There was no escaping the overall abundance of all things “hair” at the Autumn Winter 2011-12 shows this year. There were plaits, braids, chignons, French rolls, more plaits – thick, thin, fishtail, messy and neat – buns, plaited buns, buns in hairnets, loose hair with plaits, loose hair with fringe rolls … the list was endless.

Autumn Winter 2011 hair trends from Ferretti (left), Hermes (centre) and Viktor & Rolf (right). Images: Showbit

Coupled with an overall leaning towards the 1940s, the look for hair and makeup was less about the futuristic – think sharp geometric or “Sassoon” cuts – and more about nostalgia.

Which was all very depressing for someone who was the owner of a slightly messy, needing-a-cut short crop.

As I mooned over the images of fishtail plaits – my personal favourite of the various runway looks for AW2011-12 – I wondered just how quickly I could get my hair to grow; and if it would be worth it. 

Then I remembered the possibilities of hair extensions. Yes! I could get long hair fast enough for fishtail plaits to still be “in”.

My personal favourites of the AW2011 hair trends include the fishtail plait as seen at Byblos (top left), Emilio Pucci (top centre) and Erdem (top right); and the messy plaits and ponytails from Viktor & Rolf (above bottom). Images: Showbit 

There are actually two ways of getting the illusion of long, lustrous locks – hair pieces or “clip-ins” and permanent hair extensions. Of the two, if you’ve already got hair with a bit of length, say a chin-length bob, then clip-ins are an excellent option as your own hair is long enough to cover the various paraphernalia needed to get the temporary pieces looking natural.

In my case, however, I needed something a little more permanent if I was going to get anything like the versatility that was seen on the runways.

So, permanent hair extensions it was. The fabulous team at Shunji Matsuo Hair Studio in The Heeren – headed by the amazingly calm and skilled Cha – took it upon themselves to totally re-invent my look.

Shunji Matsuo is one of Singapore’s top hair salons, they are also particularly well-known for their work with hair extensions and hair pieces. Japanese hair maestro Shunji Matsuo is known for his elaborate creations, and his team of 17 stylists are just as skilled. 

If you’re going to get permanent hair extensions done, you really must get the absolute best you can afford; it will make all the difference to both the look of your new hair style and the length of time you’ll have it.

I’ve previously had extensions done, but that version used a type of glue to attach the extension to my own hair. While it was relatively painless, it is actually quite damaging to your own hair and as it forms a largish “blob” you end up with your own hair forming dreadlocks around the connections as it naturally falls out. 

The team at Shunji Matsuo use a system of tiny metal rings to clamp the extension onto your own hair. It sounds much worse than it is. The tiny, tiny rings are ridged which helps them hold the two pieces of hair together without doing any permanent damage; there’s also no smell of glue.

Stylists choose the extension, separate out a tiny clump of your hair, thread the ring over it, insert the top of the extension into the ring next to your own hair, and finally clamp the ring flat with a pair of pliers. Yep; pliers.

From short to long: My hair as it was (left); in the process of getting extensions put in – sorry about the camera – (centre) and the final product; my new extensions braided and wrapped (right).

Now, if you have hardly any hair – as in my situation – you need an enormous number of extension to make the finished product looking anything even close to natural. 

Which is why I spent about three and a half hours sitting still getting bits of metal clamped to my head. (Oh, and I had two stylists working on my head at the same time too, so factor that in to your timeframe if you need a complete head of extensions.)

Again; if your own hair has some length already, you will need many fewer extensions and it will take a correspondingly shorter amount of time to complete.

Did it hurt? No. A little pulling and tugging here and there when the stylists were working on the fine hairs around the back of your neck; but no. I’ve had more pain from hair colouring (a whole other story).

Did it work? Do I now have natural-looking hair that’s long enough for all the amazing braids, plaits, buns, chignons, French rolls and up-dos? Absolutely yes. 

Friends who hadn’t seen me for six months or so completely assumed that I’d just been growing my hair; my mother thought I’d not cut my hair since I last saw her two years ago when we met recently.

For a couple – or six – hours in a salon under the skillful ministrations of the team at Shunji Matsuo, and a fair bit of money it must be noted, I could finally have the glorious fishtail plait of my dreams. 

The hair extensions used at Shunji Matsuo are 100 per cent real hair; this means you can wash, condition, dye and brush them exactly the way you would your own hair. 

You do have to be more gentle than with your own hair – mainly because you don’t want them falling out after all the effort you’ve gone to to get them put in. You shouldn’t tip your head over and wash or blow-dry the extension; they’re placed to the “grain” of your hair ie. lying flat against your head, so you don’t want to mess that up.

You may also find that the ends will need more conditioning than your normal hair closer to your scalp; make sure you keep the ends of the hair extensions well conditioned since, even more so than usual, they really are “dead”.

If you dye your hair you’ll probably find it easier to go to a salon for the colouring rather than to do it at home; especially if the extensions are really long, as they’ll make a mess and you should really only do your re-growth.

If you take good care of your hair extensions – and they were done by a reputable, professional, salon – they can last up to six months. This will also depend on how fast your own hair grows.

Remember the extensions are added close to your scalp and will “grow” downwards as you own hair grows. After about three months you should really head back to the salon for a “check up” – take with you any that have fallen out and get them re-added. 

You can also have them removed and replaced further back towards the scalp if your own hair is long enough and you are looking to just add fullness to your hairstyle.

You will need to return to the salon to have the hair extensions removed; unless you go crazy and try to chop them out yourself, you need the stylists to remove them gently one-by-one so your own hair remains undamaged.

Real hair extensions are not cheap. Each extension can cost up to $8. While that seems little enough in itself, if you need 100 extensions that’s $800. You can find cheaper extensions using synthetic hair; but you won’t get that “natural” result. They are also more difficult to look after and don’t last as long.

Shunji Matsuo Hair Studio flagship salon is located at The Heeren, #05-01; Tel: 6238 1522. There is also a new salon located at 313@Somerset, Level 3 (right next to Uniqlo) but call the main salon to organise getting extensions. For more information about Shunji Matsuo Hair Studio, go to: