Get To Know: Hairstylist Serge Normant
When did you fist realize you wanted to do hair?
“I don’t think I knew very early on. I knew I liked hair a lot and I grew up in the ‘60s in a time when women really dressed up, so I got to see that new direction. I have always loved shapes—even in architecture—and for some reason there was something about the kind of art where you could make something, then destroy it and do something completely different. I guess I did know early on.”
It sounds like you knew before you knew! How did you get your start?
“I became an apprentice at the salon where my mother got her hair done. It was a nice place in the suburbs of Paris and I would do everything: shampoo, color, perms; they were very long days but I wasn’t scared of hard work. For three years I was exposed to a lot and I learned my calling was styling. Then I went to Paris to interview with Bruno Pittini and eventually ended up as an assistant.”
And then you headed backstage at Paris fashion week—what was that like?
“I remember doing my first Dior show in Paris when I was 20. The interesting thing about fashion shows is that no matter what, the stress and challenges remain the same. It can still go wrong because you don’t have a lot of time. It’s very stressful until you get the hang of it. When I was young I would have these dreams that the girls all looked perfect, then as soon as the music started all the hair pieces would fall out and my career would be over before it even started!”
And now you work with some of the best hair in Hollywood. Are there any looks that you’ve created that you’re especially proud of?
“Oh my gosh, there are so many it seems unfair to pick one. When Julia Roberts won her Oscar, I did love that. Then there was Julianne Moore the year she wore that green Tom Ford dress to the Academy Awards, I loved that bun. Blake Lively’s thick fishtail braid two or three years ago was great. There have been so many great moments, but sometimes I forget what I’ve done until I see a picture and think, ‘Oh, I did that!’
Many successful hairstylists partner with a brand instead of starting one. What was your motivation to start your line of products?
“I’m a creature of habit, I’ve always liked using certain things together to get the results I want, so I really wanted to create my own concoction of things. Dry shampoo is something I’ve always loved, but it was something I’ve always had to mix with other products to get the right result. I wanted to create a formula that added volume and texture, too. I love that double function. The only challenge was whether people will love it or hate it.”
Are there any products in your line that were difficult to perfect?
“I have to say the hair fragrance. I look as it as the little jewel of the company. For me having that very subtle fragrance is important, it’s just strong enough to smell when you kiss someone hello. You get that great scent without it being too strong. I was very proud when we figured the formula out.”
You’re an author, too! How did your first book come about?
“I was very humbled to come up with a book of my work. I thought that the only reason to do a book was to mark something, like the end of the century. So we revisited all the decades of the past. It was a project that had commercial value, but for us it was just a pure creative process without having to live up to anyone’s expectations but ourselves. We worked on it for three years, and it finally came out in 2001. I wondered, ‘What are they going to think? Who am I to come out with a book?’”
And what was the inspiration for your second book?
“The second book was about transformation, trying to do something that was over the top—more about how we work in the business. It’s about having fun, about fantasy. I’ve just started to talk about doing a third book recently. Maybe it will be more informational with beautiful pictures? I’m not totally sure. Just like the first two it will just click all at once.”
What has been one of the most challenging moments of your career?
“There have been so many it’s hard to narrow it down! Recently there was Sarah Jessica Parker at the Met Ball. The challenge was to make the beautiful headpiece stay on without hurting her head because it was quite heavy. It was a challenge, but it ended up being so beautiful. Then it came out on the Vogue cover.”
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Last question, I’m sure people ask you this a lot, but what are the most important products to use for beautiful hair?
“You can bleach your hair, you can make it darker, but really, healthy hair is glamorous hair. Every woman should have a great shampoo, conditioner, and treatment. It may take a little longer to see results than styling products, but these things make a big difference. And everyone should have a good dry shampoo!”
It’s not easy to get hairstylist Serge Normant to brag about his epic career; it must be his humble temperament, because the man isn’t short on material. Born in a suburb of Paris, he began his career in a salon as a teenager, worked his way into assisting stylists backstage at Paris’ runway shows, and, at only 22, to New York while working under hair legend Bruno Pittini. Now he’s got a long list of celebrity clients (SJP, Blake Lively, Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore), two books, and an eponymous line of products loved by editors and stylists alike. We asked him about his most challenging moments, what every woman needs to know to have better hair, and what’s in store for his third book.