Allow me to give you a quick bio on the man whose name is about to become (if you haven’t heard it yet) as synonymous with haircare and styling as Paul Mitchell. This is a rags to riches story you don’t want to miss.
Julien Farel is from a tiny village near Lyon. His parents worked in textiles, selling fabrics and house linens. After their divorce, living with his mother, Julien began attending professional soccer school, but found he preferred competitive skiing. The man who would become the stylist of choice for the US Open, had begun his relationship with sporting. It was during his French Alps skiing years that he discovered two other loves: architecture and styling hair. Farel, to the world of style’s credit, couldn’t afford architecture school. So he turned to hairstyling.
He’s worked his way up from running salons and schools for the likes of Jaques Dessange and Frederic Fekkai to creating his own product line and running his own 5th and Madison Ave. salons. He also happens to have locations in Cabo San Lucas, a perennial pop-up at the US Open, as well as a namesake location in Miami and Florida. To date, he’s worked with some of today’s most powerful women like Ivanka Trump, Lauren Bush Lauren, Rachel Weisz and Kate Moss, to name a few.
I had an opportunity to chat with Julien during a typically busy day. He was beyond gracious and warm. Aside from his hard work, and talent, it’s no question to what one can attribute his success: a genuine love for people and women, as well as gratitude. But I’ll let him tell you in his own words below, from his passion and what it’s like to sit in his chair to his philosophies on beauty and being an entrepreneur.
How His Passion for Architecture Relates to His Passion for Hair: It’s like architecture, it’s like building volume into a space. So it’s a lot of geometry in a space and it’s about understanding why one haircut, and especially our haircuts, can grow out better than the competition. And also why we strive to be consistent, because there is a math behind it, there’s a structure. A lot of people think about it like an artist thinks, but they can’t recreate the same thing. It’s really the way the haircut grows out…it’s what’s going to give the foundation the final result. And also what’s going to make your life at home easy.
On Sitting In His Chair for the First Time: The first question I will ask is how do they feel about themselves? That’s question number one. [Then] how do they feel comfortable? What do they have in mind? Then I ask, why would they see themselves this way? And sometimes they’re wrong. Then I give them my advice. Sometimes they say this is what I want you to do this time, and then the next time they trust you more and they open them-self a little bit more. You’re not going to say no. A client wants a trim, and you will do it. But slowly you open them up…you start to give them ideas and they can think about it. We’re not in France here, and the customer is always is right. You listen to them. And you ask how much time do you spend on your hair? What products do you use? Do you wash and go? Styling products? Do you use a brush?
What Goes Through His Mind As He Cuts: I’m looking at their personality. I’m looking at what they do with their life. I’m looking at their body. I make them stand up, I’m looking at how they stand. I’m looking at every proportion because hair is all about proportion. That’s the bottom line. You have the volume in the space, and you have to build. This is when you’re going to start to design something on someone.
On Universal Beauty: We all come from next door. It all depends on how we put ourselves together. If not, we all can be very average, even if you take a celebrity when they’re not made up. It’s about putting everything together, to arrive at a final puzzle, a masterpiece. It has to be floating together on a natural line, and this is what makes the most beauty. Where people don’t really know what you did. And people comment and they say, “You look great!” This is what you really want to hear.
On Taking the Risk to Go His Own Way: The good news is I’ll tell you after 13 years, I was not thinking! You just do it! You know it’s almost like having a child, you don’t know what you’re getting into. You just do it and then you figure it out. It was scary, you know. I opened in 2001, my first [review] article said, “Do we really need another expensive Madison Avenue Salon?” I was like, “Wow. Welcome to the game.” My team said, “Oh my God, oh my God, we should lower our price!” And I said, “No. We’re not going to lower our price. We’re going to raise our quality. We’re going to do a better job, a better service.” There’s an American sentence that says, “Build it and they will come!” Just don’t think, just do it. And let destiny happen. My favorite book is The Alchemist from Paulo Coelho. Don’t think, just work and it will come.
On Being a Perfectionist: I love work, I love perfection. Sometimes it’s really painful! Because wherever you go, you don’t always see the best thing, you see 1% that’s missing. You wonder why can they not go the extra mile?
On New York and Being at the Top: You have to give 110% of yourself. [In my country] they don’t have that mentality of work, work, work. They don’t! And nobody really understands. Everyone wants a vacation and to work as little as possible. I tell you, there’s only one New York, and it’s hard to go anywhere else. Because if you don’t work to go up, you go down. You always have to work. When you get to 110% you go to 120%. If you want to be at the top, you have to be the best and care—and care for the people. I love working. I love America for that. This country has given me everything, including my wife and children.
Why His New Location at the Loews Regency Hotel is Going to Be Different: We’re going to bring home the power coif, to the home of the power breakfast. So you know, we work with some of the most powerful people from power brokers to New York heavy hitters. We’re turning a salon-spa, into an anti-aging business. We’ve created a line of products with anti-aging haircare. All our treatments will be about anti-aging. I will do whatever I can to make this dream come true. You have a powerful man like John Tisch [chairmen of Loews hotels] come to you somehow and I feel blessed, really blessed. We’re going to raise it to the next level, in terms of services, in terms of customer service. My dream is to rise above the client’s expectations. Give clients more and more and more for their money. I want to create a home away from home. For the client to feel comfortable. Help the client, make them feel special and beautiful.
On Power Hair: You need to walk into a room feeling confident, feeling strong. To have a cut that’s fitting your face, you can take advantage of the cheekbone, the jawline. You feel the best ever! Modern glamour, confidence and sophistication. Sideswept bangs can always give you an attitude and an edge.
Why His Anti-Aging Products Matter: It’s a philosophy, I worked five years on this. I wanted to do something different. I always wanted to bring something new on the market. For me, applying the science of skincare to the scalp and hair was very important. Therefore we incorporate that, by taking the most important ingredients for skincare like hyaluronic acid and resveratrol and integrate that into haircare. The skin is the gateway to the problems of the hair. The scalp is where everything starts. Only haircare products that truly work with one application focus on delivering the nourishing ingredients to the scalp. If your scalp is not healthy, it’s not possible for your hair to be shiny and healthy.
Never Letting His Feet Leave the Ground: We always talk about my celebrity clientele, heavy hitters, rich people. We also have a lot of clients that don’t have the money. They save and it becomes a special occasion. I have a client who’s taking a plane from St. Louis, bringing five girlfriends, paying the bill for everybody and taking back their private plane. And people coming from London. On the other hand, I have people from Jackson Hole and Florida taking three planes to get as cheap a ticket as possible. They arrive back at home at midnight. It’s so special for them to save their money to come twice a year. I’m very human, I come from a very small village. I don’t want to lose my feet from off the ground. No matter who it is. I don’t care if they give me $200 or if they give me nothing. We’re lucky to touch the rich and famous, but I also love the people who have nothing, who work so hard, to get themselves a little piece of luxury.
No Women, No World: I always feel very blessed to get to the best part of the world, which is women! You know if we don’t have women, there’s no world. Even Bob Marley would say, “No woman, No cry.” But no women, no world! You have Beyonce who’s singing, “Women run the world,” and it’s so true.