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OOOing studios dazed winter 2022
Photography TUM LIN, OOO-ing Studio director LIGHT LIOU, hair WESLEY WEI and MAY WANG

OOO-ing Studio, the hair salon defying Taiwan’s beauty taboos

Bringing jellyfish cuts and acid-neon colour to the streets of Taiwan’s fastest-growing city, the Day-Glo masterminds behind OOO-ing Studio have kickstarted a movement, tackling social taboos head-on to tell stories through hair

Taken from the winter 2022 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here

Tucked into a quiet, narrow alley, it would be easy to mistake OOO-ing Studio for just another hair salon in Taichung’s Nantun district. A skateboard sits outside as decoration, as it would at the foot of student halls or a shared house. Depending on the day, you might see a bike or scooter parked nearby (for young people in Taiwan, scooters are the mode of transport du jour). Inside, blinding fluorescent lights illuminate a stark white interior, and tall vertical mirrors sit in front of the space’s five customer seats. For a salon that has become world-renowned for offering new perspectives on the art of hair dying, the studio is sparse on colour and space.

Perhaps this is fitting. As the studio’s art director, Light Liou, explains, the intention was to make it look like a laboratory for hairstyles. “When we start work each day, we’re like, ‘Let’s try something new today,’” she says. “We’ve gotten used to trying out new ideas all the time. People are often curious about it, but for us, it’s become quite normal.” The studio was founded in 2019 by friends Liou, May Wang and Wesley Wei, just as Taichung became Taiwan’s fastest-growing metropolis, having overtaken the southern port city of Kaohsiung as Taiwan’s second most populated city. “We didn’t open the store for a particular reason,” says Wang, when we sit down with Liou to chat in the studio. “But we had the same sense of direction.”

Though the studio’s stereo pumps throbbing techno, the ambience is laid-back and subtly electric
as we gather to talk. “We wanted a space of our own, an environment where we could have more
ease in our creation,” Liou explains. The salon’s title is derived from the fact that most Chinese names
comprise three characters; its ethos, says Liou, is to help people realise and embrace every facet of
themselves. “To be blunt about it, we’re all weirdos,” she says. “[But] when we get together and hang out, we can really understand what is weird about us. We often become friends with our customers, who in turn might bring their own friends by, or it might be that we end up helping them with performances or projects. It’s a process of mutual aid.”

Their dream is expanding. The Nantun District salon is OOO-ing Studio’s second location in Taichung – the first was a tiny three-seat salon in an apartment– and today, their influence is felt far beyond the confines of the city. While most of their Instagram followers are Taiwanese, the studio has received a wave of international attention this year. “In the beginning, we didn’t think we would actually have an audience,” admits Liou, “but once we developed one, we were first nervous, and then we gradually came to feel a sense of accomplishment.”

OOO-ing Studio’s signature styles involve airbrushed tints of neon Y2K-ish colour, and taking strategic advantage of the naturally black hair of their typical customer. The use of paintbrushes instead of standard hair dye tools adds a further layer of dimensionality, making for complex latticeworks of shapes, tones and shades. Beyond textural colour, the three are elite hair-shapers, specialising in face-framing jellyfish cuts and a bewildering use of asymmetry. “We feel each person has their own style, regarding how they talk, how they interact with other people, how they dress or what they like to eat,” says Liou. “[Too many] people pursue what is popular. I don’t think people should be categorised as being of one style or another. It’s something you decide on yourself.” The trio approach their work from a standpoint of “total creation”, Liou raising an analogy with theatre. “In the past, it’d be more [about] taking care of customers and their needs and making adjustments,” she says. “Now, we want to make it so each person is a character. Like, you [Brian] are a character, I’m a character, and May is also a character.”

For Liou and the team, an impressionistic approach to hair is a means to rebel against lingering national taboos. “In Taiwan, the ‘mainstream’ has a sense of safety for some people,” says the artist, whose marble-effect style could still provoke mild offence on the streets of her city. In this sense, the studio is closer to a movement than a traditional startup enterprise, and they recognise the salon’s wider social and cultural impact. Historically, coloured hair has been stigmatised in a society that once saw authoritarian rule, with restrictions on hair length for men. In 2020, Freddy Lim, a Taiwanese politician and former frontman of the black-metal band Chthonic, was smeared as a drug addict and sexual deviant by opponents because of his formerly long hair. A few weeks prior to my meeting with OOO-ing, Taiwan’s highest government oversight body, the Control Yuan, announced an investigation into a high school for corporal punishment against students that violated hair and dress codes.

OOO-ing Studio’s work is no longer about simply dying hair or perfecting shapes that already exist, but telling personal stories, painting pictures and weaving messages into locks. “Hair doesn’t stand for everything, but if you want to have green today and red tomorrow, there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Liou. “This is something we want to tell everyone. That it’s not just one choice, but you have many choices, whether that’s hair or otherwise.” Setting up shop kickstarted a process of creative and conceptual refinement that feels boundless for the group. Beyond collaborations with Farfetch and Swedish eye wear brand Sun Buddies, the trajectory is less about pocketing the next big project
and more about expanding the palate of possibility.

As I pack up to leave the space, I ask the trio what makes OOO-ing different from other salons in Taiwan, and what continues to help it push the boat out for burgeoning hair creatives the world over. For Liou, the studio’s USP is that it has become a beating heart for the city’s thriving arts scene, which in turn inspires the group to push boundaries and feed off fresh ideas. “[Our clients’] interests are usually art-related, and we also attract [the kind of] customers that might be, say, bank clerks, but who have a streak of pink hair,” she says. “We try to work on implementing ideas collaboratively to create a style. For us, this is a bit easier than just working on a hairstyle.” For Wang, the answer is more simple: “These are people that seem to have the same aesthetic as us,” she says. “A small minority of people in society have come together.”

Photography TUM LIN, OOO-ing Studio director LIGHT LIOU, hair WESLEY WEI and MAY WANG, casting MAY WANG, models ALLEN, JUNG KUO, GINNY LI, NICOLE HUANG