Hairdresser and fashion designer Esther Samuels seeks to uplift women through style and empathy

At 28 Esther Samuels is a self-made hair stylist and fashion designer and she is not shy of revealing that she has no formal training in these two areas, as, according to her, they are in her DNA and her hair salon, her only source of income, has been flourishing over the years.

Maybe it is because Samuels’ salon is one with a difference; she describes it as a “safe space” for her clients to share and unburden. Her fashion store makes the business a one-stop shop, where once women have the perfect hairstyle, they can complement it with the perfect outfit.

Samuels believes her business is a way of “uplifting women” as she would hear the stories of women who feel different after they have had their hair done.

“I see what a good hairstyle does for them and that’s the feeling I want women to have because as a woman myself I know the struggles they face and putting a smile on your face and making you feel happy, even if it is for a moment that is my aim,” she said in a recent sit down with this newspaper.

It is her wish to work along with counselors who can assist women; once she hears what is going on (she describes herself as very confidential) she can then refer them. “I have like a safe space in the salon where women feel like they can open up to Esther, mention things and they wouldn’t hear it back,” she said.

There are times when there are tears and she offers hugs and when clients are more interested in talking rather than having their hair done; she does not find it draining. Prayers are sent up for them and for Samuels “it is fulfilling a purpose and if you understand that you and I are not on this earth to be rich or to be popular, but it is about purpose… Are you here just to get money? …I think that the purpose of us here on earth (and you don’t have to agree) is to fulfill the Kingdom of God and that’s it”.

‘Had and eyes’

As Samuels puts it, she “had an eye for fashion” from an early age and it was at about the age of 14 that she started sewing, even as she did hair. But quickly hairdressing became very demanding and Samuels had to make a decision to focus on one thing and hair it was.

“And now that the hair business has grown, we are very popular on social media – Esther’s Royal Look Salon – now I feel the need to give birth to the other baby I have neglected,” she said. With a team now in place, that baby, her fashion line, has been borned.

Samuel’s eye for business came from her parents who owned a business in the interior, which she helped to operate from the city. She shared that from a young age, it was always her dream to own a business and having a knack for hairdressing and fashion it was no surprise the turn her life took.

She recalled her mother used to rent as well and she used to go on the machine from an early age and maybe it is now her mother will know that she “spoiled a lot of her fabric. That is how I learned to sew. I wasn’t taught. I never went to school. It was more like a self-taught thing.”

And hairdressing?

“It was the same thing. Being a little fashion girl I was always doing my nails, doing pedicures, doing my hair, sewing clothes, playing dress up and that was it… I always wanted to have a beauty salon and a clothing store…” she answered.

Samuels is of the opinion that if one has a passion for something, self-taught is the way to go. “Because when you learn by the books you only go to what the books teach you to do. If there is any hiccups you don’t know where to maneuver to do something else,” she said.

Told that some might say it is important to have some formal training, Samuels disagreed because according to her she did have a teacher at one point who gave her a certificate but, “I had to teach the teacher that gave me the certificate the skill” .

For her, “trial and error” is the way to go with some research on the internet. She made it clear, however, that the “trial and error” is not done on clients but rather the skill that was mastered before she formally launched her business.

The salon is located in Enachu Street, Campbellville, and she said that for the last seven years it has been flourishing. It is not a walk-in business; clients must make appointments and according to Samuels they (she has two staff members) are booked from Monday to Friday. Clients often have to book way in advance to get an available slot. On any given day, they see about six to eight clients and during the busy seasons like around Christmas they can see as many as 12.

Asked if she considered herself a fairly successful businesswoman Samuels quickly responded, “a very successful businesswoman”.

Vintage fashion show

Not one for trending fashion, Samuels likes to make her own clothes. She recalled attending a wedding where two guests wore the same outfit. “I was like no, when people see me I must be the only one in this piece,” she said.

Royalty Designs was birthed on July 10 with a vintage fashion show and tea party and according to Samuels it was well received and most of the pieces were purchased.

“It was an amazing event…,” she gushed, adding that she is surprised at the success so far, but with God being part of her ventures that does translate into success.

“But I am still in shock because people would have reached out and purchased pieces…persons ordered wedding gowns and we haven’t even launched the wedding aspect as yet. But the thing is, I have been doing wedding gowns and dresses so people know what Esther gives so when the collection launched it was only for them to say ‘oh you guh now sew for me’,” she said.

It was a fashion show with a difference. Samuels said she wanted women to understand that when they dress it is not only about what is on the outside, but what is also on the inside. She said while the pieces are designed to make women look royal, she is also concerned about how they feel on the inside. And so at the fashion show she had a panel which included psychologist Wil Campbell and Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr Vindya Persaud to help to empower women.

“It was power packed; so when you leave there you feel like you had your inside attended to, that was the purpose of the show,” she said.

Samuels is her own best advertiser as she said she always sewed “and do these beautiful concepts for myself” and she shared that two years ago she did a Cinderella theme for her wedding anniversary and people were really into the dress.

From the moment it launched the business took off and with two seamstresses, a third person who helps to add the details to the outfits and her as the designer they created a power team.

Designing and sewing is more like a hobby for Samuels and because of this she said it does not feel like work.

“I am not like a social butterfly so I don’t, like, go out. I don’t party. I don’t go to clubs so sewing or designing for me is like my happy place. That is where I find comfort. That is where I can meditate. Like I am in a different world when I am designing and sewing so it doesn’t feel like work,” she shared.

She gave the example of closing her salon at 5 pm and sewing for an entire night and not feeling tired “because I am there, I am comfortable, I am happy”.

Samuels describes herself as a very spiritual person and one who puts God in front of everything she does.