“Colgate again!” In the middle of his bustling Madison Avenue salon, Julien Farel (605 Madison Ave.; 212-888-8988; julienfarel.com) is sitting at a table strewn with first-class amenity bags from various airlines. “Colgate’s doing very well,” he says, pulling out yet another tube of the toothpaste. Farel, the French-born hairstylist with a celebrity following and salons in New York and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, has agreed to undertake a highly unscientific study of these complimentary kits. His objective: to pick the four—results below—with the best mix of the practical (earplugs, tissues) and the posh (Bulgari cologne). Flying first-class, he says, “should be pleasing to the senses,” and these details count.
Farel himself is all about the details. In 2001 he left a high-ranking position with Frédéric Fekkai in order to start his own salon, where he hoped to create a more intimate experience for his clientele. Even now, as CEO of the much-expanded Julien Farel Group, he’s still on site every day, giving his carefully constructed cuts. After judging the kits he says, “Above all, quality products are key. My ideal bag would focus more on shaving,” with cream and aftershave from Hommage, which he considers the best on the market. “You should fly first class and think, Wow, that was unbelievable! Not, Ten grand and I get Colgate?” —julie coe
“This looks like 007 would use it,” Farel says of the sleek blue Dopp kit British designer Anya Hindmarch created for BA. “They are very faithful to their own country,” he notes, examining the products from D.R. Harris & Co., a London pharmacy founded in 1790. “The Marvis toothpaste is very chic. It blows Colgate out of the water. And the socks are great—you can reuse them to play soccer.”
For Farel, the Emirates kit is a mixed bag: “I love the Bulgari products—they’re very dapper—and the classic Wilkinson razor, but they don’t seem to go with the cheesy Axe deodorant and the plastic comb-slash-brush,” he says as he tests out the brush on his wife (and director of business development), Suelyn Farel. “I also love Gillette shaving cream, so that doesn’t bother me. It’s the quality that’s important.”
Farel is immediately drawn to the bag, handmade with beads and appliqués, from designer Christina Yu’s Vietnam-based company Ipa-Nima. “It’s very unusual,” he says. “They’re being innovative, not at all conservative.” He also appreciates the homeopathic nature of Australian company Aesop’s products. “They use calming ingredients like lavender and chamomile.” The wooden hairbrush scores well, too.
“They have great PJs and slippers,” Farel says, “though mouthwash and a facial cleanser would’ve been nice, too.” Applying some of the Ferragamo Tuscan Soul body lotion to his wrist, he says, “I usually don’t like scented things, but this is very light.” When Suelyn points out that the gray-and-black messenger bag could also easily carry a small laptop, Farel seems indifferent: “It’s fine,” he says, more impressed with the sturdy reusable toothbrush holder.