Words by Bridgette Redman
“Just get a job.”
That was the mantra David Alfonso rejected from an early age.
The son of Filipino immigrants, Alfonso learned creative resourcefulness from his father even while ignoring the pressure to follow a traditional 9-to-5 grind. “With the family and in Filipino culture, the idea is just get a job,” Alfonso says. “It was almost like, those types of entrepreneurial dreams don’t happen to people like us.”
Only his success, as the founder and CEO of an internationally renowned men’s luxury hairstyling brand and the co-owner of a new Los Angeles barber boutique, has been built on following exactly those types of entrepreneurial dreams.
In 2009, Alfonso and his brother began creating and marketing men’s hair products. Much to the horror of his parents, Alfonso cashed in the 401k he’d earned working in the Silicon Valley to kickstart his business. While his brother lost interest and they parted on good terms, Alfonso was joined by Christopher Zhent and they began filling and labeling products by hand in a one-room apartment. Hanz de Fuko was born.
Within two years they became a social media darling, and in 2013 got a huge boost when GQ magazine revealed that David Beckham raved about their products. Their brand is now found in high-end salons in more than 40 countries and in major chains such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdales.
In summer 2022, Alfonso co-founded the House of AANUKO, a Los Angeles barber boutique. Joining forces with one of Hanz de Fuko’s earliest YouTube influencers, Joseph Andrews of BluMaan, they created a destination where their clients can socialize, learn about hair care and take home great products. They can enjoy a free cocktail and visit the professional photo studio to obtain headshots or capture before-and-after fare for their social media channels.
The culture he cultivates at the boutique was born of his Filipino values. Clients become family and not a transaction.
“In Filipino culture, we’re taught to be generous and kind and always give back to those in need,” Alfonso says. “That basic mantra of taking care of people lives and thrives in the way we take care of our clients, of treating them like family.”
He says he’s very proud to be Filipino American and of permeating the essence of his culture into the House of AANUKO space.
“It’s like walking into a Gucci-inspired boutique in Paris or New York in the 1980s, but then it has the warmth and feel of a quirky hotel lobby that you find somewhere in Barcelona,” Alfonso says. Clients are enveloped in an environment born of his cultural heritage. “You’re greeted like family from the moment you walk through the doors. It sets the stage for a pretty unique experience. An exceptional haircut is the bare minimum–the House of AANUKO is a place to play, to connect and to thrive.”
Alfonso grew up in San Mateo in the San Francisco Bay area, hanging out with other Fillipinos who shared his creative streak. While they were often unable to afford the “in” brands, they would descend upon vintage clothing stores to create unique and trendy outfits, a skill transferring brilliantly to his entrance into the men’s hair fashion world.
Alfonso reveals that growing up with humble beginnings prepared him for the hard work, creativity and determination needed to be successful at growing his own company.
“I remember my dad finding ways to be creative, whether fixing the blender or just trying to create these life hacks because we couldn’t afford things,” Alfonso says. ”I learned how to use creativity to make life better.”
Alfonso encourages young people to be courageous and daring—to honor the unique aspects of their culture and incorporate it into their dreams. “Never feel insecure about it,” Alfonso says. “Really go hard and really represent yourself. Be proud of where you came from.”
And, he demonstrates, trust your gut about which cultural messages to reject and which to embrace.
Published on September 14, 2022
Words by Bridgette Redman
Bridgette is a lifelong, second-generation journalist who loves to tell stories of people making the world a better and more interesting place. She, her spouse and her son live in a little log cabin in the middle of the city of Lansing, Michigan.