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The French Connection

September 01, 2023

The French Connection

Are we jealous of the French? Do they envy us? This love-hate relationship of the frogs and les rosbifs has lasted a thousand years, along with forty-one wars in the meantime and two World Wars as allies. But London is the sixth largest French city (were it in France) and the English love France second only to Spain as a European second-home or retirement destination. 23andMe found a little dash of French in my own mongrel gene-pool.

The last millennium saw much toing and froing, from a Norman king taking over in 1066 to Henry VI ruling parts of France, and then a big further influx of Huguenot refugees in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Are there still many differences? The French ‘joie de vivre’ seems to translate to a wider appreciation of quality lifestyle – food, design, fashion, leisure, and historically they seem to have been a few hundred years ahead in many of these areas up to the Industrial Revolution, and whilst the quality end of gastronomy has caught up here (if not surpassed) food appreciation still isn't a widespread character in the English soul as it is in France. More English words have been adopted into their language than vice versa. But of course, the French accent puts the English at an immediate disadvantage. I can’t imagine French girls swoon when an Englishman speaks French.

Maybe the tension encouraged by the media and Macron, belies a lot of love and respect for the things each culture does well and a sharing of values. There’s a lot of French spoken in Marylebone, adding to its international feel, and it’s helped raise the quality of food produce on offer in the shops and markets. Our French stylist Lamphane brings Gallic charm to our salon team and here’s his story.


Lamphane’s Story

My Laotian parents moved to France in 1979 and I was born two years later near Versailles, about nine miles outside Paris. I started my apprenticeship aged seventeen at Bernard Emirian’s salon a stone’s throw away from the palace. I always knew I wanted to do something creative, as a child I loved drawing and making my own toys from cardboard and paper.

Bernard Emirian was the president of Intercoiffure France, a prestigious international organization of high-quality hairdressing, whose members included many masters of the profession such as Alexandre de Paris - Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite hairstylist, Patrick Alès founder of Phyto Haircare, Claude Maxime, Franck Avogadri and many others. I was lucky to have met them all.

I really enjoyed my early years in the industry, though it wasn’t easy straight after secondary school being propelled into a professional and adult world. One day I was at school with my teenage friends and the next I was surrounded by lawyers, doctors, musicians etc. People from so many different professions and classes. I met many curators of the Palace of Versailles who encouraged my love for art and made me see hairdressing as an artform itself. All those connections helped speed my own development.

I soon became the assistant of Mariam Emirian, a Wella France Ambassador. She took me under her wing, and I started touring with her all over France and Europe showcasing Wella’s next hair trend. As a session stylist, she also opened doors for me in the very exclusive world of Fashion. I got to work with top photographers and designers such as, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, Leonard and Carven.

After that I moved to central Paris, near the Sorbonne and the Jardin du Luxembourg, still my favourite area in Paris. I worked in a few of the big Paris salons and finally Jacques Dessange near the Champs-Élysées for almost eight years.

In 2015 I was at a turning point of my life. I wanted more, so I decided to cross the channel and moved to London. It was a daunting step in my life, and I thought I’d do that for 2-3 years and go back home.

I was hired at Michael Van Clarke in August 2015, and I remember having three interviews with Michael before he offered me the position of being his assistant.

My mum always told me to stay humble and I’ve never been afraid to step back to learn more, so I took the opportunity. I think Michael saw my potential and helped me be more conscious about precision and working on every single detail. I knew how to make things pretty but now I can master them, and always aim for perfection.

I’m very much enjoying my journey in the UK. Now as a senior stylist in a top London salon I can combine many other disciplines.

I’ve being doing a lot of session work, I was lead stylist for shows and promotional campaigns for Bruce Oldfield, Jacques Azzaguri, Jenny Packham, and also mainstream brands like JD Sports, Debenhams and Puma.

I’m also very active in the bridal world, presenting new bridal trends live on stage at Condé Nast Brides the Show and seeing some of my work published in Vogue.

I give training seminars for Wella as part of their education offering for salons all over the country, and I’ve been a judge for some years now in both London and Dublin for their international Trend Vision competition.

I love my diverse clientele that includes TV and movie stars, celebrities, journalists, designers and assorted professionals. The few years I planned have now become eight and I’m still enjoying London.

at Michael Van Clarke




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