The Italian Job
Toni&Guy Italy Co-Founders Charity Cheah and Sergio Carlucci, and label.m Managing Director Maurizio Basso, discuss the magic of the brand in Milan
As the birthplace of Toni&Guy founder Toni Mascolo OBE, Italy occupies a special place in the heart of Toni&Guy. So when Toni decided to open a franchise here, it was important that he entrusted it to someone who knew the business from every angle. Charity Cheah was actually initially introduced to Toni&Guy as a customer. “It was in 1991 when I first stepped into the Toni&Guy Sloane Square salon, and was very fortunate to be introduced to Toni Mascolo himself,” Cheah recalls. “He was the most humble and warm-hearted businessman I had ever met, cutting hair while chatting to the clients in the salon. I started to model for the Academy and later did my university thesis on the hairdressing industry and strategic brand development for Toni&Guy. This meant that I met all of the key members of the team. With my business education and a strong understanding of the brand, coupled with good relations with Toni Mascolo and Sergio [Carlucci], I began this adventure in Italy with them.” The first salon opened in Milan in 1997, and since then, the franchise has grown to include 12 salons across the country under the watchful eyes of both Cheah and her business partner, Sergio Carlucci. Living in London at the time, Carlucci found himself working for the brand, having admired the Rome Academy back home. “I was welcomed into the company by Toni himself, who, at the time, personally introduced new staff at Toni&Guy.”
It’s a familiar story. Toni&Guy prides itself on treating employees and business partners as members of the family, as Maurizio Basso, label.m Managing Director, can attest. “The Mascolos have always been supportive, not only at the best of times, but in the very hard moments too, and that’s when you see the greatness in this family. I will always be there for them,” he says. It meant that winning the label.m Distributor of the Year award at Mainstage 2018 was made all the sweeter by the fact that the event was a tribute to Toni. “If there was any time in my life that I desired to win this prize, well, it was definitely that night. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
These shared values make Toni&Guy and label.m such special places to work in Italy. “There is no one in the label.m family that does not make me feel special,” Basso reveals. “From the heads of divisions to my colleagues around the world. There is no other company that I have felt this love.” Not to mention one of the reasons that both of the brands translate so well in Italy. As Carlucci explains, “it is a great story; it is about family, hard work and good values.”Though of course, family values can only get you so far, especially in such a style-focussed country. “Aesthetically, it has historically been very British, but also influenced by continental heritage,” reflects Carlucci. Cheah concurs. “The brand has a long history and values that consumers can relate to. But crucially, it has a very cutting edge, progressive and modern take on beauty, which makes it timeless yet adept at spotting trends in hairdressing.” It’s this ability to set trends that guides their continued involvement in Milan Fashion Week (MFW). “Fashion is part of the Toni&Guy value system,” says Cheah. “Milan Fashion Week is one of the most relevant fashion weeks, and aside from being home of some of the most influential global fashion houses, it has a level of elegance and tone of voice that’s very inspiring to us,” echoes Carlucci.
So what are the trends coming out of Italy at the moment? For men, the key word is ‘individuality’, argues Basso. “A lot depends on each man’s own look. There is no question, each aesthetic has its own hairstyle, and so you just choose the trend that best suits your style.” While for women, Carlucci says, “it really is about beautiful hair, and we’re at the end of the rainbow hair trend.” Cheah agrees. “Women want to achieve true wellness and natural looks right now, so are seeking quality cuts and treatments.”
Being at the forefront of fashion means that it’s vital that the Toni&Guy spaces in Milan reflect the pioneering nature of the brand, so when celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, it had an eye on the future. And the plans formulated on that birthday came to fruition last October when Toni&Guy Italy opened a brand-new, state-of-the-art academy, and gave the flagship salon a planet-pleasing green refresh, turning it into a beauty destination. As Cheah explains, “Our priority is to reposition and reinforce our brand’s philosophy of ‘feel good, look good, do good’ through the design of our salon. We have instilled a strong green message with our Tillandsia plants recycling and purifying the air in our salon, doing our part for the planet and caring for our clients.” Carlucci stresses, “being contemporary in a city like Milan is not a choice! It has been about being digital, green and adding comfort and natural elements while emphasising community.”
Carlucci describes the new academy as “a dream come true, where we have the space to talk to each other, think, prep, teach and learn, with an ambience that is naturally light and professional.” Just two minutes from Milan’s main train station, this brand-new facility is a testament to the importance that Toni placed on education. As Carlucci says, “education is the instrument that delivers the skills and expertise to the next generation, and simply put, we cannot afford not to ensure a top level of quality. Toni, when asked what was the secret to the success of a hair salon, always answered ‘Education, Education, Education!’”