Hairdressing is big business in Malaysia and is worth a staggering RM10bil a year, says Billy Lim, president of the Malaysian Hairdressing Association (MHA).
Lim said this recently at the launch of 8th International Beauty Expo (IBE), a beauty, hair, cosmetic, spa and weight management event for industry professionals, which will be held from May 17 to 20 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
Two industry bodies, the Malaysian Hairdressing Association and the Malaysian Nail Technicians Skill Development Association (MNTA), will be collaborating to hold IBE 2014. The event will also see three world-class awards, the International Hairdressing Awards (IHA), IBE Make-Up Artistry Awards and IBE Nail Artistry Championship, being held.
IBE 2014 is organised by Elite Expo, a leading exhibition organiser in Malaysia.
Of the three awards, the IHA 2014 is said to be one of the most challenging hair-designing competitions for professionals.
“IBE 2014 has an unusual concept and it will be high-level platform for all hair designers to demonstrate their skills, and be recognised and awarded for their hard work and creativity,” said Lim, who has more than 30 years experience in the hairdressing industry.
According to Lim, the hairdressing industry offers a lot of employment opportunities.
“Hairdressing is a lucrative business because everybody needs a hair cut on a regular basis. Women, and increasingly more men, are always in need of trimming and styling services (washing, colouring and rebonding),” said the 50-year-old Lim.
He said the RM10bil in revenue comes not just from cutting and styling services, but also equipment sales (like hair dryers, irons and hair steamers), haircare products (styling products and shampoo), event services, photo shoots for modelling, education (training programmes and fees) as well as other activities that include the setting up of salons, which require renovations, interior design and decoration).
Despite the economic value, Lim said the local hairdressing industry faces challenges in terms of financial support and public perception of those in the profession.
“This is because many who become hairdressers are school dropouts or those with poor academic backgrounds.
“It is crucial for the MHA and the government to educate society about hairdressing being an actual profession worthy of recognition.
“We want to gain the respect and recognition. The public perception of hairdressing needs to change. A good hairstylist is a valuable commodity,” said Lim.
He points out that it is easy for a hairdresser to find work in the UK or Australia, compared to other professions, adding that it is important to develop the hairdressing industry’s infrastructure at this stage by setting up academies, coming up with standard guidelines for hairstylists and having a government policy for the industry.
“Hairstylists need to be trained on the latest technology and should be taught how to manage a business as well as the marketing and branding aspects,” said Lim who is working together with the Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry to publish a national guideline for hairdressing practices.
The MHA hopes to work with investors as the hairdressing industry is in need of financial support in order to grow.
Many local hairdressers cannot afford to compete in the Hair World Championships of Beauty, held in different venues around the world every year, due to the lack of funds because they have to pay for their own fees, flights and accommodations,” he said.
The good news is Malaysians do not mind spending more to get the perfect hair these days, as they are becoming more conscious of their image.
“And because of this shift in trends, the demand for hair services has increased. Even with 40,000 hairdressers nationwide, the demand for hairdressers is still high. MHA intends to double the figure to 100,000 by 2015,” he said.
More than 300 hairdressing graduates are produced each year in the Klang Valley, but this is still insufficient.
“There are more than 1,000 hairdressing academies nationwide, but only 30% are fully active,” said Lim.
Hairdressing courses usually range between RM5,000 and RM30,000 and those interested do not need to have any basic academic qualifications.
Besides the awards for hairdressers, the Make-Up Artistry award is also expected to draw attention during the IBE event. IBE 2014 will become a stage for some of the best make-up artists in the country.
Make-up artists will be competing in the Bridal category and Fantasy open category. Two new unconventional categories will also be introduced this year — Body Painting and Special Effects Make-up.
Professional special effects makeup artist Mohd Aminuddin Mohd Mustajab said his speciality faces a lot of challenges because of the restrictions imposed on the local film industry.
“Since special effects make-up is very much associated with the film industry, local film standards limit the prospects of special effects make-up artists like me.
“The local film industry doesn’t often come up with major movies. I hope we can gradually expand and our authorities can treat our profession with more recognition.
“We have tried to produce a number of highly skilled special effects make-up artists. Sadly, there is no platform for them to showcase their talents,” said the 30-year-old Mohd Aminuddin, who used to work in a government department before pursuing his career in the make-up industry.
The special effects make-up industry is actually experiencing a revolution and is slowly expanding.
“We are still far behind Western countries and growing at a slower pace because the demand for such knowledge is rather limited here,” he said.
However, Mohd Aminuddin is confident that the IBE Make-Up Artistry Awards 2014 will be a good platform for the small group of professional special effects artists to get noticed.
“It could help boost the popularity of this industry. We rarely get noticed and I believe once there is awareness, there will be a demand.
“Associations and performing arts schools should work together to train more artists to become professionals. In the process, they are able to unleash their creativity,” said Ameen.
The other highlight of IBE 2014 will be the Nail Artistry Championship.
“The diversity of the nail art industry will be represented in 15 categories and participants will discover their skills and gauge their creativity,” said MNTA president Alice Liew Geok Yan.
“The make-up and nail art industry is being developed on a big scale and moving at a fast pace thanks to the popularity of stage shows and other events,” said the founder of Y Snow Beauty Sdn Bhd.
IBE 2014 is a good way to get Malaysian talents to be recognised globally.
“Malaysia will play host to nail artists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Singapore and other Asian countries,” said Liew, the winner of Smart Women Entrepreneur Awards 2005.
For Liew, the art of make up has come a long way and has reached a different level and involves a lot of creativity while nail art is part of the beauty therapy involving nail care and nail decorating.
“The latest trend is dotting designs and it has paved the way for 2D, 3D and fantasy creations using acrylic powder, gel and artificial nail tips to enhance the nail artistry.
“We have to be open-minded and receptive to all the new changes to stay ahead in this industry.
“We must also accept challenges in order to expand the Malaysian identity,” said Liew, who wants MNTA to be the leading professional nail technicians association in the industry.
She is hopeful IBE 2014 will expose the younger generation of nail artists to new ideas and enhance their skills.
Elite Expo expects at least 70 entries for the International Hairdressing awards, 80 entries for the IBE Make-Up Artistry awards and 400 entries for the IBE Nail Artistry Championship, which would surpass the previous numbers for the events.