The moment he cut real human hair for the first time, celebrity hairstylist Rossano Ferretti, 57, was hooked.
"I cut a bob, all by myself, in just three days. It was my first haircut, but it felt so natural to me to create that shape," he says, recalling the incident when he was 15 years old and a student at the hairdressing institution, Sassoon Academy, in London.
The week-long course, he says, changed his life.
"I knew I was good with my hands. But it was there that I realised I could use my hands to design hair," he tells The Straits Times last week. He was in town to open his eponymous hair spa at The Fullerton Hotel.
Born in Campegine - a town in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region with a population of about 500 - to a hairdresser mother and a farmer father, he had big dreams despite his humble beginnings.
While in school, he loved design-centric subjects such as painting, dressmaking and architecture.
At age 14, encouraged by his mother and his grandfather, a barber, to follow in their footsteps, he enrolled in a hairdressing school in his province.
However, he says that his time there did not offer him any hands-on experience.
It's a cut, but you don't see where the scissors went. You see hair movement. Your hair wants to move and it will go where it wants to go. So when we cut, we go with the hair.
CELEBRITY HAIRDRESSER ROSSANO FERRETTI on The Method, a concept of cutting hair created by him and his sister Lorenza, where hair is cut according to its natural fall
This came only a year later when, desiring a new challenge, he made his way to London.
"I realised I had a gift for handling hair," he says. "In just a few days, I did a haircut that many others take months to perfect."
Although he was offered a permanent job during the stint, he decided to return to Campegine, where he worked for his mother.
A few years later, he decided to travel the world and cut hair at the same time, visiting places which included Barcelona, Paris, Japan and New York.
"I did not want to just cut hair for Italian girls," he says. "I wanted to understand the world of hair, through the cultures and peoples of the world."
And so he did.
Soon, he was getting invites to cut hair aboard luxury yachts and in private homes, quickly making a name for himself.
Salons by other celebrity stylists
Kim Robinson Singapore
Kim Robinson (above), an Australia-born, Hong Kong-based celebrity hairstylist and owner of his eponymous salon here in Ngee Ann City, charges a whopping $2,738 if you want him to wield his scissors. An appointment for a haircut by the man himself needs to be made at least a month in advance and involves him taking a flight to Singapore to give your hair his attention.
Based on previous news reports, he was crowned in 2005 as the most expensive hairstylist here. Then, he charged $638 a cut.
His clients included the late Princess Diana, Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi and singer Rita Ora.
Passion Hair Salon
Celebrity hairstylist David Gan (above), who owns Passion Hair Salon in Palais Renaissance, charges $409 for a women's cut and $379 for a men's cut.
Those keen to have their hair handled by the Malaysia-born personality, who does the tresses of a stable of artists including actresses Zoe Tay, Fann Wong and Joanne Peh, will need to call in advance to make a booking. The wait is usually between three days and a week.
Women's cuts at his salon in general start at $99, while men's haircuts begin at $79.
Monsoon Hair House Novena Square
Celebrity hairstylist Addy Lee (above), chairman and founder of Monsoon Group Holdings, owns several salons here, but does haircuts only at Monsoon Hair House in Novena Square.
The Malaysia-born stylist charges $489 a haircut, while other stylists at this salon charge between $38 and $70 a haircut.
As is the case with celebrity hairstylists, one has to call and schedule an appointment with him beforehand. The waiting time is usually a few weeks.
He is reportedly the stylist for a number of celebrities here, including TV host Quan Yifeng, actress Vivian Lai and Thai personality Pornsak.
Each cut, he says, helped him hone his skills towards something bigger and better.
"I was experimenting. I was building up my method. I wanted to create a technique that would work with every hair type," he says.
After 15 years, The Method - as he calls it - was born.
The Method is a concept of cutting hair, created by him and his sister Lorenza, 52, where hair is cut according to its natural fall.
Each strand of hair is treated according to its own structure and movement and the end result is a haircut that is without geometry and the visible mark of a pair of scissors.
"It's a cut, but you don't see where the scissors went," he explains. "You see hair movement. Your hair wants to move and it will go where it wants to go. So when we cut, we go with the hair."
He debuted The Method when he opened his first salon in 1992 in Parma, a city a short distance from his birthplace.
He worked there with his sister and, by his account, The Method took Parma by storm.
"I was completely busy and the salon had a waiting list of four months by the time it was a year old," he says.
With the salon booming, the siblings decided to start a Rossano Ferretti school there in 1994, so stylists keen to learn The Method could receive training from his sister, its executive director.
The school, which is still in operation, takes in only eight students a year, with each candidate personally screened by Ferretti.
Perhaps part of the secret to The Method lies in the special texturising scissors that he and his stylists use.
Created in 1997, the scissors are patented and cut only 18 per cent of the hair with each snip, as opposed to the typical 30 per cent.
This gives the hair greater volume and lightness, he says.
He adds that the tool, made by an Italian craftsman, has been through several iterations. The last edition was in 2015.
Ferretti has worked hard to build up his brand.
He declines to divulge when he began charging $2,000 for a cut, but his salons' clients include the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton as well as actresses Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence.
He has since set up more than 20 salons across the world and has an 18-product haircare line that was launched this year.
He travels from place to place to set up new salons and for various projects.
He will be opening a salon in Abu Dhabi next month and is contemplating three others next year.
The salon here, which opened earlier this week, will be run by two stylists trained by him, with prices ranging between $375 and $510 for a cleanse-and-cut session.
Ferretti's jet-setting lifestyle leaves him with little time for family, whom he says he tries to spend time with as much as he can.
He has two sons in their 30s with his ex-wife, and a long-term partner who helps out in the Ferretti haircare line.
He says: "I love what I do and would not have dreamt that I could do so many things in my life.
"I would like to be known as someone who has revolutionised the hair industry and who has given new life to hairdressing."
A cut above the rest?
When I was invited to experience a Rossano Ferretti haircut, I had no idea who this man was.
Google quickly brought me up to speed. I learnt, within minutes, about his heady price of $2,000 a haircut, his star-studded clientele list and his confident (others say arrogant) demeanour.
A $2,000 haircut?
Intrigued, I told the public relations contact I was keen.
On the morning of the day I was to meet Ferretti at his new eponymous hair spa at The Fullerton Hotel, I take pains to wash and blow-dry my hair.
For what I did to your hair, you ought to pay me $15,000... No, wait. You should be buying me a Bentley.
CELEBRITY HAIRDRESSER ROSSANO FERRETTI
I wanted to challenge him with what I believed was my best head forward, to see how he could elevate my hair from there.
The two-storey, four-seat salon is an intimate space with a small welcome area, in which Ferretti and I exchange greetings.
He then takes a look at my hair, touches it briefly and declares it a disaster.
"Your fringe looks like someone chomped on it," he says, making a gnawing action with his mouth, a look of disgust creeping across his face.
"I don't think it's that bad," I protest.
But his mind is made up.
"The rest of your hair is also a mess," he continues. "The person who cut your hair cannot be trusted with scissors. I don't know where to start."
He gesticulates at my hair and mutters something in Italian to his salon's two stylists, who are trained by him. They nod in agreement and cluck their tongues disapprovingly.
I begin to feel self-conscious.
I think about the neighbourhood hairdresser I frequent, whose Bishan salon is plastered with photos of herself with local stars whose hair she has cut.
Granted, a lot of those photos were from a decade or so ago. Still, I did not think her skills were that bad.
I wonder if Ferretti is in spindoctor mode right now.
If so, then all of this - from his sassy attitude to the swanky salon with its ginger candy and roasted almond snacks displayed in stylish silverware - is part of the spiel: I am being sold the Rossano Ferretti brand.
His name is worth the high price because I am to believe he has hair-transforming powers.
Perhaps even the condemnation of my hair was deliberate, that he may claim to be its saviour.
Still, can any haircut be worth $2,000?
The sceptic in me muses even as the theatrics continue.
Ferretti orders my colleague, the videographer, to stop recording.
"I need to fix this," he says, in reference to my hair.
When I try to take notes of what he is doing on my mobile phone, he snatches the device out of my hand.
"Please, no. I need you to be absolutely still," he says. "This is already very difficult for me."
I stifle a giggle. So drama, I think.
He snips here and there. His body is constantly on the move. At times, he leans in close, bends his 1.87m-tall frame over me and flips my hair this way and that.
I contemplate suspending my cynicism. Maybe my present haircut is truly terrible and my eyes do not have the professional training of a hairstylist to see that truth.
I wonder if I can will myself to buy into the Rossano Ferretti show.
I try to play the part. "It's looking really good now," I venture at one point, grinning.
He scoffs, suggesting that was a given.
About 20 minutes in, he is done.
At first glance, my hair looks like it just underwent a trim.
"You are finished?" I ask, although what I really want to utter is: "That's it?"
"Yes," he replies. "You mean, you want some more?"
I scrutinise my hair and attempt to evaluate it in terms of the Ferretti method.
My hair did feel healthy, fluffy and light at the same time.
Considering that he cut it when it was wet and did not blow-dry it after declaring he was done, it is voluminous.
I toss my head from side to side. My hair swishes about effortlessly and there is indeed the absence of "scissors marks" - both trademarks of a Ferretti haircut.
He proclaims: "For what I did to your hair, you ought to pay me $15,000... No, wait. You should be buying me a Bentley."
I am already struggling with the idea of this haircut - which does not seem to require that much effort - costing a whopping $2,000, and here he is, suggesting it is worth multiples more.
He adds that my hair, which has been freed to "grow organically" thanks to him, will look "better and better" as the days go by.
Before I bid him goodbye, he does one more thing. He offers me a less-than-pearl-size dab of one of his haircare products, but not before retracting some of the substance.
"I can't give you too much, you know. This is very expensive stuff," he says gravely.
Is that spin or is he merely stating a fact, I cannot decide.
Do I enjoy the experience? Yes.
But would I have paid $2,000 for this? No, thank you.
Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said thatRossano Ferretti's 18-product haircare line was launched seven years ago instead of this year. This has been corrected.
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