Hairdressing Icons: Antoine de Paris
Having mastered his trade as an apprentice to an uncle in Łódz, the ambitious young hairdresser left Poland for the bright lights of Paris in 1901. His first position was in a salon at the luxurious Galeries Lafayette department store, where he tended to the tresses of French high society in an age when hairdressers were stars and trips to the salon a weekly ritual for the well-to-do. He soon made a name for himself as an
in-demand stylist to the aristocracy, and was even invited to join the fashionable society when they decamped en masse from Paris for the Summer season to the exclusive seaside resort of Deauville.
In 1910, Antoine was asked to cut the hair of famous actress Eve Lavalliere, in order to help the 40-year-old veteran play the part of a teenager in an upcoming play. Inspired by Joan of Arc’s closely cropped hair, the bob was considered extremely controversial in an era when long hair was regarded as the ultimate in femininity.
As well as offending the sensibilities of those who preferred traditional hairstyles, Antoine also ostracised fellow Parisian coiffeurs who feared that women with short hair would have no use for their salons – which in those days predominantly dressed hair, rather than cut it.
However, the controversial style gained popularity among the young and daring and was soon picked up by the new generation of flappers and leading celebrities including actresses Louise Brooks and Josephine Baker and designer Coco Chanel. Antoine soon became a household name and as his fame grew, so did his business. His creations were rumoured to cost up to 500 francs – more than £1,000 in today’s money – and he was also alleged to be the first hairdresser to have installed modern hairdryers in his salon.
As well as a base on the upmarket Rue Cambon in Paris – where Antoine sold his own brand of products – an American salon was also opened in Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, in 1925, fast becoming one of the most fashionable spots in the city.
Antoine is also credited with inventing the shingle cut in the late twenties and highlights in the thirties. In 1937, he supervised the styling of more than 400 guests at the coronation of George VI, and he continued to style hair for the high society until his death in 1976.