak Dutch, other times it´s English, Spanish or French, very multicultural ( he gives a big smile) . From very classic clients to high fashion, from basic to extravagant-eleganza, and I love it all. I´m also trained as a make-up artist like many hairstylists are, so if they want they can get the complete look. You need to empathize with your client, it´s a feeling. The client can work in a corporate bank, that needs a business approved hairstyle, or a client that works in high fashion, a person that wants to be noticed and be different. I can see these things very well and I work with my feeling. Some classic persons want to have a trendy touch, without it being a kinky hairdo. I always understand them, and to convince them sometimes I use an app on my phone or some wigs or color samples to assure them of their choice. I do not start with your hair until we both know what the result will be.
When I come to the parts of the techniques he uses, I see excitement. He loves to explain me everything and really he doesn´t have any limits. In terms of cutting, he can use every technique there is, depending on the quality of your hair. Cutting it wet or dry, slicing it with a blade which creates texture in the hair, he knows what goes with your hair. Chip and knip, A line cutting, what mean you cut from the back of the head in layers down, giving it fullness as well as a stylish hairdo. and so many more, no technique went unspoken, no technique is left unused, it all depends on what the “model” wants at that time. The scissors he always uses are from Sakura, a Japanese brand, providing the best tools in sharpness and weight. There are others like the Sakura scissor but it never feels the same. The Sakura is light and fits perfectly in my hand like no other scissor can.
In terms of coloring basically he can do everything( which at this point doesn´t surprise me, but impresses me a lot). It´s his specialty, he always keeps a close watch on the latest trends and quickly knows how to apply them. I´ve seen him making an impressive artworks called “ Fire” which has different layers of color in them; 4 to be exact. Cherry red, Fire red, copper tone and blond, it was phenomenal. Very precise, accurate, beautiful linings, that both provide contrast as well as blending in to each other and above all, he works so fast. It comes natural to him, like the tools he uses become an extension of his arm.
The things are very season bonded. Highlighting becomes more popular in the summer, not just really adding blond, but going lighter 3 degrees then your own hair. the latest trend is a hit as well; Dip-dye ( think of Rihanna), working from darker color at your scalp and down, gently blending with lighter colors along the way and to end in points that are noticeably lighter. But you also have low-lights and a new trend coming this fall, as seen in new York fashion week, is the Spotlight technique; Your hair Is one color, but the effect looks like you´re really having a spotlight on a part of your hair, because that part is colored a lot lighter, even creating contrast between brown hair and a blonde spotlight. Sounds really AMA-zing to me, like you´re having a spotlight on you all the time. He explains me so much more, the diamond technique, the shadow technique, the difference between ombre and dip-dye, he knows it all. In his salon he works with Goldwell hair coloring, because it´s all natural. The color range is big and complete, making sure that every client can find what they are looking for.
Then he starts about my hair, he says it looks really healthy and I giggle, yes a lady loves a compliment. This leads to a surprise, where he gives me a demonstration of his work. A wash and massage followed by a brushing. Do I feel a princess moment coming up? Yes! He takes me to the wash table. As I lay myself on the chaise longue-esque chair I immediately feel relaxed. The chair is designed for that. As he begins he explains everything. Using the products of Kevin Murphy ( sulfates and silicone free) he starts to massage and exfoliate my scalp, which is good for the stimulation of hair and head. I´m off to Lala-land. Not paying so much more attention to what´s happening and enjoying the moment. Luckily I recorded what was happening in the meantime, because I was not paying so much attention in listening, but in experiencing. After the exfoliation, he used the shampoo, it smelled of oranges and wood, so good. After came a quick color mask, that already works from the moment you apply it; If you don´t have a lot of time this mask is fabulous, one minute is enough. Neutralizing unnecessary , leaving your hair with restored color. As last a light shampoo and conditioner to leave the hair ready for drying. For styling and daily use he always uses Argan oil, my favorite product when it comes to hair! It´s an oil, but not greasy, easy to absorb by the hair and a great protector against uv-rays and heat. So it´s always a good basic product before brushing or styling or curling. Work through the hair from the middle to the points, but not on the scalp. At the end of the treatment I have this Hollywood-glamorous hair, with natural shine and it moves so easily. As the day ends we drink a glass of wine as he works on his creation in the meantime and when it´s time to leave I go out with a big smile, from ear to ear, wanting to come back for more.