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La Provence: A Cut Above the Rest

Novel features and “the French touch” give this salon and beauty café an edge over its competition.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO / IMAGES BY LEAH DE LEON

La Provence, a salon and café hybrid in Bonifacio Global City, has at least one distinct advantage over its competitors in Metro Manila: to imitate it successfully would be akin to splitting hairs.

This is the belief of its creative director and co-founder, Mehdi Moussaoui.

“For example, whenever we color hair,” he said, “we do it per gram.” “We also customize shades that fit our customers,” he added thus giving the business an output difficult to imitate. But considering its current state, this may be but one of the many features of the business worth replicating.

Launched last year, La Provence combines a modern salon with a French cafe.

Located at the cinema floor of Bonifacio High Street’s Central Square mall, La Provence, since its launch November last year, has been brushing past its immediate contenders through its efforts to be what its founders call “a one stop shop” for pampering. Outside its 215 square meter venue, black chairs and tables sit guests who have chosen to partake of its French-inspired menu—a line of dishes and drinks that includes paninis and crepes made colorful to woo its intended Instagram-literate market. Inside, meanwhile, past the café’s counter, is a gathering of workstations often manned by staff whose specializations in the beauty department are referenced by the pictures displayed on the backs of their respective shirts.

“It’s like a complete pampering solution for the customer,” said Heather Ong, one of the establishment’s co-founders. “Customers can stay here for like 5 to 6 hours. They can do all the pampering; they can get their nails or hair done, get a massage, a wax or a facial. And, when they get hungry, they can order from the café.”

Nail and hair treatments, general body care and feed-worthy food and drinks—La Provence has a long list of things to offer to the ever bustling BGC crowd. But this isn’t a case of quantity over quality. The business after all seeks to be at the forefront of beauty in the country and thanks to its founders its efforts to achieve that goal can be seen from root to tip.

A customer finishes her dish while a stylist works on her hair (top left). This is a common scene at La Provence. Under the management of Moussaoui (lower left,) the establishment seeks to effectively pamper its guests.
The French touch

To understand the story of La Provence, one must take a peek into the life of Moussaoui, the creative mind behind the establishment’s operation.

Raised in the Southern French region of Provence, the man has been working as a stylist for over 30 years and his skill in his chosen field has afforded him a number of opportunities abroad.

“He’s been all over,” Ong said.

“Morocco, China, Saudi, UK, India…” Moussaoui began enumerating. And eventually, he found himself in Philippine shores thanks to his commitment to Franck Provost. Later on, he was hired to be a stylist for the launch of watch brand, René Mouris. And this was where he met Ong, and his other local partners for La Provence, Frank Ong, Kris Garcia and Lilibeth Ong Tiu.

“We started talking about how we can work together,” Ong said. And the idea for the business was conceptualized.

“I know salons that have French-inspired names but there’s no sense in it,” Moussaoui said as he discussed the creation of their concept. “It’s just a name. They do not have the French touch.” And through the man himself, La Provence hopes to provide that.

But one, of course, one would have to wonder, what does it mean to have the French-touch?

“France is the reference for fashion and hair,” Moussaoui began explaining. “Most of the big brands in fashion come from France.” So to have what he calls the French-touch, an establishment must be at the forefront of style. And this is exactly what La Provence aims to be.

By being the flagship salon of Wella Professionals in the Philippines, the business is privy to the popular hair brand’s best and newest products. And guests will know that such are being used in the salon’s treatments because of the establishment’s desire to be transparent. Attesting to this is the massive color bar near the hair stations. Here, stylists mix—in full view of the public—exactly which products they’re using for the guests.

“We’re the first salon to have this kind of color bar in Manila,” Ong said. And this is just one of the establishment’s cutting-edge features. To add, it is also —to Ong’s knowledge—one of the few salons in the Philippines to only use the quiet and efficient Dyson Supersonic hair dryers in all of its hair stations.

“We also use the best technology available for nails,” she concluded.

“We want to know all the new trends; all the new products,” Moussaoui said. “In the Philippines, people now travel a lot and I don’t like it when a client tells me, ‘oh, do you know this product?’ and I don’t know it.”

(From top left clockwise) Each hair station is equipped with a Dyson Supersonic hair dryer to ensure minimal noise and maximum efficiency; a stylist tends to one of the guests in the VIP room; this rainbow-colored crepe, Tour de France (220php) is but one of the many dishes served at La Provence’s cafe; to nail what the clients want, the establishment keeps itself up to date in the latest trends.

But to be the leader in style is not the only thing one must possess in order to have what Moussaoui calls “the French touch.” When you represent the services of a country that was once ruled by a man as lavish as King Louis XIV, a country almost synonymous to high-end brands, you are—in some cases—expected to represent luxury.  And in this case, La Provence aims not to disappoint.

Aside from the gustatory options provided by its café, La Provence also incorporates certain elements in its operation to make its guests feel more comfortable. For example, when shooting the salon, our team’s photographer could be seen moving seamlessly through its interiors despite carrying bulky equipment. This is a testament to the fact that its hair stations are modestly distanced to give customers a little more leg room. Meanwhile, guests who want more privacy, can also avail of the VIP rooms—the cozy sections of the establishment flanking the hair stations. These, in turn, are connected to a private massage area for guests who want a little rubdown after their treatments.

“We want our guests to feel very pampered,” Ong said. And it is their attempt to satiate that desire which ultimately brings them guests to begin with.

Ever since its launch, the establishment has been garnering a significant amount of attention from various walks of life. According to Ong, celebrities like Jericho Rosales and Dyan Castillejo have already visited the place themselves. Alongside them, private citizens mostly working in the BGC area have spent a significant amount of their days in the establishment while waiting for the traffic to loosen up.

“We have a lot of walk-ins now,” she said. “I guess that means people know us more.” It also means that the establishment has a new challenge to deal with.

“We want to retain clients,” Moussaoui said. “We want them to keep coming back to us.”

Not that this is too much of a challenge for the business, however. Of course, customer loyalty is something that many service-oriented companies aspire to have. But not all of them have something difficult to get elsewhere. La Provence does. And because it is the way that it is, there are times when people simply have no other choice but to return to it.

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