Published on 04.07.2022
Magic chair talk
Emmanuel Lukoki aka Your Barber in Town
In POP KUDAMM’s Creative Village, a young couple dances to the best jazz Afro House, which sounds through the open doors of their shop. Right next to them, a photographer is tossing ideas for new poses to a model, which she puts directly into practice in the new designs before picking up the outfit for the next shot off the rack in his shop. In the shop itself, Emmanuel Lukoki, known as Your Barber in Town, engrossed in conversation with one of his customers and cutting hair. What doesn’t quite seem to belong together here at first glance is Emmanuel’s programme: a colourful mix of fashion, music, art and barber craft that creates a vibrant, stimulating hot spot in the middle of City West and makes a visit to his barber shop a real experience.
His motto in the shop and in all his other jobs always: not the customer is king, but the customer is friend. After the first contact with the Magic Chair, as he calls his barber chair, the typical customer contact breaks. You becomes you, stranger becomes openness and togetherness.
Why Emmanuel loves this mix and what it has to do with communication and the culture of our city, and where he gets his inspiration and energy from, Emmanuel reveals in the interview we conducted during his time at POP KUDAMM. On his Magic Chair, framed by African-inspired fashion pieces, chilling music on his ears and pure good vibes only.
Pop Kudamm:Du bist bekannt als Your Barber in Town. Wie bist du als Barber gestartet?
Emmanuel Lukoki:Ich bin eigentlich Industriemechaniker und tatsächlich aus diesem Grund nach Berlin gezogen. Aber wie die Passion zum Barbering kam, ich glaube das hängt mit meiner Familie zusammen, mit meinem Vater der uns Kindern – also wir sind drei Jungs, fünf Kinder insgesamt – uns drei Jungs jeden Sonntag die Haare geschnitten hat. Das war Ritual, jeden Sonntag vor der Kirche, weshalb ich auch immer freshe Haare hatte. Unser Vater hat es dann unserem ältesten Bruder beigebracht und der Älteste dann dem Mittleren. Und bei wir es dann so: Nein, ich lerne nicht Haareschneiden. Keinen Bock. Dazu kam, ich war professioneller Background-Tänzer und Schauspieler, was ich so drei, vier Jahr gemacht habe, bis ich dann gesagt habe: Ok, ich brauche jetzt irgendwie auch was Festes. Und dann dachte ich mir, ok, was mach ich jetzt ? Ich war ja gerade mit der Schule durch, hatte auch nicht die große Lust einfach nur rumzuhängen und ich wollte was machen. Aber nicht in der Stadt, wo ich groß geworden bin, so dass ich dann nach Berlin gezogen bin und hier meine Ausbildung gemacht zum Industriemechaniker gemacht habe. Im wilden Osten [lacht], und ich habe dann lange in der Industrie gearbeitet, in den Borsigwerken in Tegel. Und in dieser Zeit, ich konnte ja keine Haare schneiden, weil ich es nicht lernen wollte, bin ich zu x-beliebigen Barbern gegangen und sah wirklich sehr schrecklich aus. Hab dann meinen Vater angerufen und gesagt: „Du hast völlig Recht gehabt, ich hätte Haareschneiden lernen sollen.“ Da meinte mein Vater „Mach Dir nix, ich schick Dir ein Barber-Starter-Set, lern mal zu Hause Haareschneiden.“ Habe angefangen mir das Haareschneiden selber beizubringen, was tatsächlich gut zwei Jahre gedauert hat, bis es perfekt war. So ist es meistens bei mir: wenn ich was will, will ich es ins Maximale bringen. Und so fing es an.
Pop Kudamm:You are known as Your Barber in Town. How did you get started as a barber?
Emmanuel Lukoki:Exactly. I always want to bring my influences into what I do and make something new and unique out of it. That's how my first concept for a shop in Hanover came about. It was actually quite cool and went well, but I quickly realised that people weren't ready for such conceptualised shops, where you just do freaky things. So I went back to Berlin and finished a concept and teamed up with XXX, who is a salesman and knows God and the world and has lived in Berlin for 30 years. That was exactly the partner I needed, and that's how I ended up opening a shop in the Student Hotel. Not typical for a barber shop, but that's exactly the concept that worked out in the end. Together with the hotel, we developed a community here and held events, and by now this barber shop spot is no longer just a barber shop, but much more a place to get together, network and meet people. And that's also reflected in the concept: you don't have to come here if you want a haircut. You want to talk, you want a drink, you want to meet people, then you're at the right place at Your Barber in Town.
Because here I can do exactly
what I want to do.
Pop Kudamm:What makes a good barber for you?
Emmanuel Lukoki:That's easy for me to answer: Because here I can do exactly what I want to do at the end of the day. I had already tried to start this somewhere else, but the conditions were not there. As a dark-skinned person, you always have the feeling that you have to convince people first. But I'm not like, I have to convince someone first, I do what I do and either I like it and it's cool, or it's not. And here in Berlin there is much less prejudice. I don't know if it's because of the spot, but whether the person is white or black doesn't really matter. The first question I get in the shop is: "How much does the haircut cost?" I think that's great, and that's how it should be. Everything else, where someone comes from and so on, doesn't matter. And that's exactly what I want: not to create two worlds, but one world for everyone.
Pop Kudamm:What does Berlin Culture mean to you and what differences do you see to other cities?
Emmanuel Lukoki:As I said, I'm also a dancer, so I've been around a lot. And for me, Berlin doesn't feel completely like Germany. Because when I compare it to other cities, Berlin is simply different. You have people from all over the world here, and consequently Berliners are also much more open. Because they simply allow other cultures. That also shows in the food, when you walk through your neighbourhood and get food from all over the world. Indian, Turkish, Arabic, African, Asian. Berliners are more open to that, too, and consequently more open to stories like the one I have in mind. That's what I think this city is all about. For me, that's Berlin culture - it's open and simply allows certain things to happen.
A place where thinking is not black and white,
Pop Kudamm:You said at the beginning that your shop is no longer a purely typical barber shop. What makes your barber shop special?
Emmanuel Lukoki:We combine music, art, fashion, culture and bartending around it. We want to bring people together and create a hot spot with good vibes. A place where people don't think in black and white, but mixed. And where people meet, come at 3pm and stay until 9pm. Just like we do here at POP KUDAMM: The community meets, you sit down, get a bowl from Bless Bites, look at fashion from Medelian, get a new cut and have fun.
Pop Kudamm:And what does this mix mean to you and what exactly awaits your visitors when they come to you?
Emmanuel Lukoki:I used to be a dancer and actor. But above all, I like fashion. And I have a passion for barbering. In the end, that's the thread that runs through everything. And people who know me know that's Manu. Because I want to combine things, I'm a barber, but I want to mix everything I do and like. I dance, that's why there are dancers in the shop. I love music, so we have loud music. I love fashion, so fashion is there. Because it reflects me. And I transmit that to my customers, so fashion-conscious people bring other fashion-conscious people, which creates a community with just those clues. And no matter where Your Barber in Town is placed, you always have these accents in it. Fashion, music, DJ, lifestyle. That is the concept and the idea behind it.
Pop Kudamm:What does POP KUDAMM give you and what do you give POP KUDAMM?
Emmanuel Lukoki:POP KUDAMM gives me the opportunity to unfold. Nothing is strict here, everything is loose and handled in a relaxed, loving way. I like that. And if you have an idea, it is accepted and you can try it out. For everyone who walks by here and for every business, that's added value. What do I give to the Kudamm? I think culture and real people. What does that mean: bringing different people together in one place, from students to influencers and actors. People from everywhere who come here and are here.
The main thing is that it’s real.
That’s what I celebrate.
Pop Kudamm:You are full of energy and curiosity for new things. What inspires you to discover new things in life?
Emmanuel Lukoki:In short: From people. People from all over the world. For example, six or seven months ago I had a guy with me who, from a distance, looked like he'd been sleeping on the street for a fortnight and if you didn't look closely, you'd think he'd had a really hard time lately. Incredibly long beard, long hair, super rough, wild. But not unkempt. Trousers were completely torn, crazy boots. He came by our place and wanted to get his beard trimmed, and then I noticed when I looked closer that it was all designer clothes he had on. It really fascinated me, a really full look. He then told me that he is an artist who has a studio here in Berlin and lives in New York. Then he showed me some of his things and invited me, and in the meantime we've become friends. And that's exactly what I celebrate. I celebrate that: you don't have to show that you are someone, just show who you really are. And that's also what I try to do. To show that I don't want to play the high society world, but to play everything. Where I can reflect myself, be it in the high society world, in Kreuzberg in the hippie scene or Neukölln at the underground station, where I just stand there with the barber chair and cut people's hair. That's what it's all about at the end of the day and those people inspire me. The main thing is that it's real. That's what I celebrate.
Pop Kudamm:And last but not least: What's next for you? Are there any new projects?
Emmanuel Lukoki:Emmanuel Lukoki is a passionate barber, dancer and actor who lives and works in Berlin. In addition to his barber craft, he regularly organises fashion & music events in his barber shop at the Student Hotel and other Berlin venues, together with his partners and artists, musicians and designers from all over the world.
ABOUT EMMANUEL LUKOKI
Emmanuel Lukoki is a passionate barber, dancer and actor who lives and works in Berlin. In addition to his barber craft, he regularly organises fashion & music events in his barber shop at the Student Hotel and other Berlin venues, together with his partners and artists, musicians and designers from all over the world.
Learn more about Emmanuel Lukoki at: