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Styling Jacob K, hair Shon Hyungsun Ju, make-up Lucy BridgePhotography Lea Colombo, Dazed Spring/Summer 2019

Shon Hyungsun Ju brings the drama with his hair-raising wigs

TextAlex Peters

We speak to the hairstylist about his long career and what beauty means to him

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.

Colourful and eclectic, full of strong shapes and towering silhouettes, Shon Hyungsun Ju’s wigs always bring the drama. From his very first editorial shoot in 1996, when he created a short wig at the stylist’s suggestion despite having never worked with the medium before, Ju has gone to work with everyone from Katy Perry and Tilda Swinton to Kendall Jenner for whom he styled an impressive array of wigs ranging from waist-length Cher hair to a rock-and-roll mullet for the cover of Dazed

It was magazines that gave Ju his first glimpse into the world of fashion. Growing up in South Korea, Ju says he didn’t watch much TV but loved to read and often found himself getting lost in the fantasy world of hair. Coming from a creative family who he describes as being “very good with doing things with their hands,” it was them who encouraged him to go into his future career. “I was always playing with my family’s hair when I was young, and all my family suggested I go into hair styling,” he says. After gaining experience working in a salon in Seoul, Ju made the move to London and has since collaborated on campaigns for brands including Balenciaga, Chloé and Vera Wang, and photographers from the likes of Tim Walker, Steven Klein, and Peter Lindbergh.

Here we speak to Ju about his long career, creative process and what beauty means to him.

Why are you a hairstylist? 

Shon Hyungsun Ju: I love doing hair. I’m fortunate to have a job which I love.

When did you start working with and creating wigs?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: My first editorial photo shoot was 1996. The stylist suggested I create a short wig. I had never worked with wigs before, as at that time I was working in a hair salon in Seoul. I thought, ‘Let’s treat the wig as one of my clients' hair’. The wig was a little tight, but was successful.

What appealed to you about working within the fashion industry?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: The fashion industry is a platform to show my creativity.

Tell us a bit about your creative process. 

Shon Hyungsun Ju: The team and I need to decide if we stick with the initial idea first. If so, I need to see what models or celebrities have (hair condition), decide what products are best (amount as well) and the tools and techniques I need to use to create the look as the style I’ve created, which has to remain similar from beginning to end. I play with hair during the shoot with my hands without using much heat or products.

What is your relationship to ‘beauty’?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: Beauty means beauty to me. Whatever I do, I want it to look beautiful from every perspective.

How would you describe your aesthetic? 

Shon Hyungsun Ju: I do hair and it’s been a long time that I’ve been doing hair. I know a lot of techniques and styles that I can create in a short time scale. Maybe that’s the reason people come to me. I don’t have a signature, but recently a lot of jobs have involved wigs.

What are the projects that you’re most proud of? 

Shon Hyungsun Ju: Dazed & Confused with Kendall Jenner, many projects with Katy Perry, and with Sia.

When working on editorial shoots how do you translate someone’s vision into hair?  

Shon Hyungsun Ju: It’s all about communication with the people I’m working with at the time. Ideas can come from someone else or from myself. Fashion editorial shoots normally focus on the fashion, so I need to understand fashion and collaborate so the hair compliments the vision.

How does working with wigs differ from working with hair as a form of creative expression? Do you prefer one over the other?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: As I mentioned earlier, I treat wigs as working with hair, but understanding it’s not the same as someone’s actual hair. We all know wigs are wigs, but it shouldn’t look like a wig when someone is wearing one.

What is your dream project to work on?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: I was working on dream jobs until COVID-19. I hope this ends very soon so I can continue.

Looking back what would you have done differently?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: It would have been the same, but I would be happier to work with people I’m connecting with.

How do you think our understanding of beauty has shifted with the evolution of technology?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: I think beauty remains beauty whatever happens to technology.

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: Keep developing and learning techniques and keep researching anything which involves hair. 

What is the future of beauty?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: Who knows.

What are you currently working on?

Shon Hyungsun Ju: I’m working on a big number of wigs very slowly for a project which was supposed to happen right before lockdown and has been postponed.

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