Hairstylists never forget their first. “Her name was Anne Brooke, and I cut her hair with bad, bad kitchen scissors in the Botanical Gardens where we would hang and smoke cigarettes,” recalls Australian David Mallett. “She thought the cut was marvelous and I thought it was marvelous, and my career began.”
The Parisian hairstylist whose salon includes Natalie Portman and Charlotte Gainsbourg as clients, became Schwarzkopf’s Hairdresser of the Year at 21. The prize involved moving to Dusseldorf, but he also traveled.
“I always thought I’d go back to Australia after visiting all the great museums,” says Mallett (whose name rhymes with ballot). “But after seeing Miró and Picasso and eating real cheese and drinking real wine, I never went home.” A shoot with Jean Baptiste Mondino and Emmanuelle Alt for French Vogue sealed the deal that Paris would be his home. More editorial work followed, and in 2003, he opened his first salon. Four years later, he launched Hair Serum #DM027.
“It was an easy-to-use light oil that everyone could use. We sold it only in the salon, and you had to be a client to buy it,” he recalls. “Then Sarah Andelman asked if she could sell it at Colette, and Giambattista Valli asked if he could sell it in his boutique, then Bon Marché called and the entire thing just took off.”
In 2016, David Mallett au Ritz Paris, his second salon, opened as part of the iconic hotel’s renovation. “I really enjoy the one-on-one of the salon,” he says. “The happiness levels — both my own and my clients — excite me a lot more than doing a show and wondering how the whole world sees me. I’m either not interested or too fragile to bear it. But I don’t want to swim in that pool anymore. I feel much richer doing this.”
He’s recently started doing “this” at his boutique salon in the Webster in Soho on the fifth floor, dividing his time between NYC and Paris, while also expanding his product line, whose upcoming Styling Cream and Vitamin Gel will make 22 products, total.
Product development aside, the chair will always be his first love.
“Each client is like an apéritif. By the time the drink is finished and you’re still fascinated with the bubbles, they’ve left. A month later, you’re happy to see them again. There’s always something new to do and someone new to talk to.”
Mallett spoke with the Cut about his aversion to socks, his respect for Elnett hair spray and the Clash member he wanted to emulate.
Bath or shower? Bath, with Oilatun Bath Formula.
Shampoo/Conditioner of choice: My color shampoo and my color mask because I love the texture.
What is your daily uniform? A three-piece suit by Officine General, Marni or Berluti.
Scent of choice: Bottega Veneta by Daniela Andrier.
Scented candle of choice: Le Salon en Hiver, which Cire Trudon made for me.
What, if anything, is usually on your lips? A secret.
SPF of choice: Invisible Zinc from Australia, or Sisley.
What beauty look on a woman do you love? I like hair that has natural movement. Very little makeup and very natural hair.
What beauty look do you just not get? Artificial stiff hair, flat-ironed hair. I like things that breathe.
What was your first grooming product obsession? Dax hair grease. Someone introduced me to it in London. It was very hard to get out of your hair.
What was the first fragrance you ever wore? Eau Sauvage. One of my first loves gave it to me for my seventeenth birthday.
Work shoe of choice: Church moccasin without a sock. I don’t own socks.
Netflix and chill outfit: Muji cotton pajamas, with my two bull terriers.
What was your first fashion obsession? Joe Strummer from the Clash. I wanted to look like him.
What do you splurge on? New York.
What do you scrimp on? Paris.
Wish list travel destination: Spitsbergen, an island at the top of Norway. I want to go with my partner and our son and do a cruise through the glaciers.
Bed linens of choice: The saffron sheets from Merci in Paris.
Towel brand of choice: Merci.
Window or aisle? Couldn’t give a damn.
How do you stay fit? Yoga. And I am a militant vegetarian.
If you could have one ridiculous indulgence, what would it be? It’s too personal.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Meeting my parents. I’m adopted, and I met them when I was 27. It was challenging.
What could we use more of? A sense of humor.
Less of? Cruelty.
Last great book you read? Michel Houellebecq’s Vanquished White Male. It’s about French discontent.
What do you do or take when you can’t sleep? A bath.
Jetlag cure: A bath and a glass of red wine and my partner.
Cold cure: Fervex.
Favorite smell? My son’s hair.
Least favorite smell? Cigarettes.
What do you think Pantone’s color of 2019 should have been? Jaune Vallauris: The color of smoke-ridden ceilings in old French tabacs. It’s one of my favorite interior design colors because it reminds me of oxidized Polaroids.
What do you wish you had invented? Elnett hair spray.
Where are you usually when the best ideas come to you? Les Arcades du Palais Royale. Meditative and repetitive.
Describe your most starstruck moment: Bumping into Helen Mirren while swimming in the sea in Cuba. I made a remark that she looked just like Mirren, and that she confirmed she was.
Name a trait or talent you possess that few know about: Years lived in Italy taught me to make good pastas and risottos. A mean mushroom risotto served only for friends on holidays. Highly laborious and only for the initiated.
What talent do you wish you had? To speak Russian fluently.
Favorite meal and where: Saturne in Paris. I eat there four times a week. Bruno makes anything I want. It’s the best food I’ve ever tasted. And an ice-cold beer in Shorehouse in Swanbourne beach, Western Australia.
What is always in your fridge? Salty butter.
Comfort food: Mashed potatoes.
Vice: Roquefort cheese.
Favorite wine: Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Most impressive dish you make: Roast pumpkin stuffed with quinoa and mushrooms.
Comfort music: Erik Satie.
What do you foresee as the top beauty trends in 2019? A connection with real beauty and real happiness. It’s a lot harder than just doing good makeup and beautiful hair on someone, but it can be had by promoting healthier imagery. There is still a lot of beauty elitism that is really unhealthy and needs to be cut off. People who sell makeup and hair products need to get real.
What product in your domain is misunderstood and should be a best seller? My Volume Mask! It’s so incredible, there is no other product like it out there, but it’s hard to use because it dries like a gel and makes hair feel hard, but when you take it off, the hair is full of body.
If you won the Power Ball tomorrow, what are the first five things you would do? (after, of course, donating the majority of it to your top charities … ) Finish my roof garden in Paris, go to Lake Baikal In Russia and see the fresh water seals. I’d buy another painting from Claire Tabouret and buy myself a brand new Patek Philippe watch in platinum. It’s tough, because I have everything I need.