Reaching For The Stars

This celebrity stylist learned the hard lessons of business

Celebrity hairstylist Gérard Duré doesn’t waste time disclosing the secret to his success. “As a man, I know what looks best on a woman,” says the weave specialist who dubbed himself “The King of Hair.” But despite Duré’s claim, it’s more than just his Y chromosome that keeps top models and Hollywood A-listers clamoring for his hair services.

In addition to creating versatile weaves and trendsetting styles that have been seen on Tyra Banks, Toni Braxton, and Suzanne de Passe, the owner of the New York City-based Gérard Duré Salon created his own line of hair care products, which emphasize both the beauty and health of his clients’ hair. Between jet-setting to Australia and Spain tending to the tresses of his cosmopolitan clientele, the Brooklyn-bred hair designer also finds time to design ready-to-wear hairpieces for Revlon’s TressAllure line and even pens a monthly column for Do-It-Yourself Hair and Hype Hair magazines. His 10-person Harlem salon generated 2002 revenues of roughly $800,000 and projections of nearly $1.5 million this year.

As with most new businesses, the early days were difficult. With start-up costs of around $200,000 (mainly costs to transform the former warehouse location into a salon), Duré initially lived in his shop to save money. Through a family friend, he negotiated a deal to clean out the warehouse in exchange for six months free rent on the small salon space. He then purchased the few basic supplies he needed to begin his salon — hair dryers, shampoo bowls, hair supplies, decorations, and so on.

Start-up costs were paid off as revenues were generated. Clients paid approximately $400 for fusion weaves at the time, and he also accepted day-rate work for celebrities, starting at $2,000 a day. To save money, Duré moved all his belongings into one of the larger rooms. The transformation process took approximately two years.

One of the early lessons Duré learned was that his cash flow suffered when clients paid late. “I used to wait months and months to get paid,” says the stylist, who charges up to $20,000 for his custom services. “I even waited a year for one check to come.” Learning from his mistakes, Duré, who began styling exclusively to stars in 1988, now insists on receiving written confirmation of the date he’ll be paid.

With a fresh business outlook, Duré still manages to keep his posh, 4,000-square-foot salon intimate (he expanded by breaking down interior walls of smaller rooms). What the salon lacks in additional beauty stations, it makes up for in ambiance. Pointing out the framed magazine covers where he’s left his fashionable imprint on Blu Cantrell, Queen Latifah, and many others, Duré looks pleased with his handiwork. “I see huge amounts of money in my future,” says the optimistic entrepreneur, clearly satisfied with his successful rebound. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Gérard Duré Salon; 635 W. 125th Street, Suite #2, New York, NY 10027; 212-865-0201; www.gerarddurenewyork.com.

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