What does luxury mean to you?
If it means treating yourself to a hair cut at one of Sydney’s premier salons where a hair cut isn’t just a hair cut, it’s a massage, a treatment, an education, and a quick nap in a $20K chair with a beautiful Ralph Lauren throw – then you’ve come to the right place. Well, technically, I came to the right place, but you should’ve come too, which is why I documented the whole experience. So let’s jump right into it, shall we? Here’s what happened when I went to Sydney’s most luxurious hair salon…
RAW by Anthony Nader isn’t hard to spot. It sits on the corner of a block and faces a roundabout. The uber usually drops you off across the road to look for an outstanding white-brick building with contrasting black-steel grid windows. RAW’s this way.
And there, almost 16,000Kms from NYC is one of its own, a Tribeca Loft in Surry Hills. Stepping inside, it extends further back than you’d think. There’s a fireplace on the back wall and a bookshelf containing the owner’s personal tomes, and a large, round communal table that makes you feel like you’re at an old friend’s home for coffee, a catch-up – and then a haircut, which isn’t too far from the truth actually.
There’s giant salvaged American Oak floorboards, brown suede and leather bound revolving chairs that wrap around you, floor-length mirrors with bold black frames and clear perspex corners that reveal the structural framework that holds the building together (I’m told this is a reflection of the cross section of the hair shaft. Nader wanted pedestrians to be able to see into the salon as they walked past), which makes the salon a real treat for the senses and I imagine you’d discover something new every time you com here, which makes it feel even more like a home.
On arrival, I’m offered a variety of drinks including champagne. Tempting…but since I forget myself after half a glass, it’s probably best I went with water. Nader arrives shortly afterwards and greets me with a hug. The man’s a legend, he won’t tell you so I will; he’s one of the country’s best, a black belt in hair and an absolute darling.
With over 18 years industry experience (eight of those spent working “month on/month off” between NYC and Sydney), he’s all about “investing in talent, keeping an open mind and not thinking I’m the shit” to improve and drive his business. These days, he’s back – “for good,” he adds – helming RAW, his passion project, which has been open in the new location for a year and a half now.
A wash, cut and blow-dry with RAW founder Anthony Nader will set you back 700 big ones – yes, the ultimate indulgence! While the same with a senior stylist is priced at a reasonable $110 and $85 with a junior stylist.
I’m here to get my hair cut but I’m also growing it out. And I have a fringe, growing that out also. Nader is apologetic, “I don’t want to short change you”. I love him already. I ask for blunter edges and a trim because my hair’s going through its own version of puberty at this awkward length. After assessing my mop, Nader takes me through his idea: “How about this?” he starts, “what I can do for you is connect the dots so to speak, there’s a big space between your lengths so I can connect them so they’re closer together and trim your fringe only in the middle so it grows out like a curtain so you can style it.” I’m happy and this becomes the game plan.
THE RELAXATION POD
I’m whisked away to a back room aka the ‘Relaxation Pod’, a completely sectioned off sound-proof space with grey carpeted walls, black ceiling speakers that look like circular air ducts and four beckoning Takara Belmont Yume leather flatbeds imported from Japan that recline so you’re completely HORIZONTAL to the wash basins. No kink in the neck from the plastic basin. This isn’t economy – this is first class. In fact, when you lie down, it’s hard to remember how to get up.
There’s a real NYC recording studio vibe in here; it’s dimly lit and jazz music plays in the background. At least I think it was jazz. Look, I’m really just guessing here because the entire 20 minutes I was in that room felt like a dream and I don’t even mean metaphorically. I mean literally, as in I was so relaxed I fell asleep during my indulgent Oribe signature hair wash and treatment. It’s not like they make it easy to stay awake either. Never underestimate the power of a high thread count throw, or the disarming pressures of a professional scalp and neck massage. And just for the record, I had coffee and a tea before my appointment.
THE HAIR CUT
In between tales of New York, troubleshoot Instagram and explaining why he left the walls so bare with the builder’s pencil marking still visible, Nader chimes in with tidbits about my haircut, what he’s doing and offering tips and tricks when they come to mind, while also trying to learn my hair habits and #hairgoals (e.g. I swim regularly, don’t like to blow dry, want to invest in a hair straightener soon, would like hair like my editor Eleanor Pendleton’s, but mine is probably too thick etc. etc.) It’s a meaningful exchange and Nader’s such a warm and kind spirit, I’d probably trust him with your iPhone passcode let alone my hair.
He spends a good chunk of time blow drying my hair so that it’s all voluminous and sexy, before straightening it, subtly bending the straightener at different lengths throughout my head so that it doesn’t look too uniform and done. Nader’s approach is wearable, practical, and of course, raw. He’s not about making you look like you’ve come out of a salon with a stiff curls and a thick veil of hairspray, he wants you to leave with hairstyle you can wear throughout the week.
Another room you should visit during your time here is the Ensuite AKA the bathroom. After drinking all my water and a cup of herbal tea, nature calls and I shimmy down the the ensuite. It’s a whole situation in there – black tiles, black walls, black floor and a charming taxidermy peacock named George, lit only by a giant mirror at the basin, with rims projecting enough good selfie lighting that’d even make Kim K giddy. If you think it looks like the bathroom up at NYC Standard Hotel’s famous Boom Boom Room, you’d be right. Google it. Or visit here in Sydney instead. In the background, Madonna’s iconic pop tunes play at all times. I try to wait for Like A Virgin, but it’s not happening. And now I’ve been in here too long.
I obviously enjoyed my time at RAW hair. It’s surprisingly home-y for Sydney’s most luxurious salon experience, but the expertise and service are second to none. If you’re overdue for a haircut or a bit of “me” time and like the idea of getting your hair cut by a friend in his NYC loft (only in this case your friend’s one of the country’s best and the NYC loft is in Surry Hills), then you’ve come to the right place. I can’t wait to go back. Go see for yourself.
A wash, cut and blow-dry with Anthony Nader starts from $700, $110 for a senior stylist and $85 for a junior stylist.
Visit RAW by Anthony Nader at 100 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9211 4444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.