HAIRSTYLIST HITS THE TENNIS CIRCUIT

Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — Imagine chopping Martina Hingis’s hair and giving Pete Sampras a trim — within the same morning.
A tennis-fan hairstylist’s dream? For Linda Francipane, a stylist and educator for Jacques Dessange, it’s a reality. Francipane, based in the New York salon of the Paris-based chain, started styling hair at the U.S. Open seven years ago.
Francipane has been at Dessange for 15 years; she started as a stylist back when Bruno Pittini and Jacques Dessange were partners. Over the years, she has taken on additional responsibilities and now teaches the chain’s techniques to staff stylists.
“We take care of all the players, as well as the coaches and the families, on a first-come, first-served basis,” said Francipane. The salon chain, she explained, imports interested stylists from other U.S. Dessange salons to help at the Open each year. “Last year, we saw 70 people the first day, and there are generally only two or three of us working.”
With that type of client load, it’s obvious that they aren’t doing elaborate updos. “Most of the players are super low-maintenance,” said Francipane. “They’re never in one place for very long. We may do ponytails or French braids, but that’s about as fancy as it gets.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t striking transformations. “One year, I took Martina Hingis’s hair from long to short,” Francipane remembered. “And every year, there’s one night when there’s a big party in Manhattan, so the players might come in for a pedicure or special-occasion makeup.”
And services have evolved over the years. While the on-site salon once offered simply hairstyling and manicures — “We were in a small room between the men’s and women’s locker rooms, and there really wasn’t room for much of anything else,” said Francipane — about five years ago, a full-scale salon was built on the grounds of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the event is held. It is open for three weeks a year: the qualifying week and the two weeks of the Open. All are in late August and early September.
“We’re able to offer manicures, makeup, hair color, hairstyling and more,” she said. “And they’re planning to expand it, so next year we may be able to offer even more services. And, of course, if there is something that a player wants that we can’t do here, we’ll invite them to the salon.”
This year, Francipane branched out, working with Uma Thurman at the Cannes Film Festival May 9-21. “This was my first year at the Cannes Film Festival,” she said. “The pace is amazing. I was up and starting to do hair around 5 to 6 a.m. every day, and I finished between 7 and 9 p.m.”
She primarily worked with Thurman, who was in Cannes promoting her film “Golden Bull.” “She had back-to-back press events day after day. She’s pretty low maintenance, but she has baby-fine hair that doesn’t hold up, so every time she finished a segment, she’d need to be touched up. One day, there were 40 news people with eight minutes each, one after another. It was like that for nine days straight, and it started as soon as I got off the plane.” It didn’t dampen her enthusiasm, though; she’ll be returning this fall to do a related film festival in Normandy.
“It sounds glamorous, but it’s a lot of hard work,” said Francipane. “You have to be willing to put in 14-hour days, and sometimes you have to make do with supplies, if you’re not in a controlled environment. When I got to Cannes, they had everything — I just had to bring my shears. But there are environments in which you have to improvise.”
Still, Francipane admits that juggling events such as the U.S. Open and the Cannes Film Festival can be challenging to her in-salon schedule — and her regular clients. “You’d expect that they’d be annoyed, but most of my clients are very accommodating,” she said. “They like to brag, ‘My stylist is off doing this event or that event.’ I guess, in a way, it’s glamour by association.”

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