Bina Khan creates long, detailed to-do lists every day. Her goal is to tick off everything on one before starting to compile the other.
New shampoo and conditioner supplies are to be ordered, business cards are to be printed, fresh floral arrangements are to be set out, freshly laundered towels are to be put away and more. It is unrelenting, the business of running a salon, especially if you’re a stickler for detail. In Khan’s case, her meticulous administrations have paid off. Bina Khan Training and Salon has, in only a year-and-a-half, established a regular clientele whose numbers are steadily increasing. This in spite of its relatively far-flung Defence location.
Best known for her masterly contouring, smoky eyes and nude lips, Khan’s use of foundation — dewy and natural rather than concealing and matte, plus her tendency to stick as close as possible to the client’s natural skin tone — heralds a welcome departure from the stagey artificiality of traditional bridal make-up in the country. In a country where most prefer to look like the latest Bollywood sensation and want a foundation lighter than their skin tone, it is surprising how many brides flock to Khan’s salon in droves.
“I was always aware that I had a style different from other practitioners in my field. I didn’t plan it that way and I want to change that. I want to take the western aesthetic and give that to the middle market. I want to experiment with new looks, the Lebanese, Hollywood Red Carpet — marry them and come out with an overblown look. Yes, it is over the top but as long as it’s classy, it looks good. No one told Marilyn in the ’40s ‘You know Marilyn, your lipstick is just too red!’”
Along with word of mouth, Khan’s salon benefits from its huge fan following on Facebook. Fans of her page are always starting new discussions or commenting on her page, asking for make-up tools and tricks. For the most part, unless she is swamped with work, Khan responds. The same goes for her website (www.binakhanmakeup.com) and the blog she writes for Newsline in which she dispenses make-up tricks along with dealing with her share of hecklers.
“I have an internet troll who comments on every blog post. Like this one time I posted how lovely it is to work with Tanya Shafi and how ‘I am always insanely pleased when I am blindly trusted.’ The heckler commented saying, ‘It wasnt [sic] pleasant to read about how wonderful it feels to be God.’ Uh, God? Seriously?” Khan laughs as she reads some more of the troll’s comments. “Actually, such comments get more attention since a lot of others start to write in. So I should look at the positive side of it.” Not many make-up artists give away trade secrets and none freely on request by blog.
“Some people are a little possessive of their know-how, which I don’t understand. You can tell everybody every little every trick you know and they still won’t do it the way you do it. It’s as if Tony and Guy were thinking, what if people cut hair just like us? You are you. I’m still me,” she says with a shrug.
She strongly believes that make-up should enhance your best feature, which in the case of most South Asian women, are their eyes. And she keeps reiterating this throughout the make-up class she was conducting on one of my salon visits. That, and contouring. “I love to play with contours and highlights. My make-up is all about that, sometimes it looks deceptively simple, but so much goes into it.” The girls seemed a little skeptical of their abilities to blend three types of eye shadow, but pictures taken towards the end of the 18-hour course proved otherwise.
Khan is a savvy entrepreneur who knows how to market her salon and connect with her clients. “I doubt myself every minute of the day. My ethos has always been: don’t do anything bigger than you have to unless you’re totally sure you can do it and there’s no way you can mess up.” If she does doubt herself, it certainly doesn’t show. The salon works like clockwork and even if there is an unpleasant experience, the staff is quick to rectify it.
A perfectionist, Khan claims that “creating order out of chaos is her deep-seated addiction”, whether it is constantly training the girls at the salon, being present at the construction site, designing and decorating her salon to doing the make-up for an extremely stressed out bride.
A trip to her salon isn’t just about make-up; it is also about discovering new music and books. Each time the music is different and new coffee table books on stylists, photographers or designers added. Vivacious and dedicated, Khan constantly strives to introduce better customer service to her clients, new products to her range and of course, always has a supply of Nimco chilli chips at the salon.
Training the girls at the salon is essential to the whole experience. Many a salon visit has been destroyed by a rankling aside from a parlour girl. These girls have been trained and told repeatedly to exercise maximum discretion and never, for example, criticise people’s skin or comment on their weight. Bina Khan made a handout for the girls on how to conduct themselves so that her customers never have the occassion to feel slighted. It is also because the one thing that Khan dislikes immensely is negative comments about a person’s appearance. “I abhor the habit of making negative comments with blatant disregard for other people’s feelings. ‘You have become too fat/ too thin/ waited too long to have children/ why is your skin so dull?’ Passing inappropriately personal remarks seems to be a national past time and you know what, we all fall in the trap of explaining why we have faults instead of just saying ‘Gosh! That’s a very hurtful thing to say! You have really hurt my feelings!’ That would finally expose people’s unformed personalities, most importantly to themselves.”
Published in the Express Tribune, June 6th, 2010.