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Taiba Kitchen
Creative direction, concept and full look by Taiba Taiba, make-up Rebecca Davenport, set Saul MoaklerPhotography Aiden Zamiri

Hairstylist Taiba Taiba wants to talk about climate change

The expert braider is hoping to spark conversation with a new heatwave-inspired photo series

Taiba Taiba has made upcycling a core part of her work. The expert braider and CEO of creative hair brand Keash London takes leftover and previously used extensions from shoots and events and fashions them into braided versions of everyday objects, wearable clothing and sculptures.

“Anti-waste is something that has been installed in me from a very young age,” explains Taiba. Her dad, she says, would never throw away anything and insisted on using old things in new ways. As a Nigerian, she also feels a responsibility to ensure she helps protect her land. “Our world makes far too many things and it is countries like Nigeria and Ghana who will see our unwanted creations in their landfills.” 

Last year, Taiba presented We Need More Black in Hair, her first solo exhibition. Celebrating the versatility of Black hair and experimental braiding, the series depicted braids artfully reimagined as objects like cowboy boots, vintage stools and tiny bags. The exhibition attracted attention from the London creative community and international superstars alike. Names like Mowalola Ogunlesi, Priya Ahluwalia and Maximilian Davis attended the opening, while Rihanna DMed Taiba the following morning.

For her latest project, she turned her attention to the topic on everyone’s mind this year: the hot weather. “It seemed that no one could shut up about the heatwaves,” Taiba says. “And rightly so.” Wanting to use her craft to contribute to the conversation, she created a bikini out of upcycled materials from two previous shoots and modelled it in a series of images photographed by Aiden Zamiri.

She hopes that it will spark conversation around global warming and the little things everyone can do to make a change and not be so wasteful. “We all know if we make less new things and consume less new things we can help the planet and that was the point of this shoot.”

We spoke to Taiba about the shoot, what she has coming up and what exactly Rihanna said.

What do you hope people take away from the shoot?

Taiba Taiba: I want people to appreciate the attention to detail. It’s not just a set of lovely images. I want people to maybe think twice before they stick their logo on a t-shirt and print it 10,000 times, to remember it ends up somewhere. The last thing I can do is preach because we all have work to do but we should make this a conversation more and maybe come up with new ways for marketing your brand. I want us all to take responsibility to some degree and think of ways to move on whether you do something big or small, something is better than nothing.

Why did you start creating everyday objects and sculptures with hair and braids? 

Taiba Taiba: I have to say the first ever lockdown was what really got my brain thinking about this new path. I wanted to be able to function and continue doing hair but I was restricted as I couldn’t use people. That’s when I came up with an idea to create an installation at home and used old hair from an event and an old stool I took from a closing down salon. It’s not easy and can be extremely tedious and frustrating but I really love how intricate I can get and that I have more time to think and more time to rectify inevitable mistakes which I don’t have some much when I do hairstyles on people.

Last year you had a solo exhibition, We Need More Black in Hair. What was the inspiration behind that exhibition?

Taiba Taiba: My personal journey with hair is one I am proud of because as a child I felt braids were a constant reminder of my Blackness and to be frank I was unhappy in that. I wanted so much to hide from it and fit into white crowds who I was forced to believe were the most beautiful. 

I am forever evolving and becoming comfortable in my own skin so for this exhibition I wanted to make an imprint of a huge part of my identity and culture. Out of all the races I think one huge thing that makes Black people stand out as “different” is our hair and that has mainly been super negative. Braiding is used to neaten up and maintain our hair so every art piece I made for the show was braided with all the love and care I would put into doing braids on another Black person's hair. It is one of my contributions in illustrating the importance of being proud to show our true selves.

Rihanna got in contact with you about the exhibition. Tell us about that.

Taiba Taiba: She did!!! I have to say it was surreal. I was sat, hungover in my exhibition space in the morning after my opening night and decided to look through my DMs. As I was going down, I saw her name and shouted “OMG”, I thought it was fake at first but then I opened the messages and it was her enquiring about this LV bag that I had made for a shoot. 

She was extremely complimentary and kind and, of course, I took this opportunity to make her something from scratch. I am yet to publicly share with people what I made, but that moment is incoming… It's in her house and it is my most intricate art piece yet. I’m so thankful that she spotted my talent so early and commissioned me.

What do you have coming up this year? 

Taiba Taiba: I am currently working on a hair show which will be happening in a few months. I don’t want to give too much away but there will be full hair looks and I’m definitely expanding on my style and techniques for this one. I am planning on making some more hairy things for some big names, that’s all I’m going to say! 

How do you see your work evolving in the future? What would you love to still do?

Taiba Taiba: I see myself designing hair looks and pieces for music video, films, designing hair for major fashion shows and making something for Elton John! Random, you may think but he’s one of many people I want to make something for but the vision for what I want to make for him is so clear.