Denise Aquino of Tokyo Posh has a message for all the women who ever felt they were not pretty or good enough

BEHIND THE CHAIR OF TOKYO POSH. Parlon CEO Claire Ongcangco video chats with Denise Aquino, founder of premiere hair extensions studio Tokyo Posh

When Denise Aquino first wore hair extensions when she was a fashion design scholar at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, she instantly felt empowered.

“I felt like I’m a different person,” the Tokyo Posh founder said. “I took photos of myself wearing the extensions amidst the cherry blossoms at the back of the Imperial Palace. And then, I started posting the photos in Multiply.” This was in spring of 2007.

THE PHOTO THAT LAUNCHED TOKYO POSH. After Denise posted photos of herself wearing hair extensions on her Multiply account, she and her mom received order inquiries about the extensions.

In 2009, when she came back to the Philippines after graduating with flying colors, Denise officially established Tokyo Posh and opened their first physical shop in Tiendesitas. Little did she know that this will mark the beginning of a beauty category that proved to be a timeless trend even a decade after.  

“At the time, there was no hair extensions brand in the Philippines yet,” she shared. But Denise didn’t come home unprepared. “During my free time [as a student], I made a business plan for a hair extensions brand. There was no peg. There’s no benchmark. I made everything from scratch.”

THE PREMIERE HAIR EXTENSIONS STUDIO IN THE PHILIPPINES. Tokyo Posh revolutionized the beauty and fashion industry by introducing hair extensions to Filipinas.

Today, Tokyo Posh managed to put up 3 branches and institutionalize the hair extensions industry in the Philippines. They’re known as a concept studio that specializes on styling hair bands and clip-ons as a fashion statement and a confidence-boosting accessory that’s easy to use and maintain. Beauty icons including Heart Evangelista, Anne Curtis, and Megan Young are few of the many celebrities who use the power of hair extensions to instantly redefine a look.

The Tokyo Posh Life

Denise always had a knack for creating new things. And the thing is, “if you like developing new products, it comes with the responsibility of educating the market,” she said.

So, when Tokyo Posh was still starting, Denise devoted 101% of her time to make hair extensions known and build relationships with her clients.

Denise designs and crafts all the hair extensions herself.

“People didn’t know what we are,” Denise recalls, saying that people often ask her before whether they are a wig shop or a salon. “At the time, I really, really wanted to focus and I really wanted to market ourselves as a hair extensions brand.”

It took a long time for Denise to build Tokyo Posh from scratch and become the household name that they are now. She had done a lot of talks and seminars in hospitals and universities, joined countless bazaars, and personally spoken to her clients. On top of all these, Denise also designed and crafted all the hair extensions herself.

THE ORIGINAL TOKYO POSH DUO. When Denise was still studying in Japan, her mom helped her kickstart the business in the Philippines.

Her first clients included high-profile celebrities who, even before they secured a space in Rockwell, traveled all the way to their house in Antipolo just to try on the hair extensions she made. At some point, she also became a personal stylist to these celebrities.

“I would go to celebrity houses myself and I will do their hair. They will call me and I’d jump from one celebrity to another,” Denise shared. “I was at their beck and call.”

To this day, she puts her fashion design skills at work and designs every Tokyo Posh product they offer.

Looking back, Denise said, “I’m blessed to have started Tokyo Posh at the time when I have no family and kids. I was very young. So, I really had the time to focus and devote myself into it.”

“I remember when I was starting out, I would hear people tell me, ‘Oh, that’s just a fad. Let’s give it three or five years,’” she told us. “But it’s been 11 years. We’re still here. The industry is getting stronger. So, I’m very happy and pleased with what we started,” she added.

THE TOKYO POSH QUEEN. Denise Aquino is a category starter who brought hair extensions in the Philippines.

As the Filipina who brought hair extensions in the Philippines, Denise pats herself in the back as more competition spawn left and right. “As much as it stresses me out sometimes, it kinda makes me feel fulfilled in the sense that I’ve made [hair extensions] common. I’ve made it [possible] to have a brand about hair extensions only—that’s not a salon, but a specialized brand about hair extensions.” For Denise, having competition means that the industry is growing and it’s here to stay.

ARIANA CLIP-ONS. Denise takes inspiration from artists and trends and designs hair extensions from there.

That’s why even if she graduated from school years ago, she never stopped learning and innovating. To this day, she puts her fashion design skills at work and designs every Tokyo Posh product they offer.

“It’s also about the client’s comfort. It’s not just about the bonggang before and after.”  

“I treat the extensions like a fashion product, like it has seasons,” she says. “We constantly evolve and have new styles. Having competition also gives me a push to always improve and make sure that we maintain our position in the industry.”  

Tokyo Posh partnered with international hair extensions innovator HairTalk® to bring best-in-class semi-permanent extensions in the Philippines. “Since it’s a global brand, you’re confident that your hair will get fixed wherever you are in the world.” Denise also highlighted that this is the best measure of the quality and safety of their hair extensions, saying that aside from being a fashion accessory, “it’s also about the client’s comfort. It’s not just about the bonggang before and after.”  

THE TOKYO POSH HAIR SHIELD SANITIZER. Conceptualized and crafted by Denise herself, this product is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

Through the years, Tokyo Posh also offered blow dry and hair treatment services to complement their products. Denise hopes to eventually develop new extensions-centric, consumer products like the Hair Shield Sanitizer they launched in 2020. “Hopefully, when things get better, we can develop a more extensive line of hair products,” she said.

The Denise Aquino

INSTANT FULLER HAIR. No glue, no hooks, no tapes. Tokyo Posh hair extensions make an instant makeover possible.

With all the wins Denise achieved in her life, one wouldn’t think she had ever felt less in her entire life. But young Denise once did.

"I never saw myself as the pretty one. I was never the attractive one."

“When I was growing up, I was really fat. I didn’t have a lot of suitors. I never saw myself as the pretty one. I was never the attractive one. My prom date was the brother of my barkada,” she shared. Young Denise focused on creating things instead. “When I was in high school, I would design and make prom dresses for my classmates. I would go to Divisoria to source materials. Then, when I was in college, I made bags. I used to sell them in bazaars.”

MAJOR THROWBACK. Denise strikes a pose with her Japanese classmates at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo.

Denise had always been independent and hardworking like that. It was her independence and hard work that led her to pursue fashion design and bring Tokyo Posh to life.  

“I love Tokyo Posh so much because it has opened my eyes to also seeing a different side of me,” Denise said. “Like ikaw, ‘pag bagong blowdry, bagong kulot, or kapag pinahaba ‘yung hair mo and pinakapal, you see a different side of yourself that you’ve never seen before. And you discover a new sense of confidence that you’ve never discovered before.”

LIKE A FAMILY. Denise created a special bond with some of the biggest stars in the country. In this photo, she and her daughter smile in a photo with Kim Chiu.

“That confidence will propel you to do so many things that you didn’t expect you’ll be able to do in your life,” she said. “Looking back, I don’t think that chubby girl in high school with no prom date will ever think that she would be in fashion magazines or she would be called pretty. Or she would feel confident taking photos with celebrities and the most beautiful people in the Philippines. And I was able to do all those things.”

"I just changed my hair and I just embraced the power of my hair.”

“I was able to overcome all the insecurities, just with my hair. Isn’t that amazing?” Denise said with pride. “I didn’t do anything else. I just changed my hair and I just embraced the power of my hair.”

CELEBRITY FAVORITE. From left to right: Denise Aquino, Bela Padilla, Jessy Mendiola, and Alyanna Martinez.

When asked what advice she can give to girls who feel like they’re not enough, she said, “I think the first one who can love yourself is you. Find the trigger that will make you appreciate yourself, then show it.” The Tokyo Posh founder believes that while we all have insecurities, we also have at least one thing we can be proud of. And that’s what we should highlight. For her, it’s her hair.

Beauty studios like the Tokyo Posh may have all the tools, but it’s you who can give yourself the love you deserve.

“I always say our industry is not just about beauty. It’s about wellness. It’s about mental health,” she said.  

THE FILIPINA WHO BROUGHT HAIR EXTENSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES. Denise Aquino, founder of Tokyo Posh

Tokyo Posh started with Denise’s need and fascination with hair extensions—how the simple act of clipping it on a daily basis gave her that sense of confidence she didn’t know she had. Since then, it never failed to amaze Denise how she, through Tokyo Posh, helps women achieve their highest potential with a product and the industry she believes in so much.

It never failed to amaze Denise how she, through Tokyo Posh, helps women achieve their highest potential with a product and the industry she believes in so much.

This goes to show that Tokyo Posh is more than just a business to Denise. “More than anything, it’s a way to make women happy,” she said. “I want to be able to overcome and survive this pandemic and make sure that I’ll be there for all the women who need me. I want to be able to do it until I’m old, until I can. And hopefully, I can share that same confidence, that love for one’s self, to my daughter.”

Without a doubt, young Denise must be so proud.

Visit Tokyo Posh at Powerplant Mall (Makati), SM Megamall (Mandaluyong), and UP Town Center (Quezon City). Check out Tokyo Posh’s Parlon page to know more of the services they offer.

Behind The Chair is a series of beautiful and purposeful stories amidst the pandemic as told by salon and wellness professionals. It aims to raise awareness on the challenges faced by the industry that has physical care and interactions at its core, and how they adapted to survive and stay in business. Powered by Parlon, the Philippines’ first go-to platform for beauty and wellness services.