Farewell to Jean Louis David – the French designer and entrepreneur, who has passed away at the age of 85. He was a true visionary in the world of hair fashion, not only for his creative abilities, but also for his innovative skills which let to the configuration of the hair salon as we know it today.
Inventor of the dégradé cut and founder of an international franchising chain that bears his name, Jean Louis David is also famous for his eponymous line of hair products.
Born in 1934 into a hairdressing family from Grasse, in southern France, he flew to Paris in the 1950s, where, at the age of 21, he became the director of the famous Gabriel Garland salon. Two years after the meeting with American actress Kim Novak: her hairstyle made him famous all over the world. Then the boom years followed: in 1961 he opened the first salon bearing his name in Avenue de Wagram, from where he collaborated with great fashion photographers such as Helmut Newton. By 1976, the first-ever French hair franchising chain, Jean Louis David, was born.
Roberto Pissimiglia, Editor of Estetica Magazine, got to know Jean Louis David as a friend and shared many of the highlights of his career – occasions that have in fact changed the face of hair worldwide: “All those who knew him cannot fail to have great respect, esteem and gratitude for him as a hairdresser and later as an entrepreneur,” says Roberto. “When I met him in the 1970s he had already made a huge name for himself. Considered an “elite coiffeur”, he was adored by royalty and stars, well-liked by the press and continually courted by product companies, although his loyalty to L’Oréal never wavered. I presented with him on-stage in Turin in one of his first appearances in front of Italian hairdressers. We immediately bonded and since then I have shared a microphone with him on many occasions.”
“Jean Louis must be recognised for his many merits, first and foremost for his understanding of the need to “democratise” hairdressing (his terminology, not mine!) – making a wonderfully memorable salon-experience accessible to everyone, not only those clients with deep pockets and plenty of time to spend in the salon. By putting this theory into practise, the ‘Jean Louis David System’ was born: with its method, its education, its creative collection and above all the salons with ‘their innovative outlook’. It was the birth of a totally new concept in France in 1976: the whole salon experience visible from the outside, unisex with no boundaries or exceptions, published price-lists, eye-catching signs and superb media coverage. Two years later, the first academy opened available to any hairdressers who wanted to follow the Jean Louis David path. From there came the escalation that led to the explosion of the franchising phenomenon that went on to take over our industry on a global scale. He should also be remembered for his photographic expertise – during the 1980s Jean Louis David’s creative work became a benchmark of excellence for anyone working in hair publishing. To this day, his videos and hair images are still a valuable point of reference for anyone who loves beautiful coiffure.”
“Another memory I will always carry with me is that of Jean Louis David the Showman,” continues Roberto Pissimiglia. “With anything up to 60 models on stage, male and female models were cut and styled in real time, the reaction and response of his captivated audiences was always incredible. As both a personal friend and a friend of Estetica alike, I wish to pay tribute to him by declaring what I believe to be the true secret of his success: Jean Louis David never stopped being a hairdresser or believing in hairdressing for one moment, or thinking about the future of the profession. Hairdressers’ appreciation of his contribution to our industry goes without saying.”
At the turn of the second millennium, Jean Louis David progressively passed the baton on to his associates, limiting himself to “acting as an entrepreneur“. Then, in 2002 he sold his empire to the American group Regis Corporation. In 2008 the company became part of the Provalliance group, led by the hairdresser and entrepreneur Franck Provost. Today the Jean Louis David brand boasts more than 1,000 salons around the world.