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The Real Gene Juarez : Living a Stylish Life

Article by Caitlin Agnew

Photography by Life N Light

Originally published in Bellevue Lifestyle

I met Gene for the first time for lunch at Carmines on a beautiful spring afternoon, and it felt like I’d known him for years.  Our three-hour lunch was full of stories of travel, family, business, all sprinkled with nuggets of wisdom.  After lunch, he told me he was on his way to get his perfectly vintaged Levi’s jacket altered and adding some suede to the collars and cuffs.  He clearly takes pride in paying attention to the details of not only his wardrobe, but also in how he treats people.  During our lunch, multiple people stopped to say hi to him and he knew the Carmines staff by name.  Whether you know Gene personally, or have just seen him around (he’s an Eastside socialite), or frequented one of his salons, he clearly lives an intentional life of style. 

How long have you lived in Bellevue, and how do you connect with the community?
I have lived in Bellevue since around 1995 when I moved here from Washington Park in Seattle. I connect with the community by being involved in charity work around the Seattle area. Celebrity Waiters Luncheon raises money for The Millionaires Club which is now Uplift NW. I have had the honor of being one of the Founders of Celebrity Waiters and now currently Chairman ameritas. I have been involved in the Leukemia Society, PONCHO, Junior Achievement hall of fame, I was inducted alongside of Jim Sinegal and Jeff Brotman, who are the founders of Costco. I was a founder of Plaza Bank in Seattle and served on the board until it was acquired by United Business Bank. I am also part of a group along with Edgar Martinez, and several other people to import a Mezcal El Zacatecano. 

We may know you because of the salon empire you built, but what else has helped shape your path? 

I was raised in Eastern Washington and moved to Seattle to practice my craft. I was driven by the creativity and the challenge of the constant change in the fashion world. I view hair and makeup as an accessory to fashion. I have always loved the art of servicing people and making them happy and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that through the art of hair. 

Why did you create Gene Juarez Salon, and looking back would you do anything differently?

I saw something happening in the fashion world that was coming out of England at the time. It was the era of Vidal Sassoon and Mary Quant. I went to London and rented a flat to study with Sassoon for a month and I was able to bring back the techniques and the looks I learned to create back home to Seattle. After I returned, I knew there was a “space” in the hair community that hadn’t evolved in the US. I traveled to catch these trends that ultimately evolved into Gene Juarez Salons. It was such a new and exciting experience for me and I knew it was just the beginning. Looking back at my life there isn’t anything I would change as everything that has come to fruition has led me to amazing opportunities for me, the salon and my extended family that helped me create this vision.

What are your feelings about the longevity and the importance of the beauty profession?

I believe the beauty profession is underestimated by our labor force as a viable profession. Especially for those people who have a sense of creativity and love to be of service, and are challenged by the ever changing demand of fashion. Simply put, if you work with your back and your hands, you’re a laborer. If you work with your hands and your mind, you’re a technician. If you work with your hands, your mind and your heart, you’re an artist. 


Is there a motto that helps guide you personally or professionally?

I think that being in the service industry you will always meet a lot of different and interesting people. I am an advocate of knowing something about almost everything but knowing everything about something, and my something would be hair, makeup, skincare and fashion and of course service. 


What are you currently passionate about?

I took a course on Neuroscience given by Dr. Kieran O’Mahony. It was a weak long course given by him at Heritage University in Eastern Washington as well as at PLU. I am a big supporter and advocate of Heritage University as I served on the presidents council. Dr. O’Mahony is going to change the educational system not only in Washington but in the United States as a whole with his incredible work. 

Style is clearly a part of your life. What does living a “stylish life” mean to you?

Living a stylish life means taking seriously the fact that fashion, beauty and style is simply a form of nonverbal communication. Everyone who understands that, knows how to use that to their advantage. So it’s not always following fashion, or trends but developing your own style. I think Coco Chanel put it eloquently when she said, “Fashion will always go out of style, but style will never go out of fashion.” What we try to do at Gene Juarez is to help people develop their own unique style.

We hear you're passionate about your art collection. What are you drawn to?

I have a very eclectic taste when it comes to art. I really like all art. I built an understanding of art as I took as many art classes as I could starting in Junior High. I have a deep respect for the elements of design, line, form, color, texture and balance. 


Gene Juarez tips for living a stylish life:

+ Trend watch. I keep my eye on what comes out of the bigger cities and it’s interesting, if you want to forecast fashion look at what the young people are doing. It starts on the streets and works its way up. Young people are the ones who break all the rules so pay attention to those styles. 

+ Exchange ideas with those outside of your circle. One of the things that made Gene Juarez different is that we never competed with other salons in the community. I tried to compete with the salons in London, New York and Paris. I was fortunate enough to travel and have friends nationally and internationally that were in the highest order of fashion and loved to share their tips with me.

+ Give back. Being a part of the community is a big part of Gene Juarez. We have a strong sense of community in the Northwest and we’ve always been generous in giving to local fundraisers as part of our culture. It’s incredibly important for us to give back to the community what it has given us.