26 November 2009

Raphael Salley: coiffure instinctive

You’ve seen the tie-dye hair story in the December 2009 issue of Dazed & Confused, right?

I don’t like to hype things up unnecessarily or sound melodramatic, but it really is one of my favourite editorials for 2009. If you haven’t seen it yet, go find the magazine and look at it, because even though I’m posting it below – and it does look smashing online – I really believe that, while physical magazines are still in existence, their ideal viewing-mode remains in-person rather than cybernetically.


Though Mark Pillai's photography is super punchy and Katie Shillingford’s styling as well-executed as ever, it is Raphael Salley’s coiffure that really steals the show. Even the title concurs my thesis: ‘Tie-dye takes over hair in a spirited approach to Autumn/Winter’s crazy colours, moving it beyond its hippie heritage’.

Hence, knowing Raphael to be an avid fan of psychedelia and wanting to know more about his practice as both a high-fashion hairdresser and facilitator of superb soirees, we had a conversation that began and ended with tie-dye hair. Though this may seem an arbitrary angle, I have learnt from experience that from the departure point that is a fashion story it is possible to arrive at places perhaps previously unimaginable. [As an aside, this is the first time I have done what could inadvertently be called an ‘interview’ for this blog and it is utterly apt that Monsieur Salley should be the first to partake as he has always been so encouraging of RRN.]


Though of course aware of the hippie movement and its tendency toward tie-dye, Raphael’s first strong tie-dye memory came from Paris in the early 1990s when he came across a long tie-dye sweatshirt of turquoise, black and white. This garment became an obsession, and he would wear it over and over again when going out to clubs and parties (think Daft Punk). Skip forward almost twenty years, via a deep interest in psychedelic music (ultimate favourite = Brian Jonestown Massacre) and its movements, and Salley is initiating London’s Psychedelia 2009 (soon to be Psychedelia 2010) parties and talking with Shillingford about the concept of tie-dye hair.


Though some may scoff at tie-dye (and especially tie-dye hair, of all things) as being retro, kitsch or naff, I think in terms of this fashion context (dare I say within the pop cultural context as a whole) – where frankly most things are retro, kitsch or naff – it signifies regeneration rather than mere recontextualisation. I say this seriously, without awakening the hint of irony that may lay dormant in such a statement. I do so because, first and foremost, these images are what I would call happy. And I really think happiness – joy, joie de vivre, delight – is sorely amiss in the fashion industry and in our culture at large.

I also really believe it is the hair in these images that has enabled such an emotion to be conveyed. Whether this conveyance derives from the model feeling fantastic in such an 'out-there' hairstyle, from the combination of bright clothes and set, or from the spiritual relation of colour to positive energy; it is certainly not hyperbolic to say that these are images of happiness, nor that the hair is the vehicle from which that sense of hapiness is borne. What's more, the notion of simple, unbridled happiness – in the melancholy year of 2009 – is totally not naff, but rather totally and utterly new.


I digress (nothing new here) into quasi-philosophical rambling. Back to Raphael. The process of making such hair is similar to that of making a tie-dye T-shirt though much more complex due to obvious material differences. To broach this complexity, numerous experiments were undertaken and specific techniques conceived, resulting in what is a perfectly rendered explosion of colour and cut.

The diverse shapes and styles evident in the editorial are testament to Raphael's exploration of forms, dyes and their coupling. But the results weren't necessarily envisioned like this from the word go. Instead, the results we see come from a longer process of combining various interesting elements, conducting extensive research and finessing techniques. This journey is taken with pleasure rather than any haste to get to a pre-meditated finish point.

Raphael elaborates:

“I like to just let it go and I never know the end result. If I can manage to get my mind as free as possible just to trust my instinct I always end with something interesting, which I would not have known when I first started. It’s my ideal way of working.”


Tie-dye hair, instinctive hair, happy hair; Mister Salley is lighting up the way forward. And guess what, it's psychedelic! It's joyful!

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally love it too. Psychedica 2010 Rocks.

27 November, 2009 17:50  
Blogger Anna Trevelyan said...

soooo coool!!

04 December, 2009 13:50  
Blogger VODKA TEARZ said...

second u on all of the above eleanor!! raf is the man!!!!!!!!

07 December, 2009 18:48  

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