Tiff and Cait have pretty high standards when it comes to hair and faces. We think they are both pretty important things, and we want them well-taken care of. We are constantly looking for great new places, and we were thrilled to come across Kate Korpi Salon. The sixth-floor salon is relatively new in Phnom Penh, and located in the SunCity complex. Despite it’s new-kid status in the Penh, it’s set the standard for quality pretty-making services.
The owner of Kate Korpi, Matthew Fairfax, was introduced to Cambodia through a client while he was living in Seattle. He had been managing a high-end salon and one of the patrons insisted that he talk to her friend about Cambodia. With a fair amount of skepticism and good manners, Matthew agreed to a coffee, and the rest is history. As he said in our interview, coffee is dangerous.
After a few years of visits to Cambodia, research, local interviews and second guessing, Matthew made the decision to pack up his life in Seattle and move to Phnom Penh. But before making the big move across the big blue, he pulled together a team of experts to kick-start the salon. Enter Brianne and Timea, the lead hair stylist/colorist and make up artist, who are just like your coolest friends, but they make you better looking every time you see them. Alana joined the team a few months ago, as another hair wizard, and is a wonderful addition to the team.
Brianne at work
Matthew providing entertainment
Timea and Lucinda, bonding over blowouts
Tiff’s transformation to ombre
Kate Korpi isn’t only a salon, it also serves as a training center for young Cambodians who want to work in the industry. Each year, Matthew returns to Seattle for the annual fundraiser, Fashion SOULstice, which looks like a ton on fun. The money raised at this event goes into providing scholarships for students participating in the two year program. Most of the students in the program come from rough beginnings and it’s no secret that Cambodia has it’s fair share of human rights issues to deal with. Some of the students participating in the training program have been through the worst of it.
The training system at Kate Korpi starts with the basics, things like shampooing and drying, and as the student starts to grow, the training program grows with them. The goal of the program isn’t to shape the student into someone who can make it in Cambodia, but to help them become someone who can make it any where in the world. They instructors keep standards in the salon incredibly high, and they take the “Nordstrom” route when it comes to customer satisfaction: if you aren’t happy, they will fix it and make sure you leave with what you came for.
Along with the training in technical skills, the students are given leadership training and life-skills training, which is everything from general management to lessons in budgeting. It has become a place for previously vulnerable people to become empowered and change their own lives.
One of the coolest things about the salon is that they attract stylists from all over the world. Guest artists come to Cambodia for a minimum of one month (ideally more), work with the team, help out with the training, all while exploring a crazy new country. (Attention cool stylist friends: please come visit!)
For Cait’s show last month, the amazing team at Kate Korpi took the reigns for hair and make up, and made it work for all 16 ladies in one afternoon. Total pros.
Thanks, Kate Korpi, for being a wonderful place to get beautified, and for doing such beautiful things in the world.
Kate Korpi Salon
#255 Street 51, corner of 370
For appointments, call 023 988 166
Photos are property of Tiffany Tsang and Julia White.
Please request permission for use.