Suelyn Farel: High-End Salons are Alive and Well


In a recent article on BeautyMatter entitled Is The End Of The High-End Salon Near?, the idea was proposed that the high-end salon is about to die, for the following reasons:

Deal Chasing: Services like Gilt, Groupon, and LifeBooker are giving smaller salons offering steep discounts a competitive edge, taking business from higher-end salons.

DIY: YouTube and Instagram how-to content are replacing the advice and guidance of high-end stylists.

Beauty Bars: Hyper-focused boutiques specializing in facials, brows, waxing, blowouts, and lashes for a fraction of the cost.

On Demand: Where-you-want-it, when-you-want-it services appeal to the Uber generation.

Salon Culture: Approximately 60% of hairstylists are freelance, and salons have a reputation for being mismanaged and run poorly. On the other side of the equation, startups like Drybar and Glamsquad continually invest in stylist education and technology.

As I am married to a man whose family is a distributor for Aveda and owns high-end salons (Paris Parker, multiple locations in Southern Louisiana), no sooner had he read this article that a fierce conversation ensued. It helped that just a few days ago we had cocktails with Suelyn and Julien Farel, of Julien Farel Salon, in NYC, discussing the pros and cons of $1,000 haircuts. Indeed, Julien had just told us that “In a well-done, high-end salon there will always be an elite clientele who will go there, who will not settle for a Number Two, Three or Four level experience, or a quick-stop type of store.”

Before I could even start asking Suelyn specific questions about the BeautyMatter article, she had some thoughts and counter-arguments, suggesting that the high-end salon is alive and well, and here to stay.

“My first take on the article is that if you have a good business model and if you run your business in a way to meet the needs of a changing business environment and you are innovating, then your business will survive and thrive through anything because that is part of navigating the waters of business. This is true in any industry, and has been true in other times. The high-end salon model is unique and specific—and it does not cater to the entire market. You are catering to a very specific clientele who is a luxury-demanding client. You have to anticipate their needs and wants and be ahead of the curve."

“We launched our business in 2001. Before it was a must, we incorporated express checkout in our experience. We kept our clients’ credit card information on file, asked them if they automatically wanted to add a 20% tip, and merely emailed them an invoice so they could reconcile their statement.

We saw the need because we are in NYC and everyone is busy and doesn’t have time to “check out the normal way.” We were meeting our clients’ needs from the beginning. Of course, today, digital has facilitated mobile booking and checkout even further. Our business model is, and has always been about keeping that super-high level of service while anticipating the needs of our guests. We know what they want and need before they do.”

Photo Courtesy of Salons in Boston

I then asked her about the specific five points referenced in the BeautyMatter piece. Here are her responses:


“We don’t do deals. We are like Hermès, we don’t discount. It has always been part of our model. Once you start undercutting and discounting, it’s a slippery slope. We tried once at the early onset of Gilt around 2010 and our clients hated it and anyone who saw it was appalled that we were trying this and it just didn’t work. That was a live-and-learn, and a mistake we only made once. Why erode your margins? We are delivering quality at a specific price and once we discount it tarnishes our brand image.”


“We like to include some DIY in our digital strategy. It is great if you have the patience and can’t afford to go to the salon—but DIY is overall not customized enough for our guests. DIY does not address two key pieces. The first is that it’s all about relationships, about a touch-point at every visit.

When you come in for a cut and/or color, we also address your scalp concerns, your hair concerns. DIY becomes like a medical self-analysis when what you really need is an expert. A quick braid is fine, but in terms of longer-term healthy beautiful hair, transforming your hair into something you want it to be, you need the expert. It is not an easy quick fix.”


Specifically, DryBar. “The blowout bar phenomenon has not cut into our services. We do know that some of our regular clients use DryBar, and I think Ali Webb is an incredible visionary. It is a great way to offer the in-and-out quick service—and it is in addition to what our clients come see us for, not instead of. That is an add-on. Maybe it’s on their block, maybe it’s their go-to while they are on the road—there is a convenience and consistency factor there. We have H&M and we also still have Hermès. I would suggest that at Julien Farel our blowout lasts longer, without fizziness in the roots, and our guests like to know the stylist they are getting in advance. We compete price-wise for blowouts—$50 on Park Avenue. Also, at the highest end of the market, people want one-stop shopping—that is their definition of convenience. That is one of the biggest differentiators: people want to be pampered and want to have everything done without having to go to 6 different places and have to book 6 different appointments. What if their schedule changes? They have 6 appointments to change, 6 places to call. Instead, we will move things around for them once. Mani and pedi while they’re in the chair, they are running to a wax while they have color in their hair.”


“One of the things we are well aware of in NYC, many people do not want you to see where or how they live, people don’t want to have someone come to their home to be let into that privacy. Also hair color is messy. Do you want to really do that at home? You have to be careful. So at-home services are not for our guests. On the contrary, our guests like the beehive and the buzz of the salon and the activity that is going on. Also, we are in a hotel, there is a bar downstairs, you can meet friends, have a breakfast or lunch or a cocktail. We don’t cater to a millennial crowd.”


“We are employee-only, and we don’t do booth rental. For us, it is about building our technicians up to become the best that they can be and to grow into a career with us. When you have freelancers, if they are making more with an outside booking, they will be quick to change their book at the salon—and that impacts your business negatively. The freelance model has never been ours, because at the high end it is about relationship, loyalty, and team building. We are building your personal brand for you, alongside our brand. Our stylists want to be part of something that is larger, more corporate, and more meaningful. I truly believe that a long-term salon business with freelancers is not going to work.”

Julien concludes, when speaking about his team: “When building my team, I have always had a philosophy about pricing. It is good when techs are very busy to increase their prices. The industry likes to think that this will cause clients to drop off, but it is the opposite. It confirms the excellent service and level of talent provided, and often makes them more desirable, more in demand. When you are good, you are good.”

5 min read

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.