Julien Farel, Cult Hairstylist
The cult of the celebrity hairstylist, Madison Avenue–style.
For me, it’s not about zee money. It’s about changing zee mood. I have women who say to me, Joolian, change my mood. In French we say, ‘Recoiffe-moi le moral.’”
He approaches the snowy-haired baroness armed with a pair of shears, erect and focused like a matador, his eyes the color of cognac, his blow-dryer tucked into his crotch. He wears custom-made slim white shirts, bespoke suits by Nedo Bellucci Napoli and soft leather shoes.
Julien Farel’s Madison Avenue salon is buzzing: social swans, mannequins, millionaires, blow-dryers whirring, blades snip, snip, snipping and the sweet scent of sandalwood mixed with hair conditioner.
“He’s a wonderful stylist,” says the baroness as Farel carefully winds a section of hair under a fat round brush. “I’m very fond of him.” Her name is Suzanne von Liebig, and her late husband made a fortune in vascular surgery research. An arts patron and a philanthropist, she flew Farel for lunch one day to Bermuda on her private jet with bottles of Dom Perignon. A mere bagatelle.
“You know,” he says, rubbing the baroness’s shoulders. “It’s $650. If they hand me the blow-dryer, it’s another $250. But I’m only at $900....My goal is $1,000. Maybe next year.”
In this uncertain world of bankruptcies, bailouts and buyouts, who better to shore up a fragile ego than a certified celebrity coiffeur and confidant who understands what the rich and mighty already know: If you can’t afford it, so much the better.
“Cheaper than a surgeon,” says Farel. “And it makes you feel good right away.”
At $900 for a cut and blow-dry, is his the most expensive salon in New York?
“I try,” he laughs.
Julien Farel is the Hermès of hair with an impressive list of clients: Ivanka Trump, Richard Gere, Catherine Deneuve, a host of Tisches and Bushes, the late Natasha Richardson, Carl Bernstein, Salma Hayek, Kate Moss, Kate Beckinsale and Rafael Nadal, whose hair he cut during last year’s US Open, causing quite a stir and a scramble for hair clippings as souvenirs, according to a piece in the New York Post.
“I met Julien a couple of years ago, by chance,” says Nadal. “I got to New York and needed a haircut to be ready for the Open. He did a fantastic job. Now every year I go to his salon to get ready for the tournament. He’s the one who came up with the idea of shortening my hair. I love it.”
Farel’s signature is seamless, architectural precision, making every hair bond to another; once it starts to grow out, the locks grow symmetrically. He understands texture, the shape of a face, the chin, the nose. His emphasis is on making each cut the most perfect accessory. “I had the vision,” he says, “and I applied it to the technique. At this price, you have to be good.”
His clients come to him not only for the look he creates, but for the VIP private rooms and attention to service not likely found at the fromage-y Hair Cuttery. And now his empire is expanding, with a second Manhattan salon at the recently opened five-star Setai Fifth Avenue; it’s part of the hotel’s Auriga spa, which spans the entire fourth floor at more than 11,500 square feet and features a rejuvenating Ice Cave and an Aqua Grotto. Next up: a line of hair products developed in Italy that promises to regrow dead hair follicles. “People tell me, ‘I can’t grow my hair’…I love taking bad hair, short hair, disgusting hair, and making it sexy! Glamorous! Fluffy!”