Jon Paul Holt - Fame'd Mag. January 2010


On May 9, 2023, a post appeared on Jon Paul Holt's Facebook page announcing he had passed unexpectedly.  All who knew him were in shock, and I for one thought his account had been hacked. I needed confirmation. When it was received, I was floored. I hadn't noticed a single sign he was anything but his normal self - full of energy, bursting with creative ideas, and lifting up and supporting all of us in the community who were lucky to know him. 


Over the next week I labored over what to share here. In the end I went back to the beginning. Below you'll find an article I wrote after interviewing him over 13 years ago, fairly early in my career.  This article is short and doesn't highlight the enormous impact he had on so many of us working in Vancouver, or how deeply he loved his family and friends. However, this was the beginning of my journey of getting to know and being uplifted by this truly special human being. I am so grateful to have met Jon Paul and will miss him terribly.  RIP!

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I Haven't Done Anything Yet

I included the original title as I truly feel Jon Paul's creative legacy will be continued through the hundreds of artists he guided. taught, and mentored over the years.   

How do you measure success? By all standards Jon Paul Holt has achieved it. His credits include salon owner, mentor, product developer, hair show producer, three time North American Awards winner, charity fundraiser and father of three “amazing” children.  Yet Holt is still passionate about his work.  His personal philosophy of life is overwhelmingly “I haven't done anything yet!”

Holt was born in Britain where he attended a residential all-boy's school.  On a visit home for the holidays his mother (a model) invited him to hang out at a fashion show.  “When I went back stage at 16 and suddenly saw all these gorgeous girls walking around—it was fabulous.”   A spark was ignited and Holt decided to pursue hairdressing. That summer he worked at a hair salon for two schillings a week (about 50 cents Canadian) and at the end informed his dad he would be not be returning to school.  A corporate man, his father only had one thing to say: “If that's what you really want to do just make sure you're good at it.  Be the best.”  

By the age of 19 he finished his apprenticeship and opened his first salon; he eventually went on to co-own a chain of salons across England called “Alan Paul.” 30 years ago he walked away to start anew in Vancouver and opened Avant Garde in Yaletown.  This thriving salon boasts ten of its original employees and Holt can be found there five days a week, seeing ten clients a day and still loving every minute of it.


40 years in the business have provided Holt with many opportunities. He produced hair shows in the United States and Canada where his trademark was to invite the top six local salons onstage for the finale. They competed with each other (and with Holt) to create the most amazing work. Designing avant garde hair styles for charity events and publication—like the ones he created for “Bald is Beautiful,” a series that pays tribute to women undergoing chemotherapy—also keeps him challenged.

When asked about his top career moments, Holt cites participating in London's Alternative Hair Show at the Albert Hall as a part of the Canadian team, not as an ex-Brit:  “You have to present six models in only six minutes and are competing with the biggest teams in the world.  Can you imagine the pressure when the person before you is Vidal Sassoon and the person after is Toni & Guy?” 

When mentoring students and stylists he has several lessons to share.  First, love what you do and think outside the box (“Stand on a chair and you'll see the world differently”). Second, if you are going to produce a show write every single thing down: “The job of a show producer is to be so detailed that nothing can go wrong. Don't take anything for granted.”  Lastly, he reminds them to focus on good staff because “it's all about your staff.”  

The next year promises to be busy as Holt will be launching a new concept in the spring called “WOW.” It includes the development of his own cosmetics and skincare lines, a full line of hair products and a studio that combines high end makeup application with blow-dry and hairstyling. Energy and passion mark all aspects of his life and this new venture promises to be no exception. (Note - this last paragraph is very out of date)

Gone Too Soon by Michael Jackson

Rest in peace Jon Paul. I and the entire community will mss your smile, your exuberance, your incredible creativity, your inspiration and your support.