One quiet morning, I’ve had the pleasure to interview world-renowned French hair stylist Laurent Philippon for us to get a better understanding of his career in hair-styling. Between Paris, LA and New York, Laurent has had the chance to work with the greatest photographers and designers in the fashion industry, which made him one of the leading hair stylists in the field today. Here are his thoughts:
When did your passion for hair styling emerge?
I grew up in a very small village in the Alps, with a father who owned a barber shop. It wasn’t until my military service that I thought I would ever leave my small town for Paris. The decisions I made there have turned me into what I am today.
So it was 1989; I was in Paris serving the country as a firefighter. I realized, while working for Alexandre de Paris on my days off, that I wanted to become a studio hair stylist. Alexandre de Paris was revered in the field for his classic techniques he used on such celebrities as Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Kennedy. He taught me techniques that are very rare in the field today, sort of the “old school” methods of hair styling, an expertise that has helped my career ever since.
So I got hired by Alexandre de Paris in 1990 after my military service, before I met hair stylist Julien d’Ys, who was famous for the hairstyle of Comme des Garcons. He was a true artist, a hair stylist as well as a painter and a sculptor, bringing the hair styling world a touch of fantasy and creation. This is what I could consider the other main aspect of my personal work.
In 1994, I started as a freelance studio hair stylist, offering the industry my own unique style, influenced by two essential schools in hair styling.
What have been your greatest and most difficult moments as a hair stylist?
As hair stylists, there is no time for us to be stars. Your line of work demands you be in a constant analysis of your work, in constant doubt of doing a good job, facing either gratitude from colleagues or deception. So I would say being a hair stylist involves always seeking improvement in one’s work, always moving forward with one’s skills.
What is it like to collaborate with such heavyweights as David LaChapelle, Steven Klein, Patrick Demarchelier, Ellen von Unwerth, French Vogue, and Carine Roithfield?
I would say it has got to do with the creator’s vision. Of course it depends on the photographer, but collaboration in this line of work is about sharing a common vision for the final result, meaning as a hair stylist you have to submerge yourself in one’s vision, to adapt it while bringing your unique touch. Photographers often are passionate individuals for whom every shot is of the utmost importance; we are therefore in a constant quest for new techniques and inspiration to fulfill this common vision.
What materials do you like working with: natural hair, accessories, products?
Other hair stylists such as Julien d’Ys like working with paint and clay. Personally, I enjoy working with natural hair, making accessories with natural hair. In 2004, I went to Hollywood to style the hair of Gwen Stefani for her MTV award winning video of “It’s My Life,” by No Doubt, and the idea was to recreate a 1930’s blonde peroxide hairstyle. It was an absolute success.
How is your relationship with the celebrities with whom you have worked?
Some of them are really cool; others act more like divas. Uma Thurman for example was absolutely charming and sublime. The key when dealing with celebrities is to know how to make them comfortable and confident.
What do you like most in your line of work: photo shoots, fashion shows, or film?
I must say I have no preference. What I enjoy most is the diversity among them. When you do hair styling for a show, you need to combine designer clothes with the hairstyle you create, as in the hairstyle needs to gratify the clothes. My work then stops as soon as the model starts walking on the runway. When working on a photo shoot, there are no limits, every shot can be something different, so my skills are then required for every single shot, continually trying to improve the final result.
What style do you enjoy creating most, ’70s, avant-garde, Renaissance?
I like purified forms of hair styling, such as the style in the films Blade Runner and Star Wars, some kind of a modernized ’40s style.
Is it difficult to work with Laurent Philippon?
Well like most, you need to go through a selection with my agent, as my line of work enters the realm of fashion politics, in which prestige needs to be maintained.
How do you feel about delegating work to assistants, employees? Isn’t it hard to trust others with your nametag on a hairstyle?
I have absolute trust in the people I work with. I have mostly worked with them for a long time, I therefore know their qualities and weaknesses very well, which makes it easier to work as a team. As for the organization part of our work, for a fashion show, everything is extremely well organized, the hairstyles are all programmed and chosen in advance and of course everything is timed to the second. For a shoot, things are rather different. The stylist and photographer usually already have a strong idea of how they want the hair to look like; my job then is to work with the stylists and photographers to give them the best hairstyle based on what I believe they are looking for.
What message would you give young people hoping to pursue the same career path you have?
I believe the key in this line of work is one’s aptitude to absorb as much culture as possible. Through cinema, photography, and fashion, one should record as many images as one can. The key concept here is immersion into a particular time or style in order to create or recreate the desired impression.
What do you see as the hair styling trends of the moment?
Hair styling trends usually follow a large marketing push created by trendsetters like me. Note that the evolution of the hairstyle has often been dictated by technology, for example the growing prevalence of hair straighteners has influenced hairstyles in the past decade. As you may well know, trends come and go, look at the ’80s with the perm trend, last season’s “Kate Moss effect” with rock ’n roll “dirty” styled hair with a spontaneous look. In 2010, the style was cleaner, more sophisticated. For the past couple years, the ’70s and ’80s have been revisited as well.
What are the trends of tomorrow?
I cannot really tell you the trends of tomorrow because it is my job to create those trends.
What advices would you give our readers for maintaining resplendent hair this season?
Being the ambassador and spokesperson of Bumble and bumble, I suggest to all of your readers to head out and purchase our amazing products for the sake of their hair. Our products are not developed by marketers but by hairdressers. We have products for all types of hair, all types of style.
Could you tell us more about your involvement with Bumble and bumble?
Bumble and bumble was founded by Michael Gordon in the ’80s; He hired me first in 1994 at Bumble. I am a creative consultant for them; I developed their top-selling product, which is a hair powder to add pigment to your hair according to its color. On top of being their ambassador and spokesperson, I take part in the technical classes we offer for hair dressing and styling.
Thank you Laurent, it was an absolute pleasure talking to you!
Studio : Daylight Studios, Paris 75011
Photographer : David Marvier
Photographer assistant : Louis Baquiast
Make-up : Christelle Coquet for Calliste agency Paris
Model : Salomé Jugeli @ Hype Models Paris
Hair by Laurent Philippon for Bumble and Bumble
Hair assistant : Mathieu Monerat