On Mondays, the elegant hair salon of The Regis Atlanta hotel is usually closed. However, on a certain Monday, the day the AJT stopped by, Pascal Bensimon opened for an important businessman, who flew by private jet from Florida. He won’t say more about this special client, but we did notice two policemen and two bodyguards posted in front of the salon.
Sitting 6 feet apart in comfortable leather armchairs, I am treated to Bensimon’s special juice made of ginger, celery and dates. Discreet, but luxurious, the salon is indeed what it proclaims on the door: Hair couture.
Bensimon’s expertise earns him a premium clientele. He doesn’t say anything about all the celebrities who pass through his place, but he points out a secret door that allows them to arrive without crossing the hotel lobby. “This isn’t New York or Los Angeles, where Jennifer Aniston’s hairdresser is her best friend. In Atlanta, my clients can count on my discretion.” He has a sense of humor as well.
Bensimon is able to entertain, such as by disguising his voice to imitate French actor and singer Maurice Chevalier. However, he can return to the utmost seriousness when it comes to the safety measures put in place due to the pandemic, including spacing chairs, wearing masks and disinfecting between clients.
“Everyone implements more or less the same measures, but the way in which each one does it can change the perception and even the reception of these messages.”
At 59, Bensimon is unique in the Atlanta hairdressing world. He is French, born in Casablanca, Morocco. His biography is quite dense. At the age of 17, he had the nerve to approach Bruno Pittini, “the most influential hair designer of all time,” and became his assistant. He opened a salon at the age of 25 in the heart of Paris. Very quickly, he styled 40 clients a day with the help of six assistants.
In 1995, New York attracted him, so he demonstrated his craft in Jacques Dessange Salon on Park Avenue. But it was in Atlanta where he settled 25 years ago, along with his wife Beatrice and family. First, he introduced his techniques to at least 40 clients a day in a busy Buckhead salon.
In the meantime, he also designed a salon in Aspen, Colo., maintaining an active schedule traveling between the two. After enduring that schedule for a bit, he chose to stay in Atlanta, gaining a more stable existence. He settled in a new Atlanta location and manner of working, hiring two assistants and limiting the volume of clients so that he could spend more time with each, and execute creations as varied as the individual.
When The St. Regis offered him an opportunity to open his salon there in 2013, he accepted, even though it was a big challenge. Confidence is something Bensimon has never lacked. Today, his file includes an incredible list of clients, old Atlanta fortunes, successful CEOs, actors passing through The St Regis, campaigning politicians. But this busy man can be surprisingly generous with his time.
One client, who asked that her name not be used, has known Bensimon since he worked in Paris. “A month ago, he came as a friend to cut my husband’s hair in our garden.”
Bensimon loves preparing clients for their simchot. Many b’nai mitzvah have been passing between his hands during COVID, he said. About weddings, he said prefers to take care of the bride’s hair without her mother or mother-in-law. The bride typically requests that arrangement. “She wants to take my advice, not the whole family’s!”
Since May, with the reopening of the salon, Bensimon reduced his capacity to four armchairs, spaced a distance apart. Disinfection occurs frequently but discreetly to avoid cleaning in front of the client, and masks are required.
“We’ll probably have to work for a long time with these safety measures.” It’s going rather well. Especially after the client is initiated to the methods of the hairdresser.
You can call him “Doctor Color” because he can settle what blond or copper you really want. “Only if you understand that you must be patient, we can not get it in one session. Hair has their own past, their own history.”
So don’t come in with a picture of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli or American actress Charlize Theron asking for the same look. “Before a cut, I study stature, manner of posture, facial features. A woman must discover what suits her. And if it has been my motto since my beginning, today it is even more true.”