From colourful wigs to intricate hair sculptures, Kiyoko Odo is taking the industry by storm
From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Spotlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook in their respective industries.
Using hair as a vehicle for storytelling, Kiyoko Odo’s work oscillates between futuristic minimalism to the mind-bogglingly insane. “I love creating something with hair and connecting with the person’s character and personality,” she explains. “I see so many incredible clothes in film and theatre which emphasise the character within the story. This is what I aim to do with hair.” Originally from Japan, and now working in London, Kiyoko’s colourful wigs and intricate hair sculptures have been featured everywhere from Vogue to Dazed. You name it, she’s coiffed, preened, dyed and styled it, most recently lending her skills to Junya Watanabe’s spring/summer 2019 runway show, where she sent models down the catwalk with choppy bobs the colour of M&Ms. Here we speak to Kiyoko about her visual inspirations growing up, her career, and her hopes for the future.
Do you remember the first time you were conscious of your appearance?
Kiyoko Odo: I don’t remember when exactly but I was certainly a young child. If I didn’t like my hair or clothes my mother chose for me, I would refuse to leave the house so my mother would have to re-select my clothes and re-do my hair. I was a nightmare girl for my mum.
Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the way you presented yourself visually?
Kiyoko Odo: I grew up reading FRUITS magazine. It documents people and their street style in the Harajuku district in Tokyo. When I was at junior high school, I was obsessed with the people in the magazine. The magazine is still my bible, and all my creativity and interest in fashion comes from there.
What is it about dressing the hair that appeals to you?
Kiyoko Odo: I chose hair as a medium because I love creating something with hair and using it to connect with a person’s character and personality.
Where did you hone your craft?
Kiyoko Odo: I didn’t start working in a hair salon like most hair stylists. I started assisting at 19-years-old and spent many years assisting many people. I learnt hair styling from each hair stylist on set and gradually started picking up new techniques while working alongside them.
Tell us a bit about your creative process.
Kiyoko Odo: I start thinking of hair ideas and putting them down on paper first. I’ll try to keep these quick. Most of the time, once I’ve started to work it out with hair, I realise that it can only exist in my head but during making or playing with the hair certain ideas suddenly just come to me.
What is your relationship to “beauty”?
Kiyoko Odo: For me, beauty is something that makes me happy and excited when I see it.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Kiyoko Odo: Weird Japanese.
What are the projects that you’re most proud of?
Kiyoko Odo: I’ve worked on the Junya Watanabe show in Paris over the last few seasons. It's been my favourite project so far.
What’s the most significant thing you’ve learnt over the course of your career?
Kiyoko Odo: For me, I’ve learnt to just be myself and follow who I am. The first time I saw models wearing my wigs on the runway was such a moment for me. I had been working on them for over a month. I felt so happy.
What is it about fashion that interests you?
Kiyoko Odo: People expressing themselves and demonstrating who they are through clothes. I love runway and the energy it produces everywhere.
How do you collaborate with designers when you do a show?
Kiyoko Odo: It depends on the designer really. I usually just need a word or idea to work with, then off I go.
What is your dream project to work on?
Kiyoko Odo: My dream project would be to publish my own book on hair. I’d love to make a strange, creative hair book in the future.
How do you think the industry has evolved since you first started?
Kiyoko Odo: When I first started assisting, everyone was shooting on film, but then photographers shifted to using digital cameras. Now everyone uses the format they prefer. People don't seem to be responding to trends as they used to, but wear what they want now, which is fun. But I sometimes think we might miss the vibe where you can get the sense and style of an era through its clothes.
How do you think our understanding of beauty has shifted with the evolution of technology?
Kiyoko Odo: It's shifted a lot since social media; people can get ideas and explore looks they love. The beauty industry is so big now.
What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?
Kiyoko Odo: Explore what your style is, then keep on brushing up your technique and developing ideas. Follow your passions and be patient until something works.
What is the future of beauty?
Kiyoko Odo: Expressing personality through technology.