From A-list actresses and top models to Upper East Side social swans, there is no doubt Julien Farel and his talented team are often behind NYC’s most stunning heads of hair. As he toasts his 20th anniversary this month, the beauty industry icon checks in to share both a fun look back—and an eye on the future.
What first inspired you to get into the beauty business? I am very far away from my small village in Lyon of 1,000 people and leaving my passion to be a professional soccer player to start a new life with Jacques Dessange in Paris and then on to New York. I think it was faith, destiny and having the great luck to meet an amazing mentor in Jacques Dessange that started my career. I learned how to cut hair and how to grow his business. I love math; I have been an excellent student to suck in the technique and over time adapt to the American market. I was then sent by the same JD to open their school in 1992.
Do you remember what was trending in terms of hair in those early days?’80s looks, superlong hair, less glamour, perms and wash and go. I started cutting hair in 1982 in my grandmother’s kitchen while working in a salon three weeks per month plus one week in hair school. It was the time of the franchise business for salons, Jacques Dessange, Jean Louis David, Mod’s Hair, Tony & Guy, Vidal Sassoon, Llongueras and many others. What is a surprise for me is that we are still using the same identical products used in 1982 in my grandmother’s kitchen. This is why after five years of research, we have been creating a new technology, a shampoo that does not foam, no lathering to respect the scalp and hair, which keeps it hydrated and alive.
You are the man behind some of NYC’s best manes. What do you think is truly the secret to great hair? Grass does not grow on sand. The scalp is the secret of the hair, and using the right shampoo when you clean your scalp and hair on a daily basis is the key secret. The scalp is skin; we are respecting the pH of the scalp by not using any sulfate when washing with Julien Farel Restore—100% sulfate-free, no detergent, no bubbles, no lather, no foam, to keep your hair alive and grow forever.
Twenty years in the business is a long time! You must have some war stories. Any memorable moments or looks that stand out over the years? So many stories. The biggest one is to learn how to be patient. I recall when I had been offered to move our first salon on Madison to the Loews Regency hotel, to a 10,000-square-foot space. Jon Tisch said to me while in construction, ‘It is big. It is very big.’ I was really getting nervous. Then the day before opening, I received a sweet email saying ‘Showtime!’ That was in 2014. One hundred twenty employees and 91,000 clients per year, I am grateful to Mr. Tisch and feel blessed every single day. Overnight success is 10 years of hard work, and you start making money after 15 years.
My biggest success is our team; without them we [would] have not grown as far. I really believe the sky is not the limit, it is just the view!
What is up next for you and the business? We are looking to grow our salon business, a few different locations to serve and pamper more clients around the country, nothing to disclose yet. We are also working on our product line of successful shampoos called Restore. At this time it is just work, work, work.
Anything on your bucket list for the future? Curing hair loss is my bigger passion and motto! Our Julien Farel Restore nonfoaming shampoo is in the works, and the clinical tests to prove we will keep your hair alive forever.
Photography by: FROM TOP: PHOTO BY ALEXANDER KRIVITSKIY/UNSPLASH; PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND