In the heart of Chelsea is one of New York City’s most luxurious hair salons starring creative director Paul Cucinello. Originally from the Big Apple but now spending most of his time in the sunny beaches of Los Angeles, Cucinello has become a known name in the beauty industry, having starred in hot TV show, “Project Runway” and boasting the title of “Best Hair Colorist of NYC” by New York Magazine. When I asked about his path into professional hair styling he said “I started my career as a hairstylist when I was very young. Both of my parents were hairdressers so we basically had a salon built onto the side of our house. I did my first hair color – on myself – at nine years old, I made my hair bright red! It was an interesting way to start the school year.”
Known for his refined taste and love for eccentricity, Paul was my hair stylist of choice for our Haute “Day in The Salon”. Because it is a new year and we at Haute believe in fresh starts and powerful new beginnings, I decided to take a trip to Chris Chase Salon and put myself in the talented hands of creative genius Cucinello. You can imagine how difficult it was to decide on a hairstyle, especially because I’ve always had a paralyzing fear of cutting the long locks I put so much effort into growing, so I asked Paul a few questions to give me inspiration. “Who is the Chris Chase woman?” I asked. “The Chris Chase woman is confident, she’s willing to try new things, she is a go-getter, she wants to be out there feeling good about herself and isn’t afraid to tell anyone what she wants and how she wants it. The Chris Chase woman is definitely super confident,” Paul said. This speech got me thrilled. Who doesn’t want to be the Chris Chase woman? I then asked Paul to tell me about his favorite trends and hairdos of the season. “I’ve seen a lot of people requesting curlier hair. They want to see a lot more wave and bounce, movement and shine, so I’m enjoying that. I’m also loving seeing people transitioning away from this crazy ombre thing and really blending and richening up their hair color,” Paul said with a smile as I twirled my definitely damaged super ombre ends, “It’s nice to just see any shift that’s major. I’ve seen a lot more color, people are willing to cut some of those processed ends off and go a little bit shorter and that’s always fun. Anything that’s a big transformation excites me.” On that note, I decided to take a breath and give him complete creative freedom. “Do your thing” I said as I took one last glance at my out-of-date do. Fear of the unknown is real!
To start, Paul mixed a light caramel brown dye and smeared it on my practically-white highlights. I can’t explain it but smelling the toxic dye and seeing my wet-doglike reflection on the mirror made me more excited than anything for this transformation. After a few minutes of smearing I went under the rollabout dryer; it was strangely comforting, especially because I had just come from walking through the January snow. Next, Paul’s lovely assistant washed and conditioned my hair and then it was time for the real drama – the trimming. Thank goodness he gave me two glasses of prosecco beforehand! “Don’t be scared,” Paul said, “just trust me, you need this” he joked (but not really) as he elegantly chopped away at my dry ends and styled my shapeless straight cut into a layered lob. I really did need it. Somehow in between his strategic cuts I began to notice just why he is known as one of the country’s most talented stylists. Taking me from a dull much-too-pronounced straight ombre to a layered smooth brunette lob, Paul truly knows what he’s doing. Using an Xtava super-slim curling iron and a Hot Tools curling brush – which by the way, you should get asap – Paul styled my newly cut hair into a hip and ultra sexy do, perfect for a haute date night.
As it was almost time to leave, I realized I had no idea how to manage my new lob, it was so much cooler than my previous hair and I wasn’t sure how to maintain the look! I asked Paul for some tips on what products I should buy and how to recreate the look he had just given me. “I work a lot with Oribe products, I really think they’re designed specifically for stylists so we can get the exact look that we want on our client and then teach him/her to replicate it at home. Education is a big part of the dynamic that I have with my clients and Oribe products tend to give the results that the client intended to get after spending the money on the product, because it’s definitely a luxury product line but well worth the investment,” he said. He then told me to purchase the Hot Tools curling brush he had been using on my hair, “it is so easy to use,” he said, “you can give it volume in five minutes and then you’re ready to go!”
With the upcoming l-o-v-e festivities in mind, Paul also gave me a few professional tips for keeping my hair sexy, classy and stunning: “A Valentine’s Day or date night hairdo should always be something that is easy to transition into or out of so I think the best way to prep your hair for a date night would be to blow it out and give it some wave, and then possibly start with your hair up in a loose, messy kind of chignon, something that won’t disrupt the curl pattern you spent some time on. It should be easy to transform so that if you go powder your nose or freshen up your makeup you can just take out some pins, spray your hair with a dry hairspray, shake it out and it’ll look like you’re wearing a completely different hairstyle. It takes two minutes to do, it’s sexy and it adds an element of surprise to date night.” If you saw his perfectly styled hair and arched brows, you would see why you should definitely be listening to his beauty advice.
Looking back now, my experience at Chris Chase Salon was by far the greatest I have had at any hair salon. Not only are the installations gorgeous and the service impeccable, but the styling skills of Paul Cucinello are what make this salon the gem that it is.