He flew to the Philippines when he learned about the wave of barber shops opening here. Photograph by Jack Alindahao
Style Grooming

“Gentlemen are needed now,” says this FilCan who opened a members-only mancave in Taguig

The Refined Lounge at the Fort Strip is a place where men can hang loose in the middle of our bustling city’s everyday chaos. And, if co-founder Noël Naguiat had his way, it will also be somewhere guys can evolve into better people. 
Jacs T. Sampayan | Apr 23 2019

Three years ago, Noël Naguiat was enjoying a round of golf when he had a conversation that would have him flying across the world to a revolution.

The Toronto-based Fil-Can was teeing off with his brother-in-law’s brother when he was asked about a successful enterprise he used to have, Mankind. He opened the men’s only salon 11 years ago, but has since sold his shares and went back to his core profession of advertising. “He asked me what my involvement was with Mankind,” says Naguiat. “I said, ‘I created and founded it, but I’m no longer with it.’ He told me to go to the Philippines. I asked him why, and he told me that there were big moves happening with barber shops there.” A couple of months later, he flew for an ocular and discovered that what he was told was true.

Naguiat got into the men’s grooming business 11 years ago.

 

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While he realized that it’s a big industry, he told potential investors then that he wasn’t going to go into the barbershop business per se. There are too many popping up, he argued, and whatever he originally planned would be too similar. “I didn’t think it was going to work,” he says.

Thankfully, he had another idea, which he shared with the investors: The Refined Lounge, a members-only space that acts like a mancave-away-from-home for gentlemen in the city. Naguiat and his partners officially opened up shop early last year at the Fort Strip in Bonifacio Global City. “The reason why it’s called The Refined is because it’s a more polished version of my first concept,” he shares. “I took it to the next level.”

We sat down with Naguiat at the lounge to talk about how to do haircuts right, what men want in their mancaves, and his mission of taking back the word “gentleman.”

 

In some ways, is The Refined the next step in Mankind’s evolution?

I just kept stuff that worked there, and enhanced them here. Ones that didn’t work, I removed. For example, in Mankind, we had a TV at every station so that they could watch while being worked on. But I realized that the guys weren’t watching; they want to talk to the barber. I removed that here so they can have a relationship with their groomist, and really get to know them. Because when you get a haircut and you love it, you become loyal. It’s good to build that relationship. I also realized that at Mankind, one of the most popular spots is the lounge area, but we only had one couch. So, here, we have a bigger area, and a bigger bar. It has really become a social place.

 

So it’s more of a community feel? 

Yes. This is a community of gentlemen we’re creating here. We have a great network of businesses; a lot of our members are CEOs, or have startups, or are founders. There’s a lot of networking that happens.

 

Why BGC? 

We’re just starting here, but the plan is to expand all over Metro Manila. It’s the first of its kind. I don’t think this exists anywhere in the Philippines. I don’t think Toronto even has this. We wanted to start in a place where there’s a lot of expats, and a lot of people who we feel our target group is going to be.

 

Why did you go into the grooming business in the first place?

I was a designer working in advertising. I was an art director at that time, and a client came up to me and said, “hey can you do my branding for this idea that I have?” It was for a men’s only salon. I thought it was cool. So I did a lot of research and I created the branding. But by the time we were going to execute it, he backed out. I talked to him, and said, “hey, I love the idea. Can I do it?” And that’s how it started. I took it because the concept resonated with me because, basically, I was the target market. I like going to get my hair done, I don’t really like going to a barber because, in my experience, they don’t know how to cut properly. They know how to shave the sides and everything, but when it comes to cutting the top or a certain style, or suggesting a certain look that suits my face, they don’t know how. I like getting manicures and pedicures, but I’m very uncomfortable going to a women’s salon because everyone will stare at me. So a men’s only space resonated with me. 

Naguiat says that he wants to reclaim the positive connotation of the word “gentleman.”

 

What could the members expect here.  

Great customer service. That’s our number one focus. We call each other by their first name; we don’t do ma’am or sir. Training our team to have a relationship with our clients and our members is a big thing for me. I think it’s a differentiator when you go to a business and people respect who you are and appreciate you being there.

 

Can you walk us through the facility?

It’s a little bit over 200 square meters. Actually, this is small, and we have to get bigger. We have a retail area with a curated lineup of bags, watches, bespoke suits from Masanting Sastreria, Sapatero shoes. My dream is to also bring in drones and scooters, and other things that guys like. So there are no rules. Guys just have to like it.

Then we have our full service bar. We focus on drinks our members ask for like whisky, Old Fashioned, and gin. So, really, our members curate our drinks. They can say, “hey do you have this? Can you bring this in?” And we’ll do it. It’s kind of like a private bar. Our mentality here is for our members to treat this space as their mancave. We have a poker table that they can work on during the day, and use for a friendly game at night.

 

And across the bar, is where you do your haircut services.

The ones who cut hair here aren’t barbers, they’re groomists. And the reason they’re called as such is that they have both salon and barber training. They know both techniques, which is rare. And with the styles that we have today, like that of David Beckham, you sort of need a stylist and a barber combined. We have a barber chair, but that is only used for straight razor shaves and tattoos. For the latter, we work with Good Hand Tattoo and we do so by consultation only.

The next place is the mancave, which we partnered with Mandala Spa in Boracay. So this is basically a full service spa. We have full body massages, facials, foot spas, all that stuff. But we also have a flat screen TV there where they can stream Netflix, watch movies, or play video games. 

 

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The Refined is located in a 200 square meter space at The Fort Strip. Photograph from @therefinedph on Facebook

The Refined is located in a 200 square meter space at The Fort Strip. Photograph from @therefinedph on Facebook

The Refined is located in a 200 square meter space at The Fort Strip. Photograph from @therefinedph on Facebook

The Refined is located in a 200 square meter space at The Fort Strip. Photograph from @therefinedph on Facebook

The Refined is located in a 200 square meter space at The Fort Strip. Photograph from @therefinedph on Facebook

The Refined is located in a 200 square meter space at The Fort Strip. Photograph from @therefinedph on Facebook

 

How do you pick your partnerships?

I want people that have the same mindset and goals. For example, Mark and Carin Aguas of Masanting Sastreria. We’re the same: it’s not about the money, it’s about building a legacy. We’re trying to make gentlemen better. They have the same idea. Again, you also get judged by the way you look. So having a nice piece of suit, wearing a properly bespoke piece that fits is important to stand out. This is especially true in business. You should stand out in a positive way.

 

What about house rules? I mean this is still a club.

Just be a gentleman. That’s it, just be a gentleman and that’s the key thing. One of the motivators for me is I was told I wasn’t allowed to call this place a “gentlemen’s club.” There is a negative connotation to calling it that. It baffles me because, really, the word “gentleman” is not a bad thing. When did it become bad, right? My goal is to bring back the idea of the term “gentlemen’s club” in a positive way.

We have workshops here for that: how to dress properly, how to act, how to treat women, etc. There should be more gentlemen out there especially after all the bad stuff that has happened in Hollywood and Me Too. That shouldn’t be happening, and it baffles me that it does.

 

What’s your personal definition of a gentleman?

Someone who’s super kind. Someone who puts other people first, who loves their family, who doesn’t look for extramarital affairs. Empathy is a big thing for me even as a leader of my company.
 

What was the best compliment from a member you’ve gotten?

Well, I think there’s such a lot. I think the best we’ve ever gotten is “finally it’s happening. Finally people realize that a gentleman is needed now. I feel good that I’m not alone in this thinking.” There are other gentlemen that have the same rules and the same mindset when it comes to business, or socials. They feel like they have a brotherhood. In a sense, it confirms why we built this.

 

The Refined Men’s Grooming Lounge is at the Fort Strip in Bonifacio Global City. For more information, visit their Facebook page, or call 838-2698.

 

Portraits by Jack Alindahao