Now in his third decade in the industry, renowned hairstylist Eugene Souleiman continues to break boundaries. We caught up with the man himself to discuss recent inspirations and upcoming projects, and take a look at some of his latest runway hair looks.

Karl Collins AW16- Hair by Eugene Souleiman
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela AW16)

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a project for AnOther Magazine, a story on heroines and anti-heroines. Like Joan of Arc and that kind of thing, iconic and heroic women in history. I said to the photographer Sølve Sundsbø and the stylist Katy England, that maybe instead of looking at old references we should bring these characters forward and place them in the present day. I thought it would be good to introduce British youth culture into the equation, and lots of other elements that aren’t necessarily associated with those amazing historic paintings and images.

Those depictions of Joan of Arc are so iconic aren’t they?
They are, but I think it would be good to look at ways to make it different, maybe recreate the same haircut but make it look like it was burnt, make the roots light and the ends orange and blood red to create something very textural… Maybe even blow smoke into the hairstyle and shoot with smoke coming out of it. I think that’s where my head is taking it. It’s really about pushing the idea and giving it a new dynamic.

How do you think your work has developed and changed over the years?
Personally I think I’m currently producing some of my best work. I think there’s a very good reason for that… I noticed about a year ago that I was starting to repeat myself and I started getting very paranoid about it. I thought, “right. I need to do something fresh and not look at what’s around me – do it from my heart and from what I feel.” I’ve been very happy with that mentality and with what I have done so far. In a way I feel like I’m entering a new chapter.

I’ve always been my biggest critic, I just want to do work that I’m proud of and can look back at and be like “yeah, that was really good”. I’m not there yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say that – but I’m nearer now than I’ve ever been. It could all change because it’s fashion and that’s the thing, but I enjoy the evolution. You set out to understand the rules of your craft and then you break them. Then you realise that what you’ve broken has become another set of rules and then you have to break them all over again. Everything is in constant flux and that motivates me.

Karl Collins and Eugene Souleiman- SS16 for Margiela
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela SS16)
Karl Collins and Eugene Souleiman
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela AW16)
“I truly believe that hair can make or break a picture.”
Eugene Souleiman
Karl Collins- AW16 Margiela Hair by Eugene Souleiman
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela AW16)

How would you describe your style?
I think my style is making things as strong as I possibly can, given the situation. What I do is react to the information given to me, process it and then do something with it. It’s not just about creating an amazing hairstyle, it’s about doing something that will go towards making an amazing picture. I’m just one part of that process. I truly believe that hair can make or break a picture.

What obstacles, if any, have you faced this year and how has this moulded you?
I don’t know if I’d call them obstacles because I always look at a situation that faces you as an evolution of the industry I’m in. I think you need to be a good listener, you need to take everyone’s opinions into account. One of the hardest but most enjoyable things that I’ve done in the past year is working with John Galliano at Margiela, the process is really quite extraordinary. He’s an incredibly creative and knowledgeable person, in terms of history, culture and fashion. He finds a place where he can be creative on a broad spectrum, there are layers to his process, which I find really inspiring. But then, you know, this takes a long time and the day could end up being 17 or 18 hours long. His process is about giving you information and just letting you play. Through play you discover things and then you can evolve them.

The hardest thing is the night before the show at about 2am, you’ve finally allocated the looks to specific girls, but the thing is whilst you’re working you have to have enough stuff and enough pieces that are done prior to the show. One look ends up being 9 hairstyles, so you’re looking at 30 girls but really you’re talking about almost 300 hair styles. You’re not just talking about one hair-do, it’s always really crafted, complicated and well thought out hair, you know? It’s tiring but you get high on the adrenaline, so the process is really enjoyable in the end.

Karl Collins AW16 Margiela hair by Eugene Souleiman
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela AW16)

What commission would you say has been the most reflective of you?
A-ha! Commissions… in my opinion or in other people’s opinion? I think probably the work I’ve done for Yohji Yamamoto is what people think of as being the most reflective of me. On one hand I agree, but I also feel that some of the work I’ve been most proud of and that is the most reflective of me was actually never seen. It was for Alexander McQueen for his last Givenchy show, no press was invited…

What was the hair like for that show?
It was basically: ‘Marie Antoinette travels to Africa’. There was a lot of grading, shapes and binding. ‘Punk-toinette’. 18th Century couture. It was amazing. No one ever saw it, we weren’t allowed cameras backstage to take pictures of it. It was quite a heavy show, a lot of fun… 3 days and 3 nights of work, we really went for it and it looked amazing, I was really really happy with it.

Are there any hairdressers that you look up to?
I really respect Julien D’ys. I would never touch any avenue he’s ever gone down, I seriously admire what he does because when I look at his work I instantly know it’s him and it comes from his heart. As an all-round creative hairdresser, I think Sam McKnight is amazing. He’s someone I’ve assisted, not for very long but he was wonderful. He can do any kind of hair, whether its tribal, glamour, up, minimal – the man can do it.

 

Karl Collins AW16 Eugene Souleiman
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela AW16)
Karl Collins Eugene Souleiman for Margiela SS16
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela SS16)
Karl Collins SS16 Margiela
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela SS16)
ARTON SEFA
Image credit: Arton Sefa (Yohji Yamamoto AW16)

For you, what defines an interesting piece of work in this day and age?
It could be anything really, a piece of music, art, a hairstyle, a chair, jewellery. It could be anything for me. I do look at other people’s stuff but I do it to make sure I don’t go where they’ve gone. I guess the most inspiring things for me at the moment don’t necessarily come from hair. Heston Blumenthal is amazing. His whole philosophy and process, the understanding of the materials he’s working with and the manipulation with the knowledge of science is incredible.

Would you say that about your own work?
Yeah, there are a lot of layers to it; I don’t think any person is one thing. We change, we have different ways of thinking at different times. I’m very good at changing my thought process, I get bored if I don’t. I admire anyone who can actually do the same thing day in and day out. Personally I’m not made that way. For me Allan, I’ll be very truthful; I’ve never wanted a job. I’m probably not particularly employable; I just want to enjoy what I do. I’ve always been that way and if I don’t love doing it I don’t do it. I don’t know where my job ends and where my life begins.

karlcollins-aw16-eugene
Image credit: Karl Collins (Maison Margiela AW16)
Credits

Interview Allan Hogg
Images Karl Collins Website fashionphotographyuk.com
Arton Sefa Website artonsefa.com

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