Best known for making women look like Monica Bellucci and men look like, well, the more attractive members of the Italian national football team, Dolce & Gabbana is a brand with its roots dug firmly into the Italian peninsula. Stands to reason then, that the label’s new men-only flagship, sat smack in the middle of London’s New Bond Street, also plays host to a traditional Sicilian barbers…kind of.
Headed up by master barber Carmelo Guastella, a dynamo of a man with a very sharp haircut, the space is a synergy of traditional gentleman’s club – all mahogany panelling and marble work tops – and Sicilian know how.
“The barber’s chairs are all made in Catania by the Joya family,” Guastella tells me. “Dolce and Gabbana wanted three chairs and the family made them on request.”
Speaking of Sicilian know-how, Guastella was cutting hair before he even reached puberty – beginning his training at nine before becoming a fully-fledged barber at the tender age of 11. Since, he has worked as men’s grooming expert at Mayfair’s men-only spa The Refinery and taught Johnny Depp how to perform close shaves on the set of Sweeney Todd – a point that didn’t fill me with confidence as I slipped edgily into my (very special) barber’s chair.
My fears were quickly assuaged. As Guastella started asking very sensible questions about the kind of shave and haircut I wanted, I was lulled into a sunny sense of security by his heavily accented London-meets-Palermo accent.
“Though in general we offer what everyone else offers: a haircut and a shave, what we pride ourselves on is that initial consultation and real understanding of what the customer wants,” beams Guastella. “We always ask questions…would you like to grow your hair? Would you like something different? Would you like us to suggest something? We’re all about advice and suggestions.”
Before I know it Guastella has kicked my chair back, razored the base of my neck and graduated the hair up to the lip of my chin, giving me – as requested – a natural, iron filing-free look.
When it comes to my hair, I’m notoriously fussy (I once walked out midway through a haircut because I caught the hairdresser sneaking glances at Jeremy Kyle - on the telly, not in real life - every five seconds. I was 13). But once again, my fears were quickly put to rest.
Guastella interpreted my request of “same, but different” with practiced dexterity, transforming the shapeless lump of brown atop my head into a neater, cleaner version of itself.
“What I noticed was that there was a lot of fullness [to your hair] which means you can’t achieve what you want to achieve,” Guastell told me, “so what I’ve done is thin out your hair by chopping into it and leaving the length. You will see the texture when I use the product afterwards and it will be much easier for you to style.” Brilliant.
But is everyone always as happy as this happy customer? I ask, tentatively.
“I recently had a Russian guy with long hair and he couldn’t speak English so we had a translator,” he says. “After half an hour of consultation I really changed the way he looked, while still leaving his hair long. He was really happy and wanted a photo with me at the end. That’s what makes me appreciate what I do."
Another thing that must make Guastella appreciate what he does? The fact that he gets to dress up in a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit everyday. That and the fact that every woman that works in the store looks remarkably like Monica Bellucci.
Dolce & Gabbana, 53-55 New Bond St, London. dolcegabbana.com