When opening the secret leather-padded door of The Refined at the Fort Strip, one is immediately captured by a relaxing peppermint aroma that soothes both body and soul. This is the beginning of a journey to better yourself, on the inside and out, a mantra that the owners of the private grooming lounge stand by. At the reception, gentlemen are occasionally greeted by a friendly face, Noël Naguiat. A gentleman in his own right, Nöel’s appearance assures you that he has the art of grooming down to a tee. He is part owner of the establishment, and he carries himself like one. His hair is perfectly trimmed (not too long and not too short), he wears a navy blue blazer, a pair of well-fitted denim jeans, oxfords (“not brogues”), and a pair of heavy-framed glasses, that any Kingsman agent would be proud to wear. His mission, along with the other partners: to add to a gentleman’s lifestyle.
REDEFINING MEN’S GROOMING
“I’m creative, I’m a designer. When I designed this place, I said to myself, “If I had a New York loft, how would I design it?” There’s a bar, there’s a lounge where I’d host my family and friends, and there’s a spa which I designed as if it were my bedroom,” shared Noël, a former Creative Director at an advertising agency in Canada, as he toured us around the well-appointed space. The conception of The Refined was made out of pure necessity. Noël , was a regular salon goer, was always making the effort to always be impeccably groomed. However, he always felt an uneasiness being the only dude at the traditional salons. “It was awkward at times,” he admitted.
Putting matters into his own hands, he decided to do research on a new concept, a salon that caters specifically to men. Based in Toronto at time, he was surprised to find that there was nothing catering to men’s grooming needs. The result: he founded Mankind, a successful grooming/barber concept. He soon realized that he wanted to bring the concept back home to the Philippines, and began work on what was the be The Refined. He knew that for this to work in Philippines (a country infamous for scrutinizing customer service), they had to step it up a notch. It was decided that he would refine everything he knew about barbers and grooming spaces by making it a service-centric, luxury experience. The Refined was then born to cater to the grooming needs of Manila’s most enduring gentlemen.
“Here, everything is signature. Everything we do is refined. We take a typical haircut and we refine it. That’s our benchmark whenever we take anything on: HOW DO WE REFINE IT? From our drinks to our man cave (the spa) to our massages, everything was designed to be very male-centric.” The Refined, with its industrial interiors complemented by classic style fixtures is a safe haven for gentlemen. One can easily come here to escape their busy schedules for the perfect trim, a soothing massage, a quiet drink, facials, quiet time at the lounge, or all if they desire it.
THE HOUSE THAT GENTLEMEN (AND A LADY BOSS) BUILT
Although Noël was well versed in the industry as a founding partner at Mankind, it was necessity to partner with similar minds who shared his vision. There are seven board of directors for The Refined, each bringing their own to the table. Noël mentions that he met everybody under different circumstances and connections. Bubbles Bermudez, the only woman in the group, was the first he was linked to. Related to him through the marriage of his cousin, Noël and Bubbles hit it off quickly, and they began to form a troop of business warriors. Bubbles’ specialty in business is impressive, making her a certified Lady Boss. She was a co-founder of Universal Reality Combat Championship, and is a partner at several enterprises such as 20:20 and XX XX, Mandala Management & Consultancy, and Bite Me Manila. Her extensive experience made it an obvious choice for her to handle the company as the Head of Business Development.
Partner Jove Schrottman’s (owner of the awarded Mandala Spa & Resort Villas in Boracay) contribution has enhanced much of The Refined’s services. For instance, the massages are 100% Mandala certified, having each therapist flown out to Boracay for an extensive training program. As someone who has experienced a massage at the Refined, I have one thing to say: WOW. To round up the rest of The Refined’s army of experts, there is the young Martin De Guzman who is the Head of Marketing. His background includes being the Managing Director at Elevation Partners (EP), a marketing agency that focuses on marketing communication, strategy and content production.
BJ Cebrero acts as Corporate Finance. He left the corporate world in 2017 to focus on being an entrepreneur with projects that dabble across multiple industries such as billboards, food, real estate, and now, grooming. It was an obvious choice to entrust Lloyd Lim with the position of Head of Retail, as he remains to be Giordano Philippine’s Vice President for Business Development. Lastly, the Australian-born Monty Hooke is the founder and CEO of two BPOs. He also sits on the board of several other Philippine-based companies, and has written a best-selling book entitled Business Hacker. Together with Nöel (who manages the business operations on a day to day basis), they are their own version of King Arthur and the Round Table, ready to take on Manila’s grooming kingdom.
FIVE STAR SERVICES
“We have a five-star rating on Facebook,” Noël shares with a smirk. “All our clientele has been posting on Facebook and giving us five-stars. That’s good news and bad news. The good news is that we have five stars. However, it’s harder to keep five stars then get it. That’s the bad news. But we welcome it! Especially in a society where everybody is critical about customer service.” Despite the high standards of their clientele, Noël and the team are ready to take on the challenge of maintaining their five stars. He proudly talks about The Refined’s services, which he believes is unmatched by any other barber/groomer in the country. “We’re taking it to the next level,” he laughs.
When I visited The Refined for the first time, I was taken away by the aromatic scent of peppermint, which quickly sent my mind and body into a relaxing retreat. I was to undergo the OMEGA, their premium package which includes a Nioxin treatment, a mini facial, a shoulder and arm massage, a nail clip, shoe shine, and a haircut, all accompanied by a complimentary drink.
I quickly ordered my Old Fashioned before getting into the treatment chair, in which they proceeded with a relaxing facial and then covering my face in a hot towel. Only two minutes in, I had left my troubles at the door and let myself go into ultimate relaxation. Next was the Mandala certified massage, which was a highlight. It removed any and all unwanted stress from my body. The treatment was followed by a haircut from the shop’s certified “groomists” who was easygoing and fun to talk to. Accompanied by my choice of beverage, I was happy and in peace. The treatment ran a little over 60 minutes of bliss.
The Refined also offers the ALPHA treatment, which includes a scalp massage, a hot towel facial, a complimentary drink, and haircut with styling. One can also opt for the full service at the spa, in which the owner’s playfully coin as The Man Cave. Foot scrubs, shoulder and head massages, a full body signature Mandala massage, and organic facials can all be enjoyed in a darkly lit room tailored for full relaxation. Also available is a 6-month long Nioxin hair treatment, which results to fuller and healthier hair.
FROM DEFCON 5 TO DEFCON 1
The partners at The Refined always work under the assumption that their clients have busy days and busy minds. Their singular mission is to provide a safe haven for gentlemen to unwind and get away for a little bit. They also encourage gentlemen to take their business meetings and work to the space if they wanted to, because The Refined is at their service.
Beyond haircuts and massages, the bar is also well stocked with alcohol, coffee, and food that can be enjoyed while getting work done at the lounge. Noël says that the space is also equipped with WI-FI and that any of their guests are welcome to use it for as long as they want. “When they enter, they’re still at DEFCON 5. But after a 10-minute shampoo, massage, relaxed haircut and drink, they should go from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1. It’s a recharging session,” he shares.
“We’re making gentlemen, because the world needs more gentlemen. We groom a gentleman inside and out. Everything we do here is refining the man to become a gentleman. We need more respect and manners in society and we start here,” he profoundly mentions. Noël always finds himself quoting Colin Firth in the Kingsman movies, “Manners, Maketh, Man”. And he strongly believes it, too. Bettering the world begins with bettering oneself, and he’s on a special undertaking to make sure that the patrons of their business come out a better men. With such vision and top-notch services, The Refined is sure to capture a strong following who longs to come back for more than a haircut, but a true journey to bettering themselves. I, for one, know will be back.
The Refined is located at 2F Fort Pointe Building, The Fort Strip, Bonifacio Global City Taguig, Metro Manila.
By Chino R. Hernandez
Photography by Hub Pacheco