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Photography Daniel Evans and Brendan Baker

Maurizio Anzeri's hair raising story

The artist, Lee Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow collaborator on stitching synthetic hair as sculpture, following his November Dazed shoot

Part of artist Maurizio Anzeri's discipline involves stitching synthetic hair together to become 'fabric', which he then works with as sculptures – part of his latest project, 'The Party' is seen here. Having collaborated with Alexander McQueen under Lee Alexander McQueen's reign, on a hair coat for 'a real bitch from hell' and plaited straightjacket, he continued with icon Isabella Blow for a year afterward. Anzeri balances his hair story with embroidered photographs – of which he collaborated on a bespoke series with photographer Richard Burbridge and senior fashion editor Robbie Spencer for Dazed's June 2011 issue. The trio undertook their second project for the November issue of the magazine, with Anzeri's garments part of a hair-fixated editorial adding legendary New York hairstylist Bob Recine. We paid a visit to Anzeri's studio to photograph characters from 'The Party' and talk more about his practice.

Dazed Digital: Tell us about the hair sculptures we photographed in your studio…
Maurizio Anzeri: They’re a series of nine pieces. Each sculpture has a specific name, but the whole group is called ‘The Party’. The idea of that is from Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf The beginning of the book starts with ‘I will buy the flowers myself’, and this stayed as a milestone in my head. I decided I wanted to create my own party and make my own guest. And that’s what each sculpture for me represents, a guest that will take part in this party event.

DD: How did you begin experimenting with hair?
Maurizio Anzeri: Oh, it started a long time ago! People, even when they’re in front of the sculptures, think the hair is stitched onto a piece of material. It’s absolutely not. They’re combined together with a sewing machine, until they become a material by the action of stitching... and that for me is quite important. The first group was a series of three pieces called ‘Present Traces’, a set of 20 metre long pieces, going from the floor all the way to the ceiling. One was blonde, one was red and one was black.

DD: What about the clothes you made, in collaboration with Alexander McQueen, under Lee’s reign?
Maurizio Anzeri: There’s a piece called ‘Lady Ugolino’, which is a big hair coat, done in 1999-2000 and is still in the collection. The idea with this kind of work is in its connection to the body. The hair is actually all synthetic.

DD: How did you meet McQueen?
Maurizion Anzeri: Someone from his team came to a show of mine and asked me to go in and see them. That was over 10 years ago, I was doing my BA, so it really was the beginning. Lee told me to do what I wanted and make something that would remind us of a real bitch from hell! And that was it. So I started to work on this big, big coat. The reason why I called it ‘Lady Ugolino’ wa because of the connection with Dante’s Inferno. And because the Count was the one who was destined to be frozen... and that was the connection with me. So when he told me he wanted to work on a bitch from hell, I thought it has got to be the Count’s wife, the wife has got to come out. It was good fun.

DD: Would you like to do more collaborations with houses?
Maurizio Anzeri: If they are as powerful as the one with McQueen, then yes, being told by him to do what I wanted was amazing. For about a year after making the coat I collaborated with Isabella Blow which was a great luxury of a project. I told her, ‘I don’t know what you want from me, I cannot even do the hem on my trousers. Be careful.’ She laughed. It was a time in which I was transforming. After the year with Isabella, I did an MA in sculpture at Slade. I learned something from both of them, not to be scared and to exaggerate all the time. Whatever you do, just exaggerate and don’t give a shit about what other people around you say. You’re going to tell them what they don’t know yet. So I guess the point was that it was a great lesson. I’m really happy I met them.

DD: What about collaborating with Robbie Spencer and Richard Burbridge?
Maurizio Anzeri: The first collaboration we did was with embroidery and photography [for Dazed & Confused's June 2011 issue]. And again it was the first time I’d done a collaboration of that kind. I’d never worked with any photographer and it was an experience working with photographs that were not from the 40s or 50s. Everything was controlled but really dramatic. That’s been more than a year now and I still get emails about it.

DD: What about the current story, from the November issue?
Maurizio Anzeri: There’s a neckpiece I did for Isabella years ago. There’s a straight jacket, which no-one has ever worn before and nobody probably ever will again! For me that’s a sculpture, hair all stitched together until it becomes material then made into that form. And the little black dress, because it’s a classic which, I’ll say no more, is a classic. I won a prize for contemporary art three years ago and I decided to use the budget to start ‘The Party’. And for me that's an ongoing project. With my work, everything is ongoing.

DD: What’s next?
Maurizio Anzeri: A few things, hopefully, but one I can confirm is a solo show in Cardiff, at Chapter.

Studio photography
Daniel Evans and Brendan Baker

Photography Richard Burbridge
Styling Robbie Spencer
Hair Bob Recine at The Wall Group using Recine Luxe Hair Oil by Rodin
Make-up Peter Phillips at Art + Commerce using Chanel
Nails Michina Koide at Art Department
Models Lida at Next, Madison at Marilyn, Ruby Jean at Ford
Set Design Whitney Hellesen
Photographic Assistants Jeff Henrikson, Kim Reenberg
Styling Assistants Elizabeth Fraser-Bell, Jonathan Hamilt, Shawana Grosvenor
Hair Assistants Kaori Hotta, Mel Jacoulle
Make-up Assistant Nina Soriano
Set Design Assistant Graham Hamilton
Digital Operator Pottsy at Capture This Digital
Production Jessica Daly at Art + Commerce
Casting Noah Shelley at AM Casting