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Clothing by Comme des Garçons AW12; headpiece by D
Clothing by Comme des Garçons AW12; headpiece by Duffy; top; hosiery; glasses; jewellery and shoes Iris’ own

Duffy on Iris Apfel's Sculptural Headpieces

We speak to British hairstylist Duffy, who created the radical, sculptural wigs for our nonagenarian cover star

"Ooooooow aren't they wonderful! Truly wonderful… but not for me," Iris Apfel said as her eyes fell upon the wild wigs created by Duffy, on the day of our November issue's cover shoot. Imagine that. It was only a matter of learning its context that the 91-year-old style starlet donned the experimental coiffure creations in her own rhythm with AW12's Comme des Garçons to a spectacular result, styled by Robbie Spencer and captured by photographer Jeff Bark in her Manhattan home.

In his essay on beauty and aesthetics, Francis Bacon once said that there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in proportion. Indeed the wigs, together with the season’s most celebrated collection, obliterated the harmony we are most familiar with, summing up the issue of boundary-breaking artists who search for new ideas by demanding for the unconventional. Leading hairstylist Duffy is of a similar breed, having sculpted some of the most artistic and inspiring styles in his solo career. Born in Surrey and currently based in New York, he left school at 15 to pursue his dreams under the apprenticeship of Vidal Sasson. Today the 34-year-old has work appearing in titles such as the various Vogues, V magazine to Numero, while having overseen the hair direction on ad campaigns for Pringle of Scotland and runway shows including Marios Schwab. We speak with Duffy to find out more about what went on in his head as he worked on Iris Apfel’s futuristic tresses.

Dazed Digital: How did this collaboration come about, and what was your vision for Iris Apfel’s hair?
Robbie Spencer told me that we were shooting a Comme des Garçons special, all of the 2D collection and so I started working on shapes and textures that would work alongside the outfits, thinking more about a character, not necessarily Iris. I had produced a series of wigs for a show at the Whitney Biennial in NY earlier on in the year and had been playing with rigid 3D shapes, so it seemed like a good marriage with the Comme collection and its concept this season. When I first heard 'Iris Apfel', I thought she was the inspiration – not the model! I never thought she would go for it, how wrong I was.

DD: Take us back to the day of the shoot...
Duffy: The best part of the day for me was when Iris walked in the door saw the wigs and said: "Ooooooow aren't they wonderful! Truly wonderful… but not for me." But after trying on a few pieces from the collection, Iris started to see the relation between the outfits and the wigs, it wasn't long before she was matching them with the outfits and suggesting new colours and shades. The wig on the cover was one I made on the day of the shoot with Iris's input.

DD: What were the pieces made out of?
They are made of hair; there's a lot more craft shop in them than hair shop, but they consist of a lot of hair, PVA glue, spray paints, liquid latex and spray starch. I work on building a 3D mold, which I then set the hair around, and remove. Once I have the shape I can start to bend and mold it to fit the head and work on the final textures and visual appearance.

DD: Why do you think Iris belongs on the cover of Dazed?
Because hopefully it will encourage a younger generation to look back at the foundations of the industry. I remember she said to me: "Yes of course I live with my husband, he's 96." A true inspiration.

DD: Do you have a hairstyling philosophy you go by?
Never be afraid to get it wrong.

Jeff Bark
STYLING Robbie Spencer
HAIR Duffy at Tim Howard Management
MAKE-UP Lisa Houghton at Tim Howard Management
MODEL Iris Apfel
SET DESIGN School Float
STYLING ASSISTANTS Elizabeth Fraser-Bell, Jessica Bobince
CASTING Noah Shelley at AM Casting
SPECIAL THANKS TO Melanie Demarco at Hudson Studios NYC