In Conversation: Wella Global Creative Director Eugene Souleiman

With Paris Fashion Week drawing to a close, fashion month has officially ended marking a brand new season, AW17 is finally here.

A few months ago I was invited to discover Wella Professionals EIMI trend reports for AW17, focusing on EIMI’s top trends for the new season featuring their key products the EIMI Pearl Styler, EIMI Ocean Spritz and the EIMI Perfect Me Cream, as well as having the opportunity to sit down and chat with perhaps one of THE most influential hairstylists and Wella Global Creative Director, Eugene Souleiman.

Now if the name doesn’t ring a bell, one of his fashion defining hair creations most definitely will. A hair lead regular at many of the must see shows at fashion week with Acne, Celine and Chanel to name a few, as well as pioneering styles like the fishtail braid, the work and influence of Eugene is everywhere.

I took this once in a lifetime opportunity to find out where Eugene came from and his top tips for any budding session stylist in the making.

instagram.com/eugenesouleiman

So whereas people might not be aware of who Eugene is, it would be good to hear about how you got into hair and why.

E: You’re going to laugh your head off, because I fell into it. I got a place at art college, right, but I was in a band, a punk band and never really went [to college]. So didn’t really do well at art college because I wasn’t there.

And then the band broke up, and I was like, “Okay, what am I going to do?”, so I went to a career office, had a chat, filled out a questionnaire, it was like 100 page multiple choice thing, and it came out with you’d be a really good hairdresser. I was like, “What? You’re having a laugh.”

So you’d never thought about hair before?

E: Not at all, no. I was like, “Hairdressing? Okay, all right, I’ll give it a go.” So I was told well you can get an apprenticeship or you can go to college. I was like, “Don’t want a job, I’ll go to college.” So I went to college and I was probably, I think there was something like 100 girls and I was the only boy, and I loved it.

Obviously.

E: Just lost it, yeah. This is the place for me to be in, so that’s that.

From there I was completely clueless I’ve got to be really honest with you, and I still am to some extent. I got a job in a hotel which had a chain of salons and the man was called Edward. I worked in Grosvenor House and The Churchill and The Savoy and The Waldorf Hotel as a Hairdresser and it was my manager who suggested I go to Trevor Sorbie. Well at that time I didn’t even know who Trevor Sorbie was to be really honest with you, and she’s like, “Yeah, look at Hairdressers’ Journal, he does this.” And I was like, “Oh, I quite like that spiky wolf haircut, looks really good that doesn’t it?” She’s like, “I’ll book you in for an appointment.”

So I went there for a haircut. Trevor wasn’t available so I had a chat with the manager John, and I said, “You know, I’d like to work here, blah, blah, blah.” Did an interview with Trevor and Trevor was really funny and he said, “What do you want to do?”, and I said, “I’d like your job”, and he went, “I like you. You’re a cheeky little sod. If you’re as good as your mouth I’ll give you a job. You’ve got to do this test, this is what I want from you.” So I did the test and he went, “you’ve got the job.”

And a year and a half later I was on the floor doing shows and seminars for Trevor. So then, I’m his right-hand man, so it’s amazing.

So going into session, was that quite a natural progression for you from the salon?

E: The salon in Covent Garden used loads of models, everyone was in the area so yeah it was just a progression, and something I wasn’t really aware of. I never started out and felt, oh I want to be a session manager,  I just wanted to go to a night club and do people’s hair and wear Vivienne Westwood.

I mean, that’s what I wanted to do and that’s well, I did. But I didn’t realise that and I made a lot of decisions at that point. In time they weren’t calculated decisions and they weren’t particularly full decisions, but they all lead to where I am now, and I’ve pretty much been one of these people that gone with the ebb and flow at the time, and I’ve made some really good choices without being aware of them.

So when it comes to working with designers, you’re such a name so do they come to you because of your vision as a stylist?

E: Yeah, I think some people do. I think I’m quite head strong right? And I think I scare a lot of people and a lot of people love me, which I’m very happy about. I’m very happy about people having an opinion about what I do, whether it’s something they love or they don’t love, and I think it means you’re doing something, so I’m quite flattered by that.

I’ve got to say though, I think I do work with – and I’m not being pretentious here – like the most forward thinking designers. I’ve worked for a lot of big houses like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Versace, but I’ve always felt more at home with people like the first show I ever did. People like Lee [McQueen] and John [Galliano] and Vivienne [Westwood] the real creatives, the real visionaries in the industry that you’ll see a collection of in the V and A, they’re the kind of designers I work for.

So where do you get your influences when it comes to creating a concept for these designers?

E: I mean, I see hair as a medium, and I see the head as a base, right? And I think there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to hair.

I don’t particularly have any rules, really, and I feel like if I’m following a rule I just freak out. You feel like you’re following a pattern and I get incredibly paranoid, and I’m not a particularly paranoid person, but I think at the end of the day, I’m always wanting to push my craft or my art, if it is art, just push what I do further and make things more interesting. Whether they’re visually interesting or whether they’re interesting from a conceptual point of view or from a technical point of view.

Soap Suds by Eugene for Maison Margiela

This season we did a look for John [Galliano]. He’s like,  “I want it to look like they just stepped out of the shower and put their clothes on, and then ran out the door.” And I went, “would you be interested if I made them like, step out of the shower without rinsing the soap suds and the shampoo out,” and he went, “I love it.” And for another look, we were talking about the collection being surreal. And I was like, “Well, what about this? What about this haircut?”, and it was a surrealist artist, he had a haircut where he had a star shaved in the back of his head, and basically, the idea behind the collection was to propose a new form of glamour, right, and that was it. So we’d made these disco caps with glitter that were encrusted and quite glamorous sort of shapes, like ’30s and ’20s shaped hats, and then we covered them in glitter.

So I do work with people that allow me to be as odd as I am and love it.

So when you’re finding inspiration is that something that comes kind of show by show?

E: I just have all these abstract thoughts going through my brain every second of the day, and then I go to work and sometimes it becomes quite apparent that maybe I should use that idea or maybe I should work with that. I have so many ideas that I have to write them all down otherwise they just go because new ones come in. You never know when you’re going to use something, I may have an idea tomorrow and I may not use it for five years, but it doesn’t really matter. I think, for me, the most important thing is that I do have an idea.

So  when we think about hairdressing now and hairdressers coming up in the industry, what tips or advice that you would give to them in terms of working in session?

E: I think if you’re a hairdresser, you’ve got to do as much hair as possible, you’ve got to apply as much as possible. You’ve really got to understand the basic techniques and be proficient in all of them, and then, I think you can start breaking rules, right?

I mean, I think, for me, I’ve always kind of felt as if I’m kind of not really part of anything. I just go and I do hair or I do heads, basically. I’m maybe more of a head-dresser or conceptualist, however you see it.

Partnering with a brand like Wella, what kind of dynamic does that bring to your career and the future?

For me, working with Wella is great because I’ve been with Wella for, I don’t know, eight or nine years, right? So for me now, it’s a completely organic kind of thing. I don’t use anything that’s not Wella because I don’t really want to or need to. I like what I’m doing. They’re very respectful and I’m very respectful of them, and I think we are very good partners creatively. I get a lot of support, which I’m really, really grateful for.

I don’t really think of what it does for me or what I do for Wella, it’s just something that I enjoy that exists and I think no more of that.

So lastly, in such a definitive and vast career, what are the things that stand out to you, your career highlights?

I think the fishtail braid, I think stands out for me as a bit of a moment, also applying static to hair, getting the imperfections to feel beautiful, pulling the braids apart without opening them up so they’ve got texture and they’re not just shiny, I mean, that is everywhere now. The weave that I did for Louis Vuitton, no one has ever done weave before or touched it which sounds a bit strange and a bit pretentious, but it was the first and a moment, and now everyone’s using some form of extension or enhancement in their hair. Silver hair, did it years and years ago, pastels, kind of washed out colors, I guess also using fabrics and materials in hair that are not particularly associated with hair, like shaving foam and bubbles and stuff like that. Yeah I’ve just had fun.

Fishtail Braids by Eugene for Tory Burch SS13

See more of Eugene’s incredible work over on his instagram. Recreate this seasons hair looks

 


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