Legendary hairstylist Julien d’Ys on SS16’s neon bouffants – and what he learned from years of working with Rei Kawakubo
In the hands of Julien d’Ys, hair becomes a blank canvas for surreal sculptural creations, with the enormous wigs, twisting manes and extreme Teddy Boy quiffs looking more like something you’d expect to see on a fantasy film set than at a fashion show. Of course, these aren’t just any fashion shows. Although d’Ys boasts an impressive list of designers he’s teamed up with (including Chanel, Lanvin and John Galliano), it’s his work with Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons that has afforded him most acclaim. Now spanning a quarter of a century, their collaboration has seen creations that, season on season, break the mould and push the boundaries of the imagination.
For SS16’s Homme Plus show, d’Ys created towering neon yellow bouffants, a striking contrast to Kawakubo’s collection of broken, torn and reimagined suits – which saw trousers slit down the legs or cut urchin like at the knee, jackets with their collars removed or silhouette unexpectedly severed, and shirts that hung in tatters. For the hair – which he dubbed “chignons in a storm” – d’Ys was given free rein by Kawakubo to take the direction he wanted – part of the reason their collaboration works so well. “I have to have freedom,” he says, speaking after the show. “If somebody said to me ‘OK, I want that’, then I can’t do anything, I can’t! I’m completely frozen because I have to be very free and I have to love the person that I work with.” With unseen portraits of the models photographed by d'Ys’ talented assistant Ilker Akyol, he talks us through the process behind this season’s creations.
ON THE BRIEF
“The briefs I have from Rei are always very short. This season it was chaos and a suit that had been destroyed – that was the only thing I had, after that she let me be completely free what in what I wanted to do. So of course, I started to draw in my carnet. My idea this time was to do the complete opposite of the men’s collection, the first thing that came to my head was to do the men with chignons, to make them like girls. The reference was women’s big chignons of the 60s, and the idea was to do the hair blonde at first, but Rei liked the idea of yellow, so I said alright. I wanted to put black lips on all the men, but when we did the fitting the day before the show, the hair was so strong! We didn’t want it to compete with the face.”
ON THE CREATIONS
“The way I did the hair was so difficult this time, because I did each piece in my atelier by myself – it’s almost like doing a sculpture. You have to go through it step by step and it’s very, very difficult! It took for me about three or four days, in the last week before the show because they have to dry and they have to set, but my technique is very special so I don’t want to tell everything, but it’s not easy at all to do. Sometimes I say I am going to stop because it takes up so much of your energy, you just don’t believe it! These three days I was doing these wigs in my atelier Paris I was so tired – it’s easy to draw, but to turn that into a reality is another thing. It’s always a surprise, because Rei only saw them the day before, but right away she liked them and I was so happy.”
“Sometimes I say I am going to stop because it takes up so much of your energy, you just don’t believe it! It’s easy to draw, but to turn that into a reality is another thing”
ON COLLABORATING WITH KAWAKUBO
“My collaboration with Rei has always worked very well, it’s always like magic with her. You don’t need to talk, it just happens. I know what she likes and I have known her for so many years now and I know what is right for her, that’s why it’s so very easy. It’s the perfect collaboration and I’m very pleased that I’m still working with her – she’s one of the most talented people in the fashion industry, she inspires so many people and I am lucky to work with her. She pushes me to go very far and so I want to give the shows something new and different – I push myself so it’s perfect to respect the clothes. I want to surprise people each time because if I became too normal I would stop straight away. I don’t want to be boring, and if one day I feel it’s not interesting anymore then I will stop.”
See more images from the show below: