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Phnom Penh & Beauty: “NUON House of Beauty”, the feminine salon with a fragrance of elegance

Sophea KIM, 40, is the founder of “NUON House of Beauty”, a beauty salon specialising in hair removal, located on Rue 222 in Phnom Penh. Step through the gate and across a splendid courtyard filled with beautiful plants, and you'll arrive at this warm, intimate beauty spot where time seems to stand still.

Sophea KIM, founder of NUON House of Beauty
Sophea KIM, founder of NUON House of Beauty

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

S.K: My name is Sophea and I'm the founder of Nuon House of Beauty, which opened in 2015. I come from a very poor background, originally from Sihanoukville, I was an orphan at the ASPECA Centre and I was sponsored by a Frenchman. I grew up sharing.

How did you learn French?

S.K: When I was younger, I used to write letters to my godfather and I was constantly comparing the length of the text between French and Khmer. So, from secondary school onwards, I kept at it and took a bilingual class taught by Cambodian teachers who speak French. I practised speaking, listened to the radio a lot and imitated my godfather's handwriting.

What was your academic and professional background?

S.K: I studied education at the Faculty of Pedagogy in Phnom Penh, with the help of a grant from the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), in French language and Khmer literature.

When I finished my studies, I worked in education for 3 years, in particular as a French teacher at the AUF. Then I got the urge to change jobs.

Why did you consider changing careers?

S.K : I enjoyed teaching, but I wanted to open myself up to something else, so I went into production. Speaking French helped me to find a job quite easily, so I first had the opportunity to meet the team of Rithy Panh, a French-Khmer director, and to work alongside him in the production team from 2007 to 2014, as casting director and assistant director.

I've done a lot of things, but I had the idea of opening a Salon mainly because I had girlfriends who worked as make-up artists for films and practised ‘SFX’ techniques, special effects, and I was always impressed by their work.

“I had this idea of having my own salon, in particular to change the preconceived idea that the beauty industry is a place where people have little education and are at the bottom of the professional ladder.”

So I set up a quality salon, accessible to everyone, and at the same time I continue to write fiction, stories about Cambodia, short films...

What does “NUON” mean?

S.K: In Khmer, it's the name given to women in poems and songs in the Kingdom of Cambodia. It's a very old word that reflects the elegance of women, and it represents our Salon, which is entirely feminine, both in terms of our team of employees and our clientele.

Interior courtyard at the NUON House of Beauty
Interior courtyard at the NUON House of Beauty

How many people are in your team?

S.K: There are five of us in total, including one person who is entirely responsible for the Salon's hygiene, as well as the team's meals. This allows us to regulate our consumption, both for our own health and to avoid wastage. On top of that, we are all constantly being trained in new techniques and hygiene rules.

“We grow together like a family, but within a professional framework with rules to apply, while taking care of each other.”

How do you work with your partners?

S.K: First of all, for waxing and skincare, we work with French brands such as CIRÉPIL and Le Club des Professionnels (CLP), and for hair, we work with an Italian brand, ELGON.

So I've had the opportunity to go to France to meet the teams we work with. I'm often in contact with them by videoconference when new products require new training. What's more, we share our training free of charge with women who also offer beauty services in Cambodia.

As well as French brands (hair removal) and Italian brands (hair), we also work with the Cambodian brand ‘Bodia’ and try to incorporate Cambodian traditions, in particular by including plants from the Kingdom, while respecting customers' requests in terms of what they want in terms of the product used.

What's special about your salon?

S.K: It's still a very intimate salon, we have a fairly large public and we want to preserve the moment for our customers without exposing them on social networks so that they can enjoy their experience with us in complete tranquillity.

“NUON House of Beauty”
“NUON House of Beauty”

In fact, sometimes customers contact us months in advance and when they're visiting Cambodia, they stop here for our services or our products.

“ We put health first and are very attentive and vigilant about the specific needs of our customers’ skin and hair types.”

In your opinion, what is the place of hair removal, and aesthetics in general, in Cambodia?

S.K: In Cambodia, hair removal is not yet a common practice, which is fortunate for us too, because we are becoming a reference centre for many people. However, we're still a small local team and demand isn't very high yet, but it's happening little by little and we're growing with our customers, who are the ones who recommend us.

“We want to grow a bit more, not just for ourselves, but also for Cambodia. It helps to increase Khmer know-how and go beyond that to create relationships with other countries.”

“NUON House of Beauty”
“NUON House of Beauty”

A few final words?

S.K: I'm proud of myself and my team of employees. We are proud to read positive comments that highlight the beauty services in Cambodia.

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