“I’m from the Champagne area in the East side of France. I grew up in a village of 160 people, and my parents were farmers. We had no money; it was a village in the middle of nowhere, and on Sundays, my mother and all her friends used to work together on their hair, doing the color, doing the cut, because there wasn’t a stylist around. I have those memories—the smell memories—of ammonia and things like that. It was fascinating to see all of those women getting together on Sunday morning to do their hair—that’s how it started for me. During the day, my mother was not that glamorous because she had to work on the farm, but on Sundays, and when she had to dress up, she was. And I loved the fact that it was a big transformation, that during the day she had to work in the garden with animals, but when she had to go out: the perfume, the smell of the products, the hair, the dresses—she wished she would have been a town girl...And when I said, ‘I don’t want to be a farmer, I want to be a stylist,’ she was happy.
And I started at 14 years old as an apprentice in a local salon. In the old times, hair color was a very artisan kind of system—it would take two hours to fit the hair for coloring. I started in the countryside with a girl who was from the old school, and she always told me right away, ‘If you don’t take good care of hair, you’ll never get something good out of it.’ ‘You’re not an artist, you’re an artisan,’ she always said, ‘and you’ve got to work it to make it the healthiest as possible in order to make it the best.’ I loved the way she trained me. Right away, she liked me, and she believed that I was good, or I don’t know what, but she gave me my start right away. I do only color; I’m a terrible cutter. She said to me right away, ‘It’s better you should become a good hair colorist. They are very rare and people will be very loyal to you. Hair stylists, there are tons of good ones.’
I went to Paris at 17. From the countryside right to Paris: freedom, parties! I worked for Jean Louis David, a big chain of salons, 600 salons. At the time, Jean Louis David had the best studio team, and one of the good hair stylists called me from the set of a L’Oréal commercial with Stephanie Seymour. He said, ‘I can’t make her hair shine. It’s all grey and dull.’ And he asked, ‘Can you come in and do color?’ I arrived, I had no idea who Stephanie Seymour was, no idea who he was, and I did it, and she liked it. She was a low brown, and I just did a gold shade, with no peroxide. She loved it, and after she wanted some highlights. When she comes to Paris, I do her hair, with pleasure. And I became the hair colorist of the top models at the time. They’ve done so many color changes, you know. They have to change hair color four times a year to be top models. Kristen McMenamy (4), I did her hair for 15 years during the top model time. She was the one who was always ahead. Linda always copied her!
At 24 years old, I opened my first salon in Paris, and it was just color, no hairstyling. We had no money so I put silk on the wall—it was lovely, like a candy box. One night I was getting dinner at a charity thing with Claudia Schiffer, and Catherine Deneuve (8) said to Claudia, ‘Where do you do your blonde?’ And Claudia said, ‘Go to Christophe, but you’ve got to know that he’s not styling hair.’ Catherine called me once, and I was shaking because it was a dream for me to meet her. When I was a child, I had a poster of Peau d'Âne in my bedroom, and it was a dream. When she came, she saw I was shaking, so she kept her head down because each time she looked at me I was shaking—she’s truly fabulous. Eighteen years I’ve been taking care of her hair, and we became friends after ten years because she doesn’t give up friendship; she’s very protective about herself. And every time I travel with her, like for the Oscars, I’m working, I’m not on vacation.
Anyway, after that, all the actresses came to me, which was lucky because, you know fashion—after all the top models left, what would I have done? Because with top models, people started to hate them because some of them would say, ‘I’m not waking up unless I get $10,000,’ and all of a sudden—gone! So, I’m glad that I have actresses.
Twelve years ago, I started my products. I’m really trying to take good care of hair because I know that you can have beautiful color but it’s not going to last for long if you don’t have a good base. It’s like makeup—if you don’t have beautiful skin, the makeup won’t last. I have a website with a lot of videos to explain to girls how to wash their hair, how to dry their hair in a gentle way. In America, the girls wash their hair everyday with products that coat the scalp, so right after the hair is flat. In California—Los Angeles, San Francisco—I see that it’s changing. But they do too much with their hair. It’s terrible for hair, you wash it with these products, with boiling water. And after this, they say, ‘My hair is becoming brassy!’ Sure, it’s becoming brassy.
I’ve been a color expert with L’Oréal since nine years, and I’m not just the face on the box, I’m really fighting to do the products well—the Healthy Look, and the Casting Crème Gloss, we redid everything, in France, in England. In America, it’s coming in the next two months. I’m very proud of this because we don’t want to make color look like a miserable thing to add onto your greys. Beautiful 40-year-old women get crazy when they start to get greys in their hair, and they get crazy when they look like their hair has color, so we really want for it to look like a normal, kind of dull hair color—I don’t put too much warmth or too much gold; I put more iridescent pink-ish for it to stay cooler for longer. It’s like when you make a chocolate mousse, you always add a little salt to evolve the chocolate taste, and that’s why the chocolate mousse is divine. Sometimes you just add a tiny drop of something, and it changes it all without being noticeable.
I like when the color is not obvious, when you’re going to say to a girl, ‘Oh, you look good.’ I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, you have a beautiful hair color.’ But it’s true that I like red. Copper-red is so sensual, it’s warming up your skin—though it’s not for every type. But when you think of Françoise Dorléac (2) or Stéphane Audran (1, 7), they were so sensual and naughty. To me, blonde is easy, brunette is beautiful because it’s like a little black dress—it’s chic, it works, and it gives a beautiful effect. Red is not easy, but when it works, it is extremely sexy.”
—as told to ITG