Paul Labrecque

Lei Musings | Master Stylist and Salon Owner Paul Labrecque

For our monthly check in with inspiring muses from queer communities across the globe we caught up with founder and creative director, master hair stylist and colorist Paul Labrecque, behind popular salons in New York City, Palm Beach and Philadelphia.

As told to Marc Graser
Images courtesy of Paul Labrecque

When Paul Labrecque recently visited Morocco, he was so inspired by the country’s colors and culture that he produced a photo shoot with models wearing kaftans when he returned to New York City. “I adore street fashion when traveling and always have,” he says. While exploring the Samburu National Reserve in Africa he acquired handmade beadwork from the Samburu tribe to embellish hair. He will soon travel to Portugal, the Greek Isles, and Japan next year. “I like to plan three big trips ahead, with lots of walking time in each destination for inspiration.”

As the founder and creative director, master stylist and colorist at Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa, Labrecque is a seasoned explorer, a keen observer of human expression, and artist whose canvas is the human face.

Every journey brings him back to his salons with a renewed perspective, ready to translate the world’s aesthetic languages into personalized looks for his clientele.

Labrecque grew up in Andover, Massachusetts. After graduating from beauty school in Miami’s South Beach and relocating to London to further pursue his career with Jingles International, Lebrecque met his future business partner and partner in life Brian Cantor. The two married in 2009.

Traveling is our favorite hobby. We work hard to pay for our travels.” 

— Paul Labrecque

What started as a two-seat boutique on the Upper West Side in 1988, to create cuts and colors that complemented an individual’s unique personality, has since grown to locations in Manhattan, Palm Beach (at The Royal Poinciana Plaza) and Philadelphia (at The Rittenhouse Hotel).

The salons also offer Labrecque’s exclusive line of hair care products, and others he curates, a comprehensive menu of spa treatments, makeup artistry, and nail care.

“My passion is making my clients look and feel their best,” says Labrecque. “It is what I love to do … making people feel confident, beautiful, sexy and full of life.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Brian Cantor (left) with Paul Labrecque (right) at the Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa in Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of Kristin Simmons.



What sparked your initial interest in the beauty industry?

My aunt had a wig business when I was growing up and I was her Saturday boy, always helping her that day of the week with styling the synthetic wigs and sweeping in the shop. I loved helping people look different and confident and knew that was something I wanted to pursue. 

Tell us about your journey. What prompted you to expand beyond a hair salon and go into skincare?

We started out just being in the salon business in New York City for eight years. When we heard the Reebok Sports Club was opening on the Upper West Side my husband and business partner went over and introduced himself to the new owners. Noel’s Day Spa was initially set to open up there, but that ultimately didn’t happen. We ended up stepping in and decided to take over, marking the beginning of our booming spa undertaking and offerings. 

Can you describe the signature “NYC look” you create at your salon, if there is one? 

Long ago I chose three words to describe my aesthetic: Simple. Sexy. Sophisticated.

A style to me is prettiest in its simplicity, sexy in its movement, and sophisticated when it does not take too much work to make it look great. Those three descriptors are incorporated in every cut and color we do in my salons.

What celebrity-driven beauty trends currently resonate with your clientele?

I do a lot of hair extensions and lace wigs with clients and I know much of this is celebrity driven. When someone like Kim Kardashian goes from being long and blonde to black hair and short, then back to having long hair, it always starts many conversations. 

What are some of the biggest industry trends you’re currently seeing?

There are such exciting changes in skincare! When we started out, a good facial was about cleaning and purifying the skin. Now our sought after customized Biologique Recherche facials include light therapy, lasers, microcurrent treatment and other innovative technologies to also tighten, brighten and help keep the skin looking as youthful as possible. Labrecque’s salon is the original Biologique Recherche Skincare Spa, for more than 20 years.

What’s your proudest moment?

My proudest achievement is helping to bring some joy to clients who are sick. I will visit them in the hospital and hold their hand if they’re told they have to shave their head. It is very important to me to see people I care about who have helped me build my career, especially if they’re at the final stage of their life’s journey. So many of my clients are also true friends. 

Have you come across unique skincare rituals or practices during your travels that you’ve integrated into your services?

We like to experience a lot of different treatments and offerings when we travel and we make time to do that in our itinerary. I wish we could incorporate Watsu massage therapy into our massage menu, but it isn’t possible for us right now to have large hot tubs. We decided to offer Ayurvedic drips immediately following a past trip. 

Are there specific destinations that consistently fuel your creativity?

Africa. An extra suitcase always comes home with us after a visit to this continent. The fashion, homewares, art and people are all extraordinary. 

What’s a favorite travel memory?

Meeting my husband on my very first trip to England. We admire each other’s differences and feel so united in our sameness. Marrying a Brit helped me see that although we are all incredibly different, we’re still really the same at our core.  

Where have you traveled to recently that really impressed you?

To Rwanda for a gorilla safari. Those creatures thrilled me. They are so sweet and peaceful.  Dian Fossey is such an inspiration in how she worked to protect and multiply the gorilla population. 

Do you have any advice for travelers on maintaining healthy hair and skin while on the go?

Drink tons of water. And sleep, and stand on long trips. 

What are your top travel beauty essentials? 

Marvis Toothpaste

Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Repellent Body Moisturizer

My signature Paul Labrecque Daily Shampoo and Daily Conditioner

Lots of creams by Biologique Recherche for the plane, and Hampton Sun sunscreen.

What’s next for you?

At the moment we’re planning to double our footprint in Palm Beach soon! We recently opened a gorgeous full-floor flagship location in Manhattan, at 5 East 57th Street. This is the most beautiful Salon and Skincare Spa I’ve ever created, and I look forward to bringing the same vibe to Palm Beach. At 62, you haven’t seen the last of me.

Follow Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa on Instagram.


5 Musings of the Month

  1. Do What You Do Well. “Don’t try to excel at everything. I was very fortunate to meet a man who enjoys running a business, which allowed me to focus on the creative control I adore. I would never flourish if I was bogged down by expenses, schedule coordinating and other day-to-day pure business demands.”
  2. Embrace Your Creative Side. “If I wasn’t in the hair business I would be in interior design. Lucky for me I have multiple locations and properties to work with and enjoy this passion on the side. My budget doesn’t love it, though!”
  3. We’re All Equal. “Inclusivity is something we’ve always proudly encouraged with my entire staff. We must all embrace each other and collaborate while being able to work on all different skin tones, hair types and textures.
  4. Off Topic Conversations. “The only topic I do not encourage engaging with in my Salon and Skincare Spas is politics. I believe politics can really divide and cause stress, and that’s not what I want in my environments that help to enhance beauty and confidence.”
  5. The One Place Everyone Should Visit. “Rwanda, to see, experience and learn about the country and its history. Forgiveness can unite after civil war.”