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Charli XCX
Charli XCX wears top and pantaboots by BalenciagaPhotography Gwen Trannoy, Styling Rebecca Perlmutar

The Kahlani twins are the hair & make-up duo behind Charli XCX’s new look

Sisters Nicole and Danielle have pushed the musician’s look in a different direction for her new album, Charli

Charli XCX is the sound of pop right now. For September 2019, the prolific auteur is guest editing Dazed. Head here to check out the fashion brand she’s spotlighted, her list of dream collaborators, a visit to her home in LA, a video of her reacting to fans’ memes, plus way more.

“It has been a long process getting Charli to the look she has today” explains Nicole, hairstylist and one half of the Kahlani twins, AKA Charli XCX’s glam team. Nicole along with her make-up artist sister, Danielle, have been working with Charli XCX for over two years now, after first being introduced by a stylist. “We all spoke about making Charli look more stripped-back to reflect her as an artist now,'' she continues. “It has definitely been a journey of learning about who she is and the best way to show that through her hair and make-up.” 

Speaking to the twins, we delve into the looks behind “1999” – the lead single of the album with its Matrix-inspired artwork and 90s themed video featuring Troye Sivan; “Gone”: the third single release featuring Christine and the Queens which is supported by a video where the two singers sport wet-look hair and glossy make-up; and the album artwork itself, which, compared to her previous dark-eyed and bold-lipped album cover looks, is grown-up and laid bare, signalling a new direction for the singer. 

With the duo responsible for her iconic pink-dipped bob and soft blown-out make-up, we had a chat about the inspiration and process behind some of the looks for Charli XCX’s new album, Charli

What was the idea behind Charli’s look for the album?

Danielle Kahlani: Charli told us how personal the album was to her so it was important to keep it simple. I enhanced Charli’s natural beauty by focusing on clean, fresh, iridescent skin, using gloss to highlight her features. She added a subtle intensity around her eyes, complementing the 3D artwork created by Ines Alpha and art directed by Jed Skrzypczaka. It was a very collaborative experience which it always is when working with Charli. 

Nicole Kahlani: Since cutting Charli’s hair into a bob on the shoot of the POP 2 album cover, we have been making her hair sleeker and more striking, eventually experimenting with colour on the ends. It made Charli feel more punk and created a strong recognisable look, so this is what we went with for the album cover shoot.

Charli and her collaborators’ hair and make-up follow a similar stripped-back theme in the single’s artwork. Why did you keep it so simple?  

Danielle Kahlani: We wanted to keep it consistent and simple so you wouldn’t get distracted by too much hair and make-up, allowing each artist to have their moment. The high shine looks of both the hair and make-up reflect the sound of Charli’s futuristic and fast-moving music.

“Charli told us how personal the album was to her so it was important to keep it simple. I enhanced Charli’s natural beauty by focusing on clean, fresh, iridescent skin, using gloss to highlight her features” – Danielle Kahlani 

The imagery for the first single, “1999”, stands out from the rest with its unmistakable 90s vibe. What was it like working with wigs and more novelty looks? 

Nicole Kahlani: Working on this video while on a crazy, non-stop world tour was a real standout experience. The looks were so iconic and it was really fun to see Charli transform into 90s characters we saw when we were growing up. One of our personal faves was seeing Charli dressed as the girl from the Blair Witch film.

Danielle Kahlani: I used fake tears and the look was so convincing people were asking if she was alright!

How did you come up with the “Gone” video looks for Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens?

Danielle Kahlani: They were both going to be rained on all day, so we decided on wet hair and glossy make-up throughout the whole video. It was important for their looks to be similar, to reflect their musical collaboration. There was talk of using red in the make-up to show their connection. Charli and I decided to use a bold, block colour on her eyes and Christine really wanted to look a bit bizarre, so we placed red on her brow bone, cheekbone and on the tip of her nose. 

What were your go-to products for the “Gone” video looks? 

Nicole Kahlani: To achieve the hair look for the “Gone” video I used Colour Wow Dream Coat to give a high shine to Charli’s hair and eliminate any frizz. Section by section I twisted in Bleach London’s Moussey Mousse, Bumble and Bumble Gel and Invisible Oil to get the gloss and hold from the gel but a bit of movement and softness with oil. For videos, shoots and stage performance, I use the same products on Charli’s hair but layer them differently depending on how long it needs to last.  

Danielle Kahlani: The products I love and used were P Louise Eye Base, MAC Pigment Basic Red, Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner, a Pat McGrath Labs eyeshadow palette and MAC’s clear Lipglass. I love to keep skin as natural as possible, especially for shoots, so my go-to product is Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

What’s it like working with Charli? 

Danielle Kahlani: Working with Charli is a collaborative process and is definitely a team effort, which often includes a stylist and art director. It was really important to establish a recognisable look for Charli, so often it was about keeping her bob straight and sleek with pink ends, with soft brown blown out eye make-up, clean skin and a natural lip tint. 

Nicole Kahlani: At the moment we tend to do a lot of wet-look hair moments but never drift too far from her recognisable look.

What would you say is the most iconic look you’ve created for Charli XCX? 

Nicole Kahlani: The look I think has the most iconic impact is the hair she has today: short bob, fringe and bleached bright pink ends. Doing the artwork and seeing it repeatedly has created such a strong iconic image, making it very unique to Charli.  

Danielle Kahlani: The make-up look I most enjoyed doing was for the POP 2 artwork which isn’t dissimilar to the Charli artwork: high shine brought to life by all the different elements including hair, styling, concept and 3D art.  It’s about the image as a whole. It will be interesting to see where we take it too next and how as a team we evolve.