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His Brilliant Career

Maggie Mulhern | July 10, 2011 | 6:20 PM

His Brilliant CareerAlexandre de Paris, the original hairdresser to the stars and creator of haute coiffure, died recently at the age of 85. Over the course of an illustrious career, the premiere Parisian designer—who achieved worldwide fame—coiffed the hair of such high-profile clients as Princess Grace, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, the Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Maria Callas and Lauren Bacall, among others. Alexandre built his reputation on ingeniously-crafted hair cuts, unparalleled updos and precision chignons. Two of his most memorable renderings were a diamond-accented coif for Jacqueline Kennedy’s inaugural ball look and the elaborate “artichoke” Elizabeth Taylor wore in the 1963 film, Cleopatra.

In the late 1980s, MODERN’s Mary Atherton met Alexandre in his Paris salon and at his invitation the following day, slipped backstage at a fashion show to see him work.

“He was surrounded by skyscraper models,” she says of Alexandre’s compact frame set against the backdrop of six-foot-plus beauties. What she recalls most about the spectacle that day is the deliberation and focus of the artist. 

“I can’t remember the fashion designer but I remember the intricate, breathtaking swirls of Alexandre’s coifs,” she says.  

Alexandre credited his enormous success to the ability to match a woman’s personality to her hair. He opened his first Paris salon in 1952 with the Carita sisters on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. In 1957 he set up shop a few doors down with the introduction of his solely-owned Alexandre and in 1982 established Alexandre de Paris at its current address on Avenue Matignon. During his lifetime, he received countless professional awards and served as president of the prestigious Intercoiffure organization for 15 years.

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