“I’ve always been all about hair ever since I was a child. At school, I always had the best fringe, short hair, that kind of thing. Fourteen was a big changing point in my life. I remember my hair was really short, almost like a buzz cut. I used to hang out with boys, I used to ride motorcycles and wear really short skirts, and this is in Bandra, right? India was very conservative when I was growing up, and society was so narrow-minded that I used to get called a bunch of really unsavoury names. Of course it really bothered me at first, because I was just like, “What the….?” It’s no fun being called a whore, but at that point I realized that society is so shallow, and that being ‘Indian’ has nothing to do with a particular look. What is an Indian look? Besides, it’s all in the heart anyway. So I decided then that I was never going to look like a traditional Indian woman. Never ever, ever. And the more I decided to be myself, the more society was aggressive towards me. But it was really good in a way, actually, because I learnt at such a young age not to listen to what people had to say. They helped me become so fearless, and so I must thank them in many ways. As a result, my motto’s always been not to conform and not to judge, because it’s ridiculous to judge someone based on how they look.
I moved to America to study when I was 18 and because it was just so expensive to go to a stylist, I started cutting my own hair. People would like my hair and want me to cut theirs too, even though I wasn’t trained. That’s how I started – never in a salon, always in my house. When I moved back to India in 2002 I spent a bit of time at Juice, which Adhuna (Akthar) ran at the time. I was trained by Sandrine, this amazing French woman. I was so lucky to have her train me because she was super fast, to the point and very disciplined, you know? I went back to America to train at Vidal Sasson – I really liked their sensibilities – and came back and started Mad O Wot.
With Mad O Wot if everybody goes right, I go left. For example, we’re the only salon that doesn’t sell products. We don’t want to cut your hair and then give you a bill of 40,000 rupees extra for all these products that you need to use for your hair to look good. That’s what your haircut should do. The focus is more on our talent as hairdressers, to give you something that works with your everyday life. I think that if you spend more than five minutes on your hair everyday you need to get a job or a life, whichever’s easier.”
As told to Komal Basith.
Sapna Bhavnani photographed by Komal Basith in Bombay. © Komal Basith
SAPNA'S HAIR RULES