Julien Farel Looks to Hamptons for Inspiration
by mickey rapkin
Late on a summer Friday night, Julien Farel leaves his eponymous Manhattan salon and tucks into a leisurely dinner before heading out East. His home in East Hampton sits on almost two acres, and it’s the kind of fashionable escape on which you expect to find the man responsible for Lauren Bush’s cut—not to mention the looks for other A-list Hamptonite clients such as Richard Gere, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rachel Weisz.
Farel’s portfolio includes the original Madison Avenue location, plus a second salon and fitness center, JF Gymnastique, which opened in 2008. In 2009 came the Cabo San Lucas branch (inside the lush Capella Pedregal hotel), followed in 2010 by a third location, at the Setai Fifth Avenue hotel. Which is to say nothing of his product line, which resulted from five years of research in Italy. “If your scalp is healthy, your hair will be healthy,” Farel says. “Grass doesn’t grow in sand.”
For the product line, which launched in 2011, “we didn’t want to put our name on just another soap,” says Farel, who found inspiration in the Hamptons, particularly for the serene hues of the packaging. “Our JF Hydrate Restore’s very lightblue label was inspired by the beauty of the Hamptons and its water.”
The road to success has been a curious one for Farel—from his childhood growing up on the outskirts of Lyon, France, to summers spent in the Hamptons. As a teenager, he expected to be a soccer star, but a detour led him to the French Alps, where he supported his skiing habit by working in a salon. “The salon would stay open until midnight,” Farel says. “People were skiing during the day, not coming in to do hair. It was the opposite of the traditional.” There Farel was discovered by the icon Jacques Dessange, and after an apprenticeship, Farel came to New York to open Dessange’s school.
Like so many before him, Farel imagined he would stay in the States for a year while he learned English, but it’s almost 20 years later and he’s still here. In 2001, after an extended stint with Frederic Fekkai, he broke out on his own, eventually cutting hair for Ivanka Trump, Salma Hayek, Kate Moss, and—at his pop-up shop at the US Open—Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Is cutting hair for two tennis rivals a conflict of interest? “You can’t cheer for one or the other,” Farel says, smiling.
It’s a rare moment of diplomacy for the man who has made a career out of breaking the rules. Defying another edict, when it came to house-hunting in the Hamptons, Farel and his wife bought the first house their broker showed them. It’s not that the couple was feeling impetuous; it’s that they knew what they wanted. After a year of renting in Sag Harbor, he realized what he really craved was the East Hampton light. “With the skylight,” he says, “you have the sun and the light all the time. You always feel like you’re outside.”
Plenty of people come to the Hamptons for the nightlife, but this father of two young daughters—Chloe, six, and Manon, four—enjoys the quieter pastimes, especially this Father’s Day. He and his family live near Three Mile Harbor, one house from the water, and some of his favorite memories involve taking his daughters on a scavenger hunt for seashells. “They don’t have to cross a street and there are no cars; that’s convenient,” he says. And when the little ones need a treat, he takes them to The 1770 House in East Hampton, for an early Sunday dinner before heading back to the city.
When asked if his daughters might follow in his footsteps, Farel demurs. “I want them to understand that money doesn’t come from the sky,” he says, “and to appreciate what they have.” But he doesn’t care what path they follow, as long they find something they love. “Whatever you do,” Farel says, “do it with your heart.”
photography by eric striffler