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Medellin The Barber Cartel to open 12th store

Marlon Naidoo

Having recently made its first foray into the Cape Town market, Medellin The Barber Cartel will further expand its franchise by opening in Centurion next month, in the Irene Link Shopping Centre.

This will be the 12th store to open since Medellin founder, Marlon Naidoo, launched his first salon in Pineslopes, Johannesburg, back in 2018. A further 29 franchises are in the pipeline, including more stores in Cape Town and several in Durban.

Commenting on the Claremont branch in Cape Town, Naidoo says: “It’s been a bit daunting to open a store in this city as we’re venturing into unchartered territory. The male grooming market here doesn’t have that ‘butch-finesse’ approach to grooming that we have in Johannesburg, where the market is more ‘woke’ and self-aware, and I believe that is our unique selling point. Medellin puts the masculinity back into grooming. To me, it’s as if society as a whole has evolved into a culture of personal upkeep and how you present yourself in terms of grooming is locked into self-esteem.”

Naidoo emphasises that the Medellin culture is not just about barbering and grooming, it is also about how men behave and about societal respect, as in don’t abuse women and don’t be narcissistic. “So we promote the culture of ‘the Medellin Man’, not only for our staff but for our clients. We are the gateway to Version 1.2 of every gentleman who comes into our salons,” he explains.

As someone whose background was in the corporate world, Naidoo set out to disrupt the barbering market when he came up with the Medellin concept. It was inspired by the TV series, ‘Narcos’, which focuses on the notorious Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, whose compound was in the town of Medellin. And while the décor and design of Naidoo’s stores reflects the ‘Narcos’ setting, albeit in a fun way, he is at pains to point out that his aim was never to glorify Escobar or the drug trade, but rather to turn the stereotype around the word ‘cartel’ on its head.

“All that cartel actually means is a group of people that come together with a common aim and with a sense of community. Another stereotype I wanted to overturn is that Medellin only caters for ethnic hair. The fact is that we provide services for all types of hair and our clients are drawn from all ages and races. We even have included a ‘Junior Cartel’ offering on our menu.”

With so many franchises to populate with skilled barbers, Naidoo has just launched the Medellin Training Academy, to ensure that his staff are trained both in the use of scissors as well as clippers.

Naidoo is looking forward to the annual Medellin Master Fade Competition, which will see 20 barbers competing for a job at one of the franchises. (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)


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