I was recently introduced to Yves Durif, the founder of The Yves Durif Salon at The Carlyle Hotel. Yves was born in Grenoble, France and by the age of 17 had already begun his hair dressing career at the legendary Jacque Dessange Coiffure in Paris. By 21 he was working in Montreal where he mostly cut and styled hair on the set of films and television. At the age of 30, Yves moved to New York City expressly to work with the legendary Bruno Pittini at the Bruno Dessange Salon. In the mid 80s and early 90s Dessange was ground zero, turning out what was akin to the brat pack of celebrity hairdressers. These included Frederic Fekkai, Michel Aleman, Odile Gilbert, Serge Normant and many of the other coiffeurs that subsequently became the most sought after hairstylists of their time.
The Yves Durif Salon
The space is extremely luxurious and welcoming. The entrance has a distinctly old world European sophistication and warmth about it while the cutting room itself is bright and modern. I encountered a number of television personalities during my visit.
First thing, I was whisked away for a brief consultation with Yves. He insists on meeting his clients, sans a salon robe, so he can assess their style and energy. He does this all in minutes. Yves explained that facial geometry is perhaps one of the most important details. Is the face oval? Round? An upside down triangle? Yes – those exist! If one has a perfectly oval shaped face, no hair is needed to complete a beautiful look. Yves remarked that many Ethiopians, for example, have characteristically oval shaped faces and so these women can easily pull off a short buzz cut or completely bald look gracefully. If the head is any other shape, the hair must be manipulated to form an oval in tandem with the face. A long face, like mine, needs volume on the sides to create an oval, whereas a round or upside down triangular shaped face requires volume at the top.
Instead of asking the client what she has in mind style-wise, Yves will first tell you what he thinks. Yves remarked:
“Many people come in with a strong sense of what they want, but often what they want is not well suited to their features and lifestyle. Let me tell you what I see… There is nothing wrong when people come in with a picture of a style they like. It is my job to interpret that style and adapt it for them.”
When looking at my hair, Yves asserted “curly hair is typically the last texture that professionals master. It can be difficult to gage because it is unpredictable. You don’t know where it is going to land. I know curly hair.” Lucky for me, Yves does know curly hair!
Yves’ signature shampoo technique
After the consultation I was dressed in a robe and lead to a sink where my hair was washed using Yves’ signature shampoo technique adapted for thick, curly hair like mine. As basic as it might sound, the majority of people do not know how to shampoo their hair properly. The most important part of any shampoo regimen is cleansing the scalp and roots properly. Typically, too much emphasis is placed on sudsing up the lengths of the hair and not enough on the scalp and roots which need the most attention as this is where the sebaceous glands are producing toxins and oils that can affect hair adversely. The washer started by running a pre-shampooing hair oil through my hair and then brushed it through with The Yves Durif Vented Brush ends first and then gradually brushing down the lengths of my hair. She let it sit for 5 minutes and then rinsed.
She then mixed two pumps of shampoo with water in Yves’ signature applicator bottle, shook the mixture and applied it directly to my scalp in sections. This process keeps the shampoo concentrated on the scalp and roots where it is needed. She then massaged the entire scalp thoroughly for a full five minutes. This stimulates circulation and hair growth. She then ran The Yves Durif Comb from my scalp to ends - once again applying pressure at the scalp to stimulate circulation and then combing through the hair to distribute the shampoo evenly through the length of my hair, gently cleaning the tips without causing abrasion. Next, she applied a walnut sized amount of conditioner, avoiding the roots and scalp, distributing the conditioner through the lengths of my hair. She once again, used Yves’ Comb to distribute and rinse the conditioner. She finished with a cold water rinse to seal the cuticle.
I was escorted back to Yves where he asked me to stand and turn my head upside down. From there he cut some strategic layers. Though my hair is curly, it is straight underneath in certain sections. Yves took those pieces and texturized them with a razor so that they would blend in to match the other 97% of my mane. I was impressed because though I was keenly aware of these rebellious straight patches, no one else had ever mentioned them. After applying some styling products – one of which is a new staple in my hair care regimen, Shu Uemura Touch Of Gloss, Yves twisted the bottom straight strands in small hair clips to dry to further assist in texturizing them to match the rest of my curly locks.
No cell phone please
Yves is a big believer of being in the moment and brings this philosophy to his work. Though early in his career, he would see up to 42 clients a day, devoting 15 minutes to each, his practice has evolved. Today he is dedicated to creating a mindful space. Cutting hair is an art form and Yves strives to create a safe space to be creative. Yves also believes that the client has his part to play too. “The experience is an exchange” Yves noted. And so Yves has one rule. When you sit in his chair – no cell phone! If you brought a picture to show a style you want on your phone, that is fine but Yves believes in creating the conditions necessary to produce great results requires mindfulness on both sides. Yves desires his clients to be present with him while he is cutting. He needs them to be in the moment, otherwise the connection between Yves and his client is severed.
It’s all in the hands
One last detail that I found charmingly haunting was a visual symbol of how much Yves’ work is quite literally etched into his body physically. The hand that he holds his shears in has permanently taken on the shape of his hand grasping them, whether he has them in hand or not. Very telling. As for me, this was quite possibly the best haircut I’ve ever had.
By: Alyssa Barrie Weiss, Twitter: @AlyssaBarrie
Photo credit: Alexander Berg