La Coupe staff from Montreal, Toronto, New York Salons circa 70s and 80s and moi

All photos by Lorraine Sylvestre, except George Karkoulas

LA COUPE, THE TALENT WHO MADE IT HAPPEN
All photos by Lorraine Sylvestre, except for George Karkoulas, photographer unknown.

We had Camelot at La Coupe from 1975 for 4 years, a fleeting wisp of glory, when we were all in Montreal and we went on to do great things at La Coupe in New York and in Toronto, in the 80s and early 90s. Seen here some of the team who made it all possible, in the 70s and 80s.

Top left to right
:
Charles Booth, 1976. At one time, owner of 3 La Coupe salons in Montreal, one in Toronto, and one in New York and La Coupe Product Lines. Without him, nothing would have happened. He started the first La Coupe, in 1967, with one other hairdresser, and me. Later, after 1974, when I had learned a lot more than I knew when I started, he let us all do our thing, and loved everything! You can see his photos in the 60s section.

Kim Lépine 1976. Perhaps the first female hairdresser in America to become world-famous and certainly the most famous French Canadian hairdresser ever. The first Canadian hairdresser to be recognized worldwide, she worked with me on most of the photos seen here. Including the first-ever layered bob, with cut-in waves. Beginning in Montreal, in 1974, then in New York, we were like two halves of a whole – I usually had the hair idea and she made the idea happen, then added her own touch and technical knowledge to make them all work beautifully. Loved to watch her fingers working, so elegant. Kim worked long hours – usually her first client was at 7.30 am, she often did 20 clients a day, then worked with me at night on our ideas for photos, editorials, fashion + hair shows. And she also often gave her expertise to other members of our team.  Kim Lépine is one very special lady.

Louis Licari, 1976. Louis didn’t work with us on our photos, and he only ever did one hair show, which was enough for him, but he colored the hair of superstars and supermodels and VIPs in our New York La Coupe, and helped make it very famous. Louis was using foils to highlight hair before anyone else anywhere, except the man who invented them (up to then, highlights were done with an ugly coloring cap or by painting them on.) I promoted him and foils, big-time. He trained as a painter at Syracuse University, known as “The King of Color” and has his own salon in New York. He has been  the hairdresser on NBC’s “The Today Show” for years.

Rita Starnella, 1980s. The colorist who worked on most of the photos that came out of La Coupe New York. And the texture. There was no end to how far she would go for us. Her QuickTint product, which covers gray hair temporarily, saves my life almost every month.

Antonio da Costa Rocha, 1976. The King of Chignons and Updos. See his French Braids here, the very first to be done in the
modern era, his Dancing Hair and more.  Beloved by the society ladies of New York and before that of Montreal, this Portuguese-born hairdresser did chignons like no one else, was the perfect gentleman, always. Before he sadly passed away, far too young, he even published a book, on poetry.

Jerome Pinsonneault. 1976. He came to the Montreal Salon with no clients and suddenly he was always very busy. He was an all-round amazing hairdresser, as you can see on some of the photos here. He also worked editorially, first for La Coupe’s Montreal Salon, then for their Toronto one. He has had a salon called Jerome in Calgary for years and still sends me an Erté Christmas card every year.

George Karkoulas, 1980. George could have been Number One in the world; he was so creative and original. First at La Coupe in Montreal, then in Toronto. His sketches were fantastic, he made hair accessories that took one’s breath away, and would stay up all night preparing for a fashion or hair show. Or one of our photo sessions. No wonder he got a standing ovation when he walked on the stage for La Coupe’s Teach-in in 1978, before he even did a thing. George is no longer with us, he passed away in 1993, but he’ll always be remembered by those who worked with him as one of a kind.

Elmer Olsen, not shown, but very much part of our team, a very innovative hairdresser who invented crimping in the modern era (see the Sleeper Collection.)   He used to pay other hairdressers if he liked the face of a client or model he thought he could do great hair on for a photo. He went on to own Toronto’s leading model agency, Elmer Olsen Model Management, and has discovered some world-famous supermodels.

Helen Oppenheim
, 1980s. I worked with all these talented people, and many more not shown here, as PR and Creative Director for all the La Coupe Salons in Montreal, Toronto and New York. Certainly I drove everyone wild sometimes but I hope everyone will now think it worth it when you see what we achieved. We were a great team; the work was recognized internationally for what it was – innovative, special, always with a Touch of Class. In my photo above, my hair texture was by Rita Starnella, the cut/style by Kim Lépine. I always wanted curls…

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © HELEN OPPENHEIM 2012

14 Comments

  1. Dec 12, 2014

    I was very sad to read that Antonio da Costa Rocha had passed away. I knew Antonio in the mid 80’s and spent some time with him. He was a perfect gentleman, had a lovely smile and very kind along with a heart of gold. I had the chance to read some of his poetry as well as I wrote a poem about him when I first met him. I will always cherish the memories and the things he thought me. May he rest in peace.

    • Dec 13, 2014

      Thank you for your post. Yes, sad. And what you say is so true. He gave me a copy of that book on poetry he wrote.
      I have a lot of his work on this website. Go to HairThen, La Coupe on this website. 70s & 80s. Or go to my Blog on
      this website and put Antonio da Costa Rocha in the Search box, top right:

  2. Dec 2, 2014

    Had a client from Montreal a few days ago…was trying to remember La Coupe, but couldn’t….so at lunch break today I google until I find this site….truly a big fan of the work I saw in mags those days….great styles, from a great time for all of us in the hair biz.
    Splendor in the grass.

    • Dec 3, 2014

      Thanks for “Splendor in the grass” and your Comment on La Coupe and the great work.
      Enjoy it all on the website.

  3. Sep 11, 2013

    I loved working at La Coupe. I worked with Kim and and Antonio and I got my best training with them. Thank you so much. I now have my own salon. Jeanmichaelssalon.com In South Florida.

  4. Aug 14, 2013

    Those were the days indeed. i was friends with most of those shown here when I was artistic director for Interbeaute, then Tiff International in Montreal. Thanks for the memories, Helen

    • Aug 14, 2013

      Those were the days. I remember Tiff! Thanks, pleased you enjoyed the memories …

  5. Aug 6, 2013

    Yes, we had Camelot. It really was. Gives me the chills to read what you wrote, Lori. Thanks.

  6. Aug 6, 2013

    Wow !!! I wasn’t even looking for this, I stumbled upon it when I was on line, looking up La Coupe Products. Helen, you never cease to amaze me. Love the story of Camelot. How appropriate. All of these fabulous Innovators in The Beauty Industry, Such talent, I get the chills. Thank you all….

  7. Dec 19, 2012

    Wonderful piece! I have been a hairdresser for over two decades, coming down the Vidal Sassoon pike of hairdressers, and gratefully so. I was lucky enough to work with Diane in Beverly Hills. i have a lot of respect for her talent.

  8. Nov 3, 2012

    Thank you Helen for the amazing bibliograhpy and the view down memory lane to camelot. Although I remember it more like ” The Devil Wears Prada” of course in the best of ways. You gave me the opportunity to learn , create and publish with an amazing group of talented stylists. Nobody could have accomplished this site but you and nobody does it better, congrats.Jerome Pinsonnneault – Jerome calgary ab canada

    • Nov 3, 2012

      Jerome, good to hear from you, pleased about your trip down memory lane and camelot, not sure about “The Devil Wears Prada!!!”
      But, as you say, “in the best of ways.” Thank you for kind words. Wait until I get going with your great work…soon.

  9. Oct 12, 2012

    Thank you, Carol, coming from a non-hairdressser i am extra pleased you are “enthralled!”

  10. Oct 12, 2012

    Absolutely stunningly laid out. I am enthralled. There is so much information well presented!

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