Industry Insiders: Martial Vivot, Mane Man

Martial Vivot runs the sophisticated but unstuffy Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes next to the MoMA in midtown Manhattan. The gentleman’s-only salon boasts an intimate waiting room complete with a stocked bar and an outdoor terrace. French-born Vivot modeled his namesake business as a calm sanctuary for his clients to meet one-on-one with a stylist, improve their look and walk out feeling fulfilled. Men love it, including Vivot’s hush-hush celebrity clientele. More on the coiffure master after the jump.

On early inspiration: When I was 13 and in school, I took a girl’s ponytail that sat in the front row and sliced it off! I’m not kidding, that was my first haircut.

American v.s. French salons: I stopped going to traditional school when I was 15 years old to study being a stylist. The whole process is much different in France than in America. To cut hair in a French salon, first you have to get the first license it takes you three years of work and school, then you need two more years to be a salon owner and one more year to be able to teach. In America the program is one year and you can even get a license in six months from what I understand.

On his mentor: I’m from a very small town, like 1,500 people. I didn’t know at the time but the gentleman I worked with, Alain Chevalier of the Coifferies de Ver- sailles salon, was doing very well in Paris and got tired of the city and moved to the countryside. So, when I decided to be an apprentice I actually came to his door, and I was lucky to be in a small town working for someone with such great knowledge of our work. He was the one who prepared me for all the contests and taught me the basics. We have an apprentice contest in France, and in maybe 1987, I won for the whole east of France.

On finding the ideal space: Sometimes when you’re apartment hunting or looking for a space you’ll find one, and it’s not the biggest, its not the smallest, but you get in and its just like, “Hmmm, this feels good.” This is what happened here. There are three elements in the salon, which are stone, wood and metal. When those three elements are around you, you feel better, the balance is better and your spirits are better.

The all-male clientele concept: I felt like the men were a left on the side in that whole beauty/hair environment. There used to be only two ways for a man to get a haircut: go to a unisex salon or go to a barbershop. The barbershop is really as good as it gets. Not too much styling, it’s more like a simple cleanup. I wanted to keep the barbershop feeling because that’s what we are. In America when you do men’s, you’re a barber, but we provide the services that you’d normally have to go to the unisex salons to get done — like coloring and relaxers. I love to do women’s hair but, there are a lot of women’s stylists already in town and a lot of them are doing a really good job.

The worst part about opening your own business: Let’s face it, what is it that I like to do most? Cutting hair. When you open a business, your mind is so busy with all of the other aspects of the business. It takes so much to make sure everybody is in place and the harmony is in tune. Once everybody is in tune and it works well, then you can go back to what you like to do.

On finding time for field work: I’m definitely more of a salon person. But of course, when the opportunity to work on a photo shoot comes to me, I’ll take it. We like to style hair so when on top of it you can get published, it’s better for us. Even for editorial, I only do men. Always.

On keeping the celebs coming in: We do have some big celebrity clientele, but I don’t like to use them as a go getter. I think it’s very tacky. If you really want a celebrity to come back to your place, you don’t speak about them. If they want to speak about us, I’m more than happy for that.

On finding inspiration: I find it on the street. I love the subway, surprisingly. It’s a very good place for me to look at clothing and hair.

Go-to places in New York: When it comes to dining, I’m pretty fancy. I love food and I love lots of it. From the basic Blue Ribbon to Daniel. I love L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Four Seasons, Corton and Momofuku. Of course, I prefer French chefs because I’m very much in love with French food.