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Story by Joe Leary

Jon Paul Holt passed away due to heart issues on May 8, 2023 as this issue was being published. Having been friends for 30 years I was so glad to have been able to chronicle his story which he so looked forward to seeing published in this magazine. We mourn his passing and present this story to honour his legacy.

It’s long been asserted that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.That axiom certainly holds true for Jon Paul Holt, a name often mentioned among North America’s most acclaimed hair stylists.

And for the past 32 years, he has been plying his award-winning skills in Yaletown.


Decades after launching ‘Alan Paul,’ the largest chain of hair salons in his native England, the affable Brit continues putting his craft to the task five days a week at his chic ‘Avant Garde Hair Salon’ on Mainland Street, where he is often heralded as the unofficial ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ of the tony neighbourhood.

Jon Paul immigrated to Canada in August, 1981. It was a bold move, given the fact he had built such a successful hair salon business back home. “I had a hundred of them,” says Holt of the numerous locations of ‘Alan Paul’ hair studios.

“I came to Canada just to work so that I could be creative and artistic and let someone else worry about the business.”


His reputation clearly preceded him and within virtually no time, Jon Paul’s stylist services were in high demand on the local landscape. “After a year or so I was doing all of the special hairstyles for TV guests on “The Vancouver Show” on CKVU, The Vancouver Sun Newspaper and the like.

“I was busy right away and quickly getting quite well known in styling circles. “But I was working at someone else’s salon and doing everything while the owners went to the bar at the end of the day. At that point I thought that if I was going to be doing all the work again it might as well be in my own salon.”

This of course was despite his earlier protestations to the contrary. “I said I’d never open another salon – except as we speak, I’m going to open up a creative photographic space for what we offer. But I’m not opening another ‘Avant Garde’,

it will be called ‘Kreative Avantgarde,’ so technically I’m not really going back on my word.”

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Jon Paul Holt opened Avant Garde on December 12, 1983, on Georgia Street. In 1991 he relocated the business to become the first salon in Yaletown. The initial move from London to Vancouver called for local orientation to get familiar with the two disparate cities.

“You can’t compare them,” says Holt. “I loved Vancouver from the minute I came here. It’s young, it’s vibrant and exciting and I don’t think it’s really changed those great qualities in forty years. It’s growing – not quite quickly enough in some ways but as a city it’s still new, young and unbelievably beautiful.”

In his many years ‘behind the shears,’ Holt has opened the door for a growing number of promising stylists to develop their own careers and style and, following his years of tutelage, eventually move on and open up their hair environment. “Some of the greatest compliments I have ever received are from young stylists around the world that I still hear from after forty plus years.

They tell me that I taught them so much more than being a hairstylist.” They say, “Everything I achieved in my career was because of what you taught me. “You changed my life for the better when I came to work and train with you.”


The key to staying relevant in the hairstyling arena, according to Jon Paul Holt, is to never look back; look forward. “Focus on the future,” he says. “I’m always searching for what we’re going to do next. “Not yesterday.

Yesterday was great but tomorrow is better. “If you think that way, everything is good. It’s like the U2 song, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ “I live that way in my business approach.” Still styling away after all these years, the enthusiasm for his work is clearly evident and Jon Paul has no plans to sail off into the sunset.

“I love going to work every day and I love the clients that I’ve got. That has always been my reason for doing this job. “If you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?” Holt returns to London twice each year and still participates in hairstyling competitions and annual events on the global stage.

It speaks to his love of the craft. And for young, up and coming stylists who wish to follow in those impeccable footsteps, he offers some sage advice: “Work twice as hard as the others, be focused on the present, have a vision for the future and always know where you want to be. And then work even harder still.

” Jon Paul Holt died unexpectedly and very suddenly on May 8, 2023 as this issue was being prepared for publication.

He was 73 years old.

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“I love going to work every day and I love the clients that I’ve got. That has always been my reason for doing this job.”

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