One classy dame, Nabila a has made a name for herself in the industry and come a long way from working out of a small one bedroom apartment almost 30 years ago. Today Nabila’s salons are a favourite amongst celebrities and socialites in Pakistan. The noted trendsetter, Nabila tells Sana Zehra the dos and don’ts of salon visits

What is the difference between styling hair for television and movies versus every day wear?

Every day you can’t lie. Your hairstyle has to be quick, efficient and real. Your everyday hair routine should be a shampoo and wearing it natural. The hair cut of choice should be such that your hair is versatile so you can put it up during the day or jazz it up if you have to go out for a fancy evening. It should be easy to live in. For celebrities, we use a lot of hair pieces and hair extensions, etc. Reality and fantasy are two very different things.

What is your #1 hair care tip?

A regular trim is the most important thing, even if you need to do it yourself. Trim your ends every two months.

What’s a celebrity hair secret we might not know about, but should?

Celebrities are usually extremely high maintenance and hair loss is a huge issue for a lot of them. Use of hair extensions and the hair grafting is done a lot to conceal the sparse hair line. Celebrities are real people with work done to make them appear unreal.

Do you believe in DIY recipes for hair?

Yes, for sure! I myself picked up the scissors at the age of 14. You should always experiment but with caution.

Your love for texture is evident in many of the styles that you create. What are some of your can’t-live-without-it products?

The list changes from season to season. Last year it was hair crème, this year it was coconut jam. Right now I’m wearing a very expensive product with sugar syrup. (Pauses) I think it’s sugar syrup.

How do you use hair to evoke sexiness from a woman, regardless of age?

I think clean, effortless and carefree hair is very sexy.

Any good hair tricks for when we wake up and our hair just isn’t behaving?

Gel it back. Always works!

One of the few people you haven’t worked with is the Duchess of Cambridge. What would you do with her hair, given the chance?

She has beautiful hair in a very classic style. It’s the perfect length, perfect colour, and has perfect layers. It’s so classic, it’s almost boring. I would kind of funk it up a little bit.

You think Nabila will go green in the near future?

Most people don’t know this, but I’ve already gone green. I am very conscious about sustainability and recycling. We got the freedom seal on our products and we don’t test on animals. I don’t talk about it just because it’s in fashion but because it is the ethical and the right thing to do and I believe in it. My children won’t have it any other way. Recently, almost a year ago, I also became a vegetarian.

What’s the most boring hair style to do?

It’s the long, layered brown hair that every single woman in Pakistan has. It looks beautiful don’t get me wrong but it’s so boring I have done it with my eyes closed on national TV.

What’s the hardest hair cut to do?

I think a straight line cut is the hardest thing to do. In the past, I’ve been accused of doing it because it was the simplest thing to do. A very famous hairstylist said that even a blind man can cut a straight bob. But that is so far from the truth. A straight cut is almost impossible to achieve. Just think how hard it is for a tailor to stitch a perfect white shirt.

“Celebrities are usually extremely  high maintenance and hair loss is a huge issue for a lot of them”

If I were to tip the salon owner who gives me a cut, is that ok?

In my 32 year long career, I have never been tipped and I don’t know if I would accept it if I were. But a lot of my staff enjoy the perk.

Why does my stylist always try to sell me products at the salon?

Because they get a commission on it. At Nabila, selling is our biggest weakness because I will never sell what I will not buy myself. The other day a client of mine told me that she couldn’t come back for a root touch up for the next three months. I went back in the stock room and brought a cover up spray. Everyone exclaimed what was I doing as she will not come back then. I replied that we need to make the transition easier for our clients and not difficult. I will only sell products that I believe in and not anything else.

 “Is it actually rude to talk on your phone while getting your hair styled?”

It may or may not be rude, but it is very irritating. Even crossing your legs will shift the balance even if you are doing a blunt haircut. It is important to sit symmetrical and still.

I have been told off in London, “Please don’t talk. I’m not here to make friends but to give you a haircut.” Talking too much to the stylist might not be a good idea, but talking on the phone can also be considered rude.

“Clean, effortless and carefree hair is very sexy”

Questions that people are scared to ask their hairstylist that we will ask now:

I have psoriasis/eczema/dandruff. Will my stylist get grossed out?

No, absolutely no. If someone walks in with that problem I’d quickly get them an appointment with my friend the dermatologist before giving him/her a haircut.

Can I ask my hairstylist to trim my facial hair?

At the N-Gents salon, the stylists are all trained to do facial hair trimming.

What can I do about thinning hair?

Unfortunately, not much. If someone is trying to sell you products to stop your hair from falling, don’t get sucked into it. Keep up with your treatments like Vitamins, Mesotherapy and Infrared Light Therapy and go for a Follicular Transplant at an early age when you still have a visible hair line.

Why does my stylist always take off more length than I want?

We are actually accused of taking less length off. I can always cut more later, but I can’t make it longer instantly. So stylists are conservative when it comes to cutting off length. It all starts with a good consultation.

 “Who chooses which magazines the salon has on hand?”

I’m very particular about what I want show in my salon. There have been times I have tossed out tons of magazines.

“Is it weird if I don’t take that product my stylist recommended?”

Absolutely not, don’t feel pressured to buy a product your hairstylist recommends. Go home make your own concoction and see what works best for you.

During the hair wash, is it okay to lie there with closed eyes, right?

We have specifically gotten those hydraulic beds for your shampoo so you can lie back, close your eyes during that time and relax.

Is it poor etiquette to rock up to an appointment with hair that hasn’t been washed for days on end? It’s only going to be washed anyway…

I think it’s okay to come in with dirty hair, like you said it will get washed anyway. But there was a time in the 80s when people used to come with mehndi and oil in their hair, which was too much. We allocate 10 – 12 minutes for a wash so anything that requires more than that would be considered impolite.

If you’ve given the customer a cup of tea/coffee at the start of the appointment, when is the most convenient time for them to drink it? Is it hard to work if they’re constantly leaning forward to take a sip?

(Laughs) Yes, I agree. We give them coffee and a magazine to read but then there is a cat and mouse game happening, which always keeps me entertained.

Eye contact through the mirror: How much is too much?

I always look in the mirror to check the balance and if the hair is sculpted okay. Sometimes the client gives me a nod thinking I might be talking to them. In reality, it’s just me doing my job. I will keep looking in the mirror no matter how awkward it gets.


If you were to ask Emu (husband) three questions what would it be?

What time are you coming home?

What’s for dinner?

Is your Saturday off?

When do you think it’s okay to lie in a relationship?            

Never! And it’s not even okay to think about lying because if you are thinking about lying then chances are it will happen.

If reincarnation was possible, who would you want to be?

Myself for another 53 years

What is the funniest question you’ve ever been asked?

Why do you wear glasses?

Who makes your heart skip a beat?

Every morning when I look at the sun, it’s Nature.

What does love sound like?


Is it weird to talk about personal life?

Yes, we train our staff to always bring the focus back to hair in case personal life comes up as a topic.


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