Recently we were visited by a young journalist of the Guardian and he gave us his impression. We wanted to share it with all our followers.
Earlier this year, I was in Havana meeting a new generation of Cubans building their own businesses, projects and subcultures in the city. One person lots of them recommended to me was 32-year-old hair stylist Dorian Carbonell Fernandez, who was one of the first to introduce international hair fashion to young Habaneros. His salon, Donde Dorian, is now a favourite among celebrities – kids hang out at the cafe in the front just to spot them, I was told. I’d been in Havana around a week and I did need a haircut, so I hopped in a taxi to Vedado to pay Dorian a visit.
The salon – which is pretty difficult to find, so be prepared to ask – is a small shop in a predominantly residential area. The decor is simple. Don’t expect a minimalist chic interior with techno bouncing around mirrored walls and tiled floors; this is Havana after all. But you know you’re in the right place because there will be a line of young guys with dyed quiffs and harsh undercuts looking like they’re a boyband waiting to get a fresh trim for Friday night. Given that Dorian’s client list includes several Cuban pop stars, they might actually be in a boyband.
Within about 10 minutes of us meeting, Dorian had me in the chair and was spinning me left and right while artfully snipping my hair into shape. He told me how he trained as a hairdresser and worked in government service, but never felt like he could express himself fully. His frustration led him to opening the business. “The idea was to bring international trends and fashion from around the world and redesign styles for the Caribbean,” he said. “The difference with our work and other salons is our aim to continue to create. We set the trend of hair fashion in Cuba.”
In this case, hair fashion seems to mean seriously short sides and a middle section swept up over the top of the head, possibly with bold colouring, too. I wasn’t brave enough to go for this, but it was hard not to be impressed by the impeccable cuts of the young guys working in the salon – styles I recognised from bars and clubs in the city.
Dorian’s success among young Habaneros is not happening in a vacuum – Cuba’s economy is growing, the internet becoming more accessible and international exchange is increasing.
“Youth culture is changing for the better across all aspects,” said Dorian, who has done hair fashion pop-ups at galleries, clubs and Havana’s flagship arts centre, FAC. “Ten years ago the Cuban people had less interest in design and personal image, but young people now can see more possibilities. By the evening it’s so busy here – people come here ready to go to the disco. They get a haircut and just go. Sometimes we go with them …”
• Calle 25/26 y 28, Vedado, dondedorian.net