Anyone who has ever tried to “google translate” their way through a styling session or beauty treatment is already aware of the difficulties, impossibilities and occasional shame that comes along with styling lost in translation. After weeks of back-packing around South America or trekking up Machu Pichu, returning to the city and getting ready for a night on the town can seem like more of an uphill climb than that trip to the Andes. We feel your pain, and a handful of expert expats do too, bringing with them their natives tongues of English and their trans-cultural talents to save the day.
Fancy Fingers & Lady Gardens
Sarah Johnson, the UK-born Aussie and professionally certified aesthetician in both Australia and Argentina was drawn to Buenos Aires for its mysterious energy and life. Her self-started business, Lady Gardens and Fancy Fingers has become a haven to the English speaker and waxing-wary traveller in BA.
“As a traveller, [waxing] is hard enough to do with a stranger, let alone someone you can’t speak the language with,” she empathised. “There is nothing in the books to tell people where to get this done — and when you come back to Buenos Aires from your travels, you want to put on a skirt and have your nails done when you go out for a night in the city.”
Sarah’s adventure began modestly working out of the fifth floor of the Millhouse hostel. Catering to the plight of travelling guys and gals on the go, she not only offered her services as an English-speaking aesthetician, but also dolled out manicures wanting to enjoy the nightlife of Buenos Aires — as well as those recovering from it.
“I love what I do because I like giving people a quality service,” said Johnson, remembering the many horror stories she collected from traveling friends and clients at the Millhouse. “and [my work] lets you meet such fabulous people— explorers and the adventurous type. I have made some amazing friends from all over.”
Waxing and manicure services may seem to be a simple aesthetic treatment, however if done improperly, they can be dangerous, warned the professional aesthetician.
“From burns in Peru to waxing solicitations — many people offering this service just aren’t qualified,” said Johnson. “You have to be cautious, always.”
After traveling around herself, Sarah noticed a dire need for a certified aesthetician with know-how and English skills to take the guesswork out of a trip to the salon, and did something about it.
She established Fancy Fingers & Lady Gardens and Fancy Fingers has since left her Millhouse days behind, working out of her own location offering services from a full range of waxing and specials to manicures and pedicures.
The Fancy Fingers and Lady Gardens website offer’s a full list of services, prices and the story behind the success. www.ladygardens.net
Ryan Oakley has spent the last three years establishing a name and a home for himself in Buenos Aires while creating a new salon experience for each one of his clients. Originally from Toronto and working outside of Alberta for the last ten years in his own salon, Oakley – inspired – decided he needed a change. Packing up everything he could, he moved to Costa Rica and became a yoga instructor, but it wasn’t long before his nomadic spirit struck once.
“I showed up with my one Buddha statue that a client got me from Japan, my backpack, two suitcases and a yoga mat,” he laughed along with the image of his arrival into Buenos Aires.
His ever-growing business is testament to his styling, despite his difficult beginnings. Originally snipping and styling out of his room in the Palermo Soho Hostel, Oakley fast-forwards to the present in his own studio where his clients can come in, set their phrase books down and put their minds at ease.
“I think the biggest concern for clients and foreigners coming here is that even in our own countries, half the time the hairdresser doesn’t know what the client is asking for because they don’t have the terminology,” Ryan reasoned. “Imagine trying to translate that into a different language and a different culture?”
Catering to the travel needs of his long time clients, Oakley’s mantra is to help his clients achieve low-maintenance manes with chic and natural colors that will last.
“I deal with people who want nice hair,” he said. “My big concern is the integrity of the service, not just a look.”
Loving what he does is a big part of Ryan’s success, though his varying clients and friends are really the most rewarding aspect of his job.
“Getting to meet so many people and hear so many stories (most rewarding)
Everybody has a past and an experience,” he said, petting his Schnauzer, Vayu, currently sporting a mini Mohawk. “I have been able to meet so many beautiful, diverse, people. It humbles you to know what we have is a gift. I don’t think you find an experience like that doing hair in your own country.”
Touching lives through his many cuts and creations, Oakley knows his calling in life represents much more than a haircut and color.
“When you come in, you’re a woman. When you leave, you’re a diva. I want you to feel confident and good about yourself.”
For some, a visit to Ryan Oakley’s hair studio is a break from conjugating and removes the stress of delicate communications, while others may find that his creative spirit and stylistic intuition turn his clients into friends and newcomers into regulars.
Ryan’s services can be expected to range from $125 and up for cuts and $110 for base colours, though prices vary. He can be reached for styling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terrie Orr has been trained to be a stylist since she was 16-years old. After selling her house, she left her hometown in Belfast, Ireland to travel around the world and came Buenos Aires for an adventure.
A woman of many interests, Terrie enjoys concerts, going out with her friends here in BA and horseback riding. However, this is merely a fraction of what makes up the expat hair stylist.
Back in Belfast, Terrie’s true love has always been styling hair — what started as an after school job at a salon turned into a career. After a horse riding accident left her badly injured in her left arm, Terrie took to her books and without giving up on herself acquired a degree in anthropology and business, and eventually the use of her arm again.
“After 18 months, I began to get feeling and movement back in my arm,” said Orr. “It was great because I was able to use hairdressing to work my way through my time at the university and to stay there longer to get an extra degree.”
Through her world travels and excursions she has styled for a variety of different people and in many different places, from the UK in her own salon to volunteer teaching her gift in Cambodia, Orr continues to promote progress and style. She has even gone so far as to style for the photo shoots of photographer, Pato Guillamon — though she admits she can’t resist the pull of Buenos Aires.
“I fell in love with Buenos Aires because it’s one of those cities that’s easy to adapt to,” she explained.
As much as Orr loves the city, she noticed that despite innumerable local hair stylists and salons on every corner, that there was still an undeniable need for English-speaking hair stylists among the expat community.
For those looking to eliminate communicative errors and hoping for a variety of styles, Terrie empathizes as she has had many of the same troubles finding a stylist during her travels abroad. Understanding her clients and her talent for hair cutting and coloring has helped her make friends and grow roots into the South American soil.
Terrie Orr can be contacted for hair services at email@example.com
Lead photo by Marc Rogers