If Elsa met John…
Elsa Schiaparelli, the trailblazing designer who died in 1973, loved nature and the zodiac, and worked with artists such as Salvador Dalí. Parisian hairstylist John Nollet, whose client book reads like a list of Hollywood and French cinema A-listers, has a fondness for insects, the night sky and creating magic with whimsical wigs.
Nollet on Wednesday was in New York for “The Secret Garden of Elsa Schiaparelli” held at Bergdorf Goodman‘s fourth-floor butterfly-festooned Schiaparelli boutique, where he launched a collection of hair accessories inspired by Schiaparelli’s favorite themes — bugs, butterflies and shooting stars — and house codes such as padlocks.
“I used the DNA of the House of Schiaparelli. The base of the creations is feathers,” Nollet said of the delicate hair pieces. Some hug the head like an open cap, but are made from thin metal worked like filigree with butterflies in the design. Others have sprays of feathers decorated with rhinestones, inspired by Schiaparelli’s interest in the heavens.
“I met the Schiaparelli dream team at The Salons boutique at 1 Place Vendôme. They were working on the clothes and there was a big butterfly and insects,” Nollet said.
“It’s very rare that Schiaparelli [is sold outside of] the Place Vendôme salon,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and director of women’s fashion and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. “They came to this store, which is the only Bergdorf Goodman store in the world. Our sellers and clients appreciate something there’s not a lot of it. It’s limited editions. Only so many of each item is produced.”
Fargo admired Nollet’s delicate, “yet incredibly dramatic” adornments for hair, including one piece that fanned out like a collar at the back of a woman’s head. “There was another piece that looked like a sparkling dotted line with a simple diamanté line that formed an arc from ear to ear at the back the head and cradling the head with this beautiful thin line.”
“We spend a lot of time talking about these big things in fashion, but sometimes it’s the beauty of these decorative touches…what John is doing is vibrant.” Nollet who was working his magic on Bergdorf’s clients, gave Fargo a temporary new look.”He bent my hair in a certain way and made it fall across my forehead differently. It was just the way he parted my hair. I was like, ‘How did he do that?'”
Nollet said he was lucky to discover his passion at the tender age of four, and doubly blessed to have “parents and a grandmother who were accepting of my difference, and encouraged me to go and follow my dreams.”
The red carpet is an exhibition, and “I’m a little bit a part of the game,” Nollet acknowledged. “You’re part of the energy the person will give to journalists and the rest of the world. It’s also a dream for other women who are inspired by [the star’s] hairstyle and lip color.”
Nollet, who — like Schiaparelli — is superstitious, got his first job at a salon in the north of France when he was 18. “Life for me is about meeting a person at the right moment.” That happened a few years later, when Nollet moved to the South of France and was recruited by the Opera of Montpellier’s choreographer, Dominique Bagouet.
“Dominique asked me to do a creation for his dancer friends, which led me to do a creation for the opera house.” Montpellier was a direct route to Paris, said Nollet, whose work can be seen in films such as “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain,” “Ridicule,” “8 Femmes” and “Dancer in the Dark.”
“My passport [to Hollywood] was creating the look of Jack Sparrow for Johnny Depp in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,'” he said. Thurman, Kidman, Monica Bellucci, Vanessa Paradis, Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve are long-standing clients. Still, some actresses like to switch around their stylists.
“I’ve been in the industry for 25 years. Some women try to have all new teams all the time and work with a lot of hairdressers,” Nollet said. But he doesn’t fret about it. “I’m sure the sun is there for everybody. If you have something to say, you’ll always find an ear.”
Nollet in 2002 opened his first salon at 32 Rue Montorgueil in the Les Halles quarter of Paris, which was followed by a salon at the Hotel Cheval Blanc in Courchevel, where his hand-made natural hair accessories were born. Another innovation in Courchevel was room service for hair, administered by a team of stylists who travel outside the hotel to clients’ homes.
“I organized a world tour for room service for hair,” Nollet said, referring to a 2009 trip with partners Park Hyatt hotels, Louis Vuitton and L’Oréal that stopped in Dubai, Milan, Moscow, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo, among other cities. Custom Louis Vuitton trunks were designed for Nollet’s products.
“I have a new concept near the Place Vendôme where I receive just two people at a time,” Nollet said. “It’s like couture for hair. The Place Vendôme understood that for real couture clients, I couldn’t open a salon in a place where everyone would watch them getting styled.
“Hair is the most important part of everything. It’s like the soul of the face. We don’t have to live our lives without hair. There are tools,” said Nollet, who plans to launch a hair-care collection in about a year and a half.