Asian Freestyle

The New Trend Coming to Your Salon

By Riza Wisnom

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest trends in the grooming industry, then you’ve probably heard the terms “Japanese grooming” or “Asian styling”.  It has captivated groomers around the world, sending them clamoring to sites like Pinterest, and to various chat boards on Facebook in an insatiable quest for photos and info.  Asian styling seminars are being held in the United States, Europe, and Australia in increasing numbers. But what exactly is it? Where did it come from? And can it really be successfully introduced to our mainstream clientele?

The first question is one often asked amongst groomers looking to define an art they would very much like to try.  In a nutshell, Asian styling is a creative grooming method that evokes a sense of whimsy in its pursuit to make the dog look like a stuffed toy. This style pays no attention to breed standards and corrective grooming is not a priority.  When asked how she would describe the style to someone who’s never heard of it before, Veronica Frosch, former Groom Team USA member and owner of the Paw Shoppe in Coon Rapids, Minnesota says, “It’s a look made up of ponytails, braids, weird moustaches and big ears!” She’s fond of the style for its lack of set rules. The look is predominately seen in curly coated breeds such as the Poodle and Bichon and in drop coated breeds such as the Shih Tzu and Maltese.  But Schnauzers and some Terriers make excellent candidates as well.

In many Asian Poodle styles, the dog will have columned legs and a very round muzzle.  But wait, isn’t that what we’ve been doing to Poodles for decades? It sounds like a lamb trim with a donut moustache! Ahh, but here’s the difference.  Those scissored legs are further tweaked to look like the limbs of a stuffed teddy bear by tapering the tops near the elbow and flaring the bottoms without the presence of clean feet. As an example, on a Poodle (Fig. 1), I clippered his body to 1/2”. I scissored the feet first, working on the elbow taper next and connecting the two by scissoring, while fluffing outward with a comb. As for the muzzle, it differs from the standard donut moustache of old in that it is highly exaggerated in an effort to mimic the round nose of a toy bear. A sanitary area is carved directly between the eyes and slightly down the eye drainage areas.  Then the muzzle is scissored into either an oval or “U” shape. This runs contrary to the traditional donut moustache which is characterized by a severe shave of the bridge of the nose and a triangular or upside down “U” shape to the muzzle.

In Shih Tzus, the goal of the style is to maximize cuteness rather than the glamor typically displayed with the breed’s signature breed profile.  In the first example, (Fig. 2) I was able to use a ¾” clipper comb on the body, leaving the legs full.  I used the same clipper comb, clipping with the lay of the hair down the middle of his dome, leaving the hair in front of the top of his ears longer to achieve extreme roundness. In the second example (Fig. 3), the dog’s ears are taken short with a 4F and the cheeks are clippered with a 5F so that the teddy bear muzzle really POPS!  The effect is the same – each dog resembles stuffed toy more than Shih Tzu.

Lisa Correia, owner of Bark ‘N Purr Mobile Pet Salon in New Jersey, likens Asian styles to Japanese Anime characters.  Unconcerned with disguising structural faults in the dog, she says Asian styles often appear unbalanced to those used to corrective grooming. Lisa further notes that while western grooming typically focuses heavily on the body and legs, the styles of the Far East are more concerned with the individual expression of the head.

Asian styles will also often disregard breed standards in a delightful turnabout. The skirt on a cocker spaniel will be clipped off in favor of accentuating voluminous legs, a Maltese will be given clean feet, or a Poodle’s head will be sculpted to resemble a mushroom cap (Fig. 4). Olga Zabelinskaya of New Jersey took advantage of this play on breed profiles by giving a Schnauzer (Fig. 5) a scissored topknot and little tassels at the tips of the ears.  In these examples, the goal is to invoke a sense of comedy as well as beauty.

Now to answer where these styles come from.  Duh, you say.  Asia.  Well yes, but did you know that the styles vary from region to region?  In Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan you will find many of the styles described above in addition to rule bending styles on poodles such as asymmetrical topknots, and Koala ears with blushing cheeks (Fig. 6). Pammie Carmichael-Hogg of the UK reproduced a growing trend in Asia known as the “cone head”, (Fig. 7) while at the prestigious Starwood Arts Academy in Thailand. Seen in varying degrees of severity, her version on a white poodle plays up the sweet expression of the dog.  In South Korea, they have adapted a style all their own.  They are known for their take on drop coats such as the Maltese, Shih Tzu and Yorkie. The body is shaved with a #10 or #15, sometimes used in reverse with the legs left fully coated in a long, flowing style.  The topknot is usually pulled up, the cheeks and chin are shaved closely, accompanied by a tightly scissored “U” shaped muzzle. Margaret Stasiak of Poland has mastered the look as demonstrated on a Maltese that she groomed (Fig. 8).  The look is high drama but has a purpose. Pet clothing, in the way of sundresses, gowns, coats and capelets, is very popular overseas.  As a fun and stylish way to interact with their pets, owners abroad stock whole closets full of accessories and clothes. Keeping the torso short allows the pet to wear these clothes on a daily basis without the fear of friction mats forming.

Many groomers write to me feeling lost on how to execute these trims. Taught to groom one way from the start of their careers, they are now forced to “unlearn” many techniques.  Leaving so much hair on the bridge of the nose and tossing out all they’ve been taught about showcasing proper angulation in the legs, requires adjustment. It may also require developing a new “eye”.  Veronica recommends keeping web photos of your favorite styles on hand at the salon to reference as you trim.  Laughing at the recollection, she describes the first Asian trim she ever did.  It was at a seminar with the US travel team in Spain on a Yorkie.  Holding her breath throughout the groom, she said it luckily turned out very cute!

Alright, now we have a grasp on the concept and an appreciation for the art.  But we can’t hone the craft if our clients are not on board! It runs contrary to much of what they’re accustomed to as well. Don’t fret, you CAN successfully introduce this style to your pet parents and gain a reputation as a stylist with cutting edge looks. The trick is to go slow.  Don’t overwhelm your client when describing the concept.  Instead of yammering on enthusiastically about the latest trend and how badly you want to try it, tell them that you have learned a new teddy bear style.  Clients eat up words like “teddy bear”, “cute”, and “round”.  Make it more about how adorable you’ve learned to make their pet rather than about the seminar you just attended and how you’re just dying to try it out. Flattery also works wonders.  I have often told a pet parent that their Fluffy “has JUST what I’m looking for. The perfect (fill-in-the-blank) for this new look.  And by the way, I’d love to feature her on our Facebook page. She’ll be a celebrity!”  The promise of fame has never failed.  (You DO have a social media site for your business, don’t you??) For the sake of your four legged client, you should only introduce this style to owners that you’re confident will be able to maintain the longer look at home.  It is not a low maintenance style suited for clients who are averse to combing or only schedule every 12 weeks or longer.  Veronica uses those photos she keeps at the salon to pique a hesitant client’s interest. Though she hasn’t been as successful winning them over as she’d like, it is helpful to realize that many clients respond better to a visual of the concept rather than just a description.

Still can’t find owners brave enough to try it? Here’s what you do:  On those dogs getting a short clippered cut, practice an Asian style.  Snap a photo of it and hang it in your salon lobby.  A collage of adorably trimmed dogs will garner attention and interest.  Don’t forget to return the pet to the owner-requested style after snapping the photo! Now you’ve been able to practice the style AND advertise for it as well! Providing that you didn’t cause the pet any undue stress or require a later pick up for the pet, the owners may be thrilled to see their pet up on the wall in such a cute new trim.

While this style does require experienced scissoring skills and excellent prep work, it is one that any groomer can master with enough time and practice.  Lisa explains that learning this style has brought spark back to the same old same old and she loves the freedom to explore new possibilities that Asian styling offers. She advocates attending live demonstrations and scouring the web for photos and learning opportunities. Keeping up with the latest trends and the ever-evolving world of pet grooming will distinguish you from a pet groomer to Stylist Extraordinaire, so give it a try!


  1. diane lavin says:

    LOVE this look and feel!

    Certain salons have request that I refrain from this creativity, which comes natural to me. Pleasing “them” is holding me back.
    Any recommendations, referrals?….
    Much appreciated,
    [email protected]

    • Tami says:

      Why worry about pleasing “them”. The only one you need to please is the person writing the check.

    • Donna says:

      Hi there,
      I live in south florida and want to know if you give private lessons.
      I have a problem doing the feet the way you do, and need some help.
      But…I would be obliged to learn anything you can teach me about it.
      Love you’re work, you are extremely talented.


  2. Brigitte says:

    I have been grooming dogs for over 37 years and have an open mind for grooming . Sometimes you have to be creative and compromise when a dog comes in matted,but always ,as a professional groomer you want the dog to look better leaving than it did than when it came in. I am absolutely disappointed with the cover and article Asian Freestyle. There is no balance or symmetry to this grooming. The dogs look ashamed. This grooming style mocks the idea of a beautiful groomed dog, and it should not be an example to follow. Figure 5 ,figure8 and the little yorkie are particularly bad.If this is what is trendy,I say no!

    • Tami says:

      I, too have been grooming for a long time (26yrs) and went crazy when I saw my first few asian fusion styles. I love the ability to be creative and give the pets a new look. Aren’t you tired of doing the same old thing all these years? If I never had to shave down a matted dog again or do a 7 all over with a teddy bear head, I’d be thrilled. Now my challenge is for my long time clients to give something new a try!

    • Lily says:

      I think it’s important to grow, as with anything in life. I’ve been grooming since before curved shears! That didn’t stop me from using them though. If we are going by the pet industry, then what we do is not breed standard anyway. Even with show grooming, look at what changes we’ve gone through. Like that old hideous bichon head,the new is a definite improvement, or the new old English (personally, what’s with that beehive? yuck) just to name the obvious! I really love to try anything new, it keeps me at my best.

    • Lynda Shelton says:

      I Think It’s time for a Change. These Styles are Most Definitely Flattering. Some Groomers don’t want to update on styles but this is really a Flattering Cut. It’s the New Trend and Should be offered if the Customer ask gor it.

    • Marie Williams says:

      I agree 5 & 8 look very strange… I am not a fan…

    • Karen says:

      Thought 8 was the cutest!!

  3. Patti says:

    This a a great alternative to “kennel clips” for non show dogs. Images 1 through 4 are adorable. I dont see it taking off to replace traditional grooming though. The whole idea is to see in your mind’s eye, the natural beauty of the dog and enhance his or her natural cuteness. I have been grooming for fourteen years and my focus has always been making the experience enjoyable for the dog, if they hate it, they will hate seeing me and that does not translate into repeat business.

  4. Michelle says:

    I have been mobile grooming since November of 2013. I love the Asian Freestyle grooming. I’m currently watching videos and trying it out on some of my clients dogs. I’m naturally a creative person, so I’m very attracted to this style. Are there any classes I can take for this? I live in Tampa, Florida.

    • Tara says:

      Could you share links to any good videos you may have come across, I also like some of the fusion styles esp the round muzzle look, i’m keen to try something new x

  5. melissa says:

    I would like to know if there are any up coming seminars or webinars on Asian Fusion Grooming (willing to travel) please feel free to contact me @ [email protected]

  6. Linda Indenbirken says:

    Can you do a post on the REAL Asian Creative grooming ?
    I think we are all interested and like the typical lion cut on cats and dogs or popular cut styles for certain breeds but what about the crazy shave jobs. What about the multi colors and objects attached ?
    Do you all support that ?

  7. Laura Henry says:

    Asian free style seminar with Olga in Sept. At Pawprint Essentials in Venice Florida. I believe there are a few spots open. Go to Pawprint Essentials website. Good luck

  8. Victoria DeJesus says:

    can you tell me where can i train for this technique in new york city?

  9. D H says:

    I think these cuts are adorable and make the dogs even more lovable. If they get more attention for their precious looks, then great for them! Dogs love being made a fuss of!
    Some of the standard breed cuts are just dumb. Can anyone say ‘Wheaten terrier’…. with that long hair hanging over their eyes and in their food bowls all the time. Ugh. I was Googling something that would be a cuter look/cut for one when I found this. I’m all for it!

  10. Marquita says:

    Hi, can someone tell me where can I go in Minnesota for a good groomer?

  11. Esther says:

    Any grooming classes coming up please let me know. Thanks

  12. April says:

    In NY (upstate) are there any classes or can someone suggest good relative videos? Very interested in learning

  13. EM says:

    Is there any salon in NY to bring my baby dog for an Asian grooming with color? Also, any place in NY that teaches the technique?

  14. Lynda Shelton says:

    Will Bring in Clientele. Darling Pet Clips! Be Ready To know This Pet Clip. It’s Popularity is Soaring. Don’t be Left out in the Cold. At least be able to have the knowledge of this Style in case one should ask for it.

  15. Angie says:

    I was wondering where I can get some training on the Asian cuts on dogs I already have went to school for dog grooming so I am certified dog stylist just need to get some more training and wanting to learn how to do the Asian cut or Japanese cut I’m not sure what it’s called so if you know of any place that does that or trains let me know

  16. Nadya says:

    It’s really “anything goes” style.It does not require for the groomer to know much about the dog breed or standard. And if I am not mistaken there is still a “standard” ? Is”n there? I am an old groomer (50 years doing it) and had to learn styles that professionals used to make a dog look as close to it”s show standard as possible but the profession has changed. Anyone can buy a clipper and proceed to clip away. Some of these styles are cute and there is no harm, but there will have to be a “standard” set for the style so groomers will know what a client means when they request “Asian style please. And make it short, but leave it longer than last time,except for the head. I want the head to look like a lion, etc,etc.

  17. Jennifer says:

    I love the Asian style! Where can I attend or view video to learn how to do this better?

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