PEOPLE: Toni & Guy’s Artistic Director Indira Schauwecker on her love of Avant Garde hair
Images: Alexander Chai, Jack Eames, Akio Fukushima, Andrew O’Toole
Interview: Emma de Clercq
Special Thanks to Indira Schauwecker
Known for her bold and artistic approach to hairstyling, Indira Schauwecker has been awarded the coveted Avant Garde Hairdresser of the Year title a staggering three times. Born in Switzerland, Schauwecker moved to London 17 years ago with her sights set on becoming a hairdresser. While she didn’t speak English, she had nonetheless become enamoured with London’s leading hairdressers, whose work she’d discovered through Swiss hairdressing magazines. “I wanted to come to London and learn from the stylists behind the pictures,” she recalls, “so I wrote letters to Toni & Guy, Trevor Sorbie and Vidal Sasoon… unfortunately, with no response. As a headstrong girl, I made the move to London anyway.”
Schauwecker’s first port of call was the Toni & Guy Academy, who hired her as an assistant. She stayed in the role for three years before becoming a hairstylist. “To be honest, being an assistant was probably my favourite part of my whole Toni & Guy career,” she admits, “I learnt so many different techniques from assisting on shoots, during fashion weeks and working alongside some of the industry’s best hairdressers.” Now the International Artistic Director at Toni & Guy, Schauwecker divides her time between education, shows and session work. INFRINGE spoke to her about her formative experiences in hair and her love of Avant Garde hairdressing.
What first drew you to the world of hair? I started playing with hair when I was a child – I used to shave all my dolls’ hair off! I never had the patience for techniques like braiding, but loved cutting and colouring my own hair, which resulted in some very funky hairstyles! At the time I thought they were great, but looking back at old photos I’m not sure what I was thinking! I only realised that I wanted to become a hairstylist when my sister was doing a modelling job for a hairdressing competition. She was always travelling for work, which I thought was amazing and I really wanted to do the same.
“I try to take my inspiration from things that have been created in another art form, like stitching and sculptures”
I started an apprenticeship at a small salon called Ursula. The first thing they got me to do was to practice using perm rollers. The boss showed me and I just got it straight away. From that moment I knew this was my dream job. It still is! Even though the salon’s owner was incredibly strict, we shared the same dream. No one had ever completed an apprenticeship there before; the longest a person had lasted was a month, then they ran away crying! I managed to be there for four years and loved every minute. It was tough, she used to communicate by stamping her foot at me – I quickly learnt that this meant she wanted me to bring her scissors! However, it taught me so much about teamwork and how to read people. It’s a really important skill to have in hairdressing as you need to have eyes everywhere! It also built up my strength in assisting and broadened my knowledge when looking around a room and realising what someone might need, before they need it.
You have been awarded the title of Avant Garde Hairdresser of the Year three times. What do you most enjoy about creating hair that fits into this categorisation? What I love about Avant Garde hair is that there are no limits, rules or expectations, there’s a real fairytale element to it. I’m a dreamer, as a child I always loved listening to fairytales. It can often be a bit flamboyant and over the top, however I try to keep it pretty and beautiful as well as mysterious. Avant Garde hair is known for being big, sculptural and very colourful. In my work, I think I manage to dial it down slightly, so it becomes less of an extravaganza. What I really love about it is that it gives me the freedom to express my weirdest dreams. It takes you out of ‘normal’ hairdressing, I feel like I become an artist and I can utilise a lot of the crafts I used to love as a child, like knitting, stitching and origami.
Your role at Toni & Guy includes session work. Can you tell us about one of your memorable Fashion Week briefs? The most challenging was when I was assisting Bill Watson during London Fashion Week. The designer asked for a chignon, but she wanted it to be boxy and stand out. As a hairdresser, we know that hair doesn’t really like to go in a box! On top of that, she didn’t want to use any hair pieces which made it even harder to create. The hair test took a lot of time and patience, but on the day of the show, with a lot of practice and configuration we got it right! That’s what I love about my Toni & Guy family. We’re always helping each other and pushing ourselves to get the best result.
What’s your current favourite hair trend? Hairstyles dating back to the 1970s are making a strong comeback at the moment. I love that there’s a strong revival which takes the new world into consideration.
And any you’d rather forget? I’ve never been keen on the 90s. I was a teenager then and I looked ridiculous because I copied everyone else! Black and white fringes and side ponytails are definitely hair trends I would rather forget!
What’s your most unlikely source of inspiration? When coming up with new concepts for my collections, I try to avoid researching other hairdressers. It’s so easy to copy something that has been done before, even if you’re not meaning to, you get influenced in a certain way. When developing techniques, I try to take my inspiration from things that have been created in another art form, like stitching and sculptures.
If you could style anyone’s hair, who would it be? It would have to be Donald Trump! Not because of his political views but because someone desperately needs to style his hair! The only problem is that I wouldn’t know where to start… I’ve overcome many obstacles in my career but I know that would be by far the hardest.