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Hair, there and everywhere

Updated: 2013-11-01 12:48
By Mark Graham ( China Daily Africa)

Toni Li's big IDEA has put him on the map all over China

Hair, there and everywhere

Time spent several years working in New York, observing the way the fashion and beauty business operated was a career-defining moment for Beijing-born hairdresser Tony Li.

Li, who returned to China a decade ago, soon began to put his newly gained knowledge into practice by opening a salon in the capital city that aimed to replicate the high standards he had seen in the United States.

Tony Studio was an instant success: customers particularly warmed to the service-oriented, pampering approach that was something of a novelty in China. The business has flourished since then and now embraces all aspects of the beauty business, including Tony Studio salons in all the major cities, a modeling agency, a photo studio, two gymnasiums and a restaurant.

Recently Li, 41, launched the DT brand, which takes its name from his Chinese given name, Dongtian, which will operate salons that offer haircuts and beauty treatments at lower prices.

But Li's business acumen in mining cash from the desire for good looks expands beyond beauty salons. He also runs a couple of gymnasiums, a training school for hairdressers and makeup artists and an agency that represents photographers.

At the flagship Tony Studio, which has locations in prime spots in the nation's major cities, professional women readily spend $200 or more a visit on styling, manicures and beauty treatments.

Li says of his New York sojourn. "I was always taking my portfolio from agency to agency and I thought there would be scope for a similar agency here in China. In the event, when I did return, I decided to open an agency and salon and a school at the same time.

"It was the right time, people had a sense of style in China, and we thought big. You have the energy when you are young and I had the knowledge of the industry. I like every detail of the business, good or bad, it is all-interesting and makes me happy. I like to trust people, you have to look hard to find the right people and then give them the trust."

From an early age, Li had been transfixed by the beauty business, spending his teenage pocket money on hard-to-find, and expensive, glossy fashion magazines from overseas. When he was later able to afford clothes, Li showed a discerning eye for fashion, becoming something of a trendsetter in China

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