Posted on April 2, 2014
Julien Farel–celebrity hairstylist, haircare innovator and entrepreneur–has been perfecting his craft for over 20 years. Hailing from a small village in France, Farel now owns three salons in New York City, Miami and Cabo San Lucas. He is also known as the official hairstylist for the US Open and has created his own line of anti-aging hairstyling products. We recently had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Farel who shared with Sola some of his vast business knowledge and wisdom gleamed from years of hard work and perseverance. Check out the Q&A below and learn from an undeniable, true industry pro!
Growing up, did you always know you wanted to go into hairstyling?
It was while skiing in the French Alps that I discovered my love and passion for architecture and styling hair. I always had a passion for architecture and design and dreamed of a career in the field. However, at that time, I couldn’t afford to go to school for it. I began to realize that styling hair is architectural in nature, as it involves customizing the space and volume on a person’s head. So, I followed my passion in hairstyling and here I am today.
When you were first starting out in the salon industry, what were your career objectives? Did you always see yourself growing into the entrepreneur you are today or did your objectives evolve over time?
In the beginning, my career objectives were simple: work, work, work in order to build my way to the top. I think that in order to achieve your goals, you always have to give 100% of yourself. As time goes on, objectives evolve. After achieving my dream of opening a salon three times over, my goals naturally gravitated towards product innovation.
What are 3 important things to keep in mind for young hairdressers starting their own salon?
There is no mystery to success- just passion, determination and perseverance when everyone else quits.
Can you talk a bit about the difference between being a successful hairdresser and building a successful brand?
It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. There are many successful hair dressers, and to become a successful brand, you need to take risks. Build your brand, define your brand magic, and work hard towards where you want to be.
An important part of any business is firmly establishing your own identity. How did you establish your specific salon identity?
Since my salons were born and thrive in NYC, the New York way of life is very much built into our brand’s DNA. We always have a focus on ‘Power Hair,’ giving you the competitive edge to perform at your highest level to conquer the demanding city. I work with some of the most powerful people – from power brokers to celebs to NY’s heavy hitters – and confidence is key when doing business.
What is the most valuable piece of business advice someone has shared with you?
Be careful of taking on too much, too fast, too soon.
Have you had mentors over the years who have helped you grow and establish your business?
At the beginning of my career, my mentor was icon Jacques Dessange who taught me everything about the hair salon industry. My dad has always there for me and is a wonderful coach. My wife, Suelyn, is an absolute marketing machine and has taught me so much about brand development. Without these three people, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What motivates and inspires you to keep your business evolving and growing?
My goal is to give everyone I come across beautiful, healthy hair. What I love doing the most as a hairstylist is picking up my clients’ subtle intricacies and giving them a cut that reveals their personality through their hair. Knowing that I help people look and feel their absolute best inspires me to continually to raise our quality in service.
As an Anti-Aging product pioneer, driving innovation with proven skincare ingredients like stem cells and Hyaluronic Acid, motivates me to create the most effective Anti-Aging haircare. I define high-quality haircare as a products Made in Italy with Hyaluronic Acid, plant based stem cells which are also SLS free, paraben free because we know detergents are for your dishes, clothes and cars. Creating haircare gives me the opportunity to share my hair philosophy for those who cannot visit me in New York, Miami or Cabo San Lucas.
What prompted you to begin your own product line? Did you see a specific need in the hair care market not being met?
Hair and scalp health is often an overlooked facet in the beauty regimen – until you lose it! Just like how your skin ages over time, your scalp and hair also ages, loosing elasticity, volume and luster. I wanted to change the way people see their hair health, by applying the science of skincare to the scalp and hair. That is why our exclusive A2B technology uses the highest-grade, clinically proven ingredients to create the most optimal environment for healthy hair growth. All ingredients and formulas are made in Italy. Your scalp literally holds the roots to your hair’s health. If your scalp isn’t the best, your hair will suffer.
Can you describe an average workday for you?
Most people don’t think of hairdressers with a highly structured way of life since it is the world of hair, but my routine is incredibly regimented and precise. Being a hairdresser is very physically and emotionally demanding, if you think about it…I am psychologist, artist, entrepreneur, and athlete all in one.
Every day, I wake up at 5:00am and go for a run or swim depending on the weather. When I get home, I like to shower quickly using Julien Farel Anti-Aging Haircare Restore since it is a one-step product for cleansing and treating hair. After getting dressed, I head out the door to drop off the girls at school. After back to back hair appointments, I always take a lunch break by myself to have lentil soup, a green apple and water. I take this time to reflect on the morning and plan out the rest of the day.
You have found a very successful niche for yourself beyond your typical salon clients by working with the US Open and developing anti-aging retail products. How have these opportunities influenced and expanded your business?
Most importantly, these opportunities align with my approach to wellness. It has been an honor to be the official hairstylist for the US Open for the past seven years. No matter how busy it can get, I believe these opportunities are extremely important in building brand awareness and expanding our client base, weather through tennis pros, press, or word of mouth. With my business expanding, it actually keeps me young!
There is obviously a bit of a shift between being a “hairdresser” and becoming an “entrepreneur.” Name three ways stylists can begin to make that exciting step in their career.
1. Always keep working, this mentality will keep you driven to do whatever you want.
2. Exercise will give you positive energy to take on more challenges.
Did you always know you wanted to expand your branding into retail?
My mission was to create hair products to help others restore their hair. By expanding to retail, more people can experience my anti-aging hair approach and truly see a difference in their hair.
Can your retail products currently be found in stores outside your salon? Are there plans to expand to other stores?
Yes. Currently, our retail products can be found on DermStore.com, Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, Sephora Italy, La Rinascente in Milan, Le Bon Marche in Paris, INNO in Belgium and we plan to launch at Selfridges in London very soon.
What’s next for you? Where do you see you brand and your business in five years?
What’s next? Well, my flagship Madison Avenue Salon is currently relocating to the Loews Regency Hotel for the brand opening of the Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa. We’re curating an incredible team of professionals, exclusive products, as well as unique power treatments and services to care for the needs of our clients. My goal is to redefine the beauty experience for the ultimate New Yorker.