Mirror, Mirror: Pampering by Labrecque

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Paul Labrecque blow-dries a client's hair at his three-month-old salon in the Rittenhouse hotel. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)

Rihanna. Kate Hudson. Michelle Obama.

All of these women have had their hair styled at one of the three Paul Labrecque New York locations.

But while names like these would bring an undisputed level of swank to any beauty establishment, they don't single-handedly keep the salons' keratin treatments straightening, balayage processes coloring, or scissors trimming.

That's why a team at the three-month-old, $5 million Hair by Paul Labrecque salon in the newly renovated Rittenhouse hotel is focused on building a book of Philadelphia A-listers.

Slowly but surely, they are getting more boldface names, including socialite Sabrina Tamburino Thorne; Jimmy Rollins' wife, Johari Smith; and Tina Lai, wife of Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. William Sasso, chairman of the Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young law firm, and venture capitalist Eugene Block get their hair cut there, too.

To build his clientele, Labrecque is working with Kelly Boyd, a well-known public relations guru who likes a good blowout and a little gloss to enhance her color.

It's as if the Rittenhouse salon has all of a sudden become a beauty hub for the city's discreetly rich. Within the 15,000-square-foot wellness space that includes a gym and a men's barbershop, ideas are born in saunas, and deals are made under dryers.

And if there's any question about who can afford such services, a wash, cut, blow-dry, and color with Labrecque will run you roughly $750 to $1,000. Depending on hair type, extensions are either sewn in or applied with medical tape. "They are still hot now," Labrecque says.

Labrecque, with his trademark bleached-blond curls, trim-fitting Dior suits, and chunky skull jewelry - he wears silver rings on a bunch of fingers - is a powerhouse in the New York beauty world.

"I just love beauty," Labrecque gushes as he attached wheat-blond extensions to longtime client Nancy Stone's thick tresses Wednesday morning. Stone lives in New York, but is staying in Philadelphia while she recovers from surgery.

"I wasn't sure what I was going to do when I had to come here," said Stone as she ran her fingers through her hair.

With a total of 10,000 clients that also include celebrity fashion stylist June Ambrose (whose own client list includes Will Smith and Jay-Z) and Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami, Labrecque - along with his business partner and husband, Brian Cantor - have a salon in Chelsea, an 800-square-foot space in the exclusive Core Club, and a flagship location on East 65th Street. The two live in the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn.

For eight years, Labrecque has been the main hair stylist for Pamella Roland's New York Fashion Week runway show, and he works closely with the styling team for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.

Hair by Paul Labrecque in the Rittenhouse Spa & Club is another feather in Philadelphia's fashion-cred cap. But their first foray outside New York City is a bridge business from Labrecque's lifestyle-focused salons to more scaled-back services for the $10 million beauty empire.

Labrecque is in talks with J.P. Morgan to open a blowout bar and mani/pedi space at the global investment company's Manhattan location.

"The future is in à la carte services," said Cantor. "It's kind of like cycling in the workout world. People want to get in and get out, but they still want luxury and they still want to look their best."

Labrecque got his start in the 1980s training as a stylist in London, where he met Cantor. The two moved to New York in 1987 and opened the first Paul Labrecque Salon, a 200-square-foot space on Columbus Avenue.

After seven years, Labrecque expanded to a second location on Columbus, where he met Barbra Streisand. The two became so close that Labrecque appeared in her 1996 movie The Mirror Has Two Faces.

 Two years ago, Labrecque met Rittenhouse owner Neil Shah, who became a client (as did his wife). Shah was looking for a salon to replace Adolph Biecker, which closed with the hotel's renovation. They made a deal.

Cancer survivor Bobbie Pomerantz of West Chester used to travel to New York every few months for Labrecque's services, but now she works around his Philadelphia schedule. On Wednesday, she drove here to get her now-thick black hair cut and styled.

In between a snip here and a fluff there, the two chatted about old friends and Florida real estate. Labrecque wants to open a fifth salon in Palm Beach, eventually.

"Coming to Paul is like coming home," said Pomerantz. "He cuts my hair to my face. He knows my face. He knows me."

 


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