Globally known for his innate talent for hairdressing, Laurent Philippon conducted his first-ever master class in India, with the Make-up Designory & Leap India Institute. We caught up with him for a quick chat on his journey as a hairstylist, the hair industry in India and his latest book, Hair: Fashion and Fantasy.
Tell us about your journey as a hairstylist?
I grew up in a small town in France and my dad was a barber, so we can say that I grew up in a ‘hair’ environment. Though I didn’t like cutting hair for men, as soon as I started to cut hair of women when I was 14, I loved it right away and knew this was going to be my job. I love the language of hair, I think everybody wears their hair to suit how they feel, and I find that fascinating. I did a lot of ‘hair’ contests when I was a young hairdresser and that made me feel very secure to go and knock at the door of this amazing salon in Paris called Alexandre de Paris. Alexandre at that time was styling hair for more than 15 shows, for the biggest fashion house. It was there that I realized, that I could be a hairdresser and work in fashion and this is what I’ve been doing ever since.
Of all that you’ve seen in India, how would you like to describe the hair industry here?
I think lately India has been definitely more open to the world. Though I think Indians are very attached to their culture and I do think that there is a change, there are some shy changes but the young generation, they want to embrace the global culture.
You’ve done hair for shoots, music videos and celebrities, tell us how each of these are different and which one you enjoy the most?
I enjoy absolutely everything. I just enjoy doing hair so I don’t really care where it is going to end up. What I like is the challenge of making something look pretty and stylish and in the zone of what you are doing.
You’ve worked with many celebrities, tell us about any experience you loved the most and why?
My best memories are working with artists, I don’t really care about the name or the fame of the person, I care more about the artistic approach. I particularly enjoyed working with the singer, Björk because she’s a very true artist and she’s also very involved in working with the stylist. Of course I loved working with Lady Gaga, she’s very very open to whatever proposition you can make, but she also has a very strong point of view. All those experiences are challenging but they make me a better hairdresser.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
For me, it’s important to be curious. I love looking at art books, exhibitions, museums, and photography. All the arts in general are something I love, but I also find inspiration in poetry and shapes in nature. Also, my teachers are, Alexandre de Paris, Julien Dy’s, and my father.
You’ve written a book, tell us about it. How did you decide to pen down your thoughts?
You could rewrite the history of human society with the story of hair. Hair is the one part of our body that we can change whenever we want, without causing any permanent damage. We can dress it up or dress it down, to reflect our personality, to attract attention, to project a chosen identity or to seize the mood of the moment. In fact, hair is a sort of identity card that gives information about a person.
My biggest challenge was making my book, Hair: Fashion and Fantasy. It was something I’ve never done before! I had to get the copyright for every image I wanted to use and that was challenging. I was looking for one image in particular and was talking to agencies and galleries, but never got an answer. One day while I was in New York, I was sitting in my hotel room and there was a phonebook. I looked up the photographer, Duane Michals, and realized he lived two blocks from the hotel I was staying at. I knocked on his door and said, “Hello! I’m Laurent and I’m a hairdresser.” He looked down at me and said, “I don’t need a hairdresser!” I told him I was making a book and wanted the photo from a shoot we worked on together years ago. It took him a few days to find the photo from his storage and he gave it to me. I still think every day is a new challenge. I still get the first day jitters on every shoot, whether it’s a tiny editorial, a major campaign or a big show.
What are the projects you’re currently working on, anything interesting in pipeline?
I am about to do fashion week, a couture fashion week in Paris. It is always very exciting to do fashion weeks; and then I have a shoot with a French actress.