PEOPLE: Parisian hairstylist Olivier Schawalder reveals his many creative outlets
Images: Anoush Abrar, Melanie Lyon & Ramon Escobosa, Owenscorp, Daniel Peter Schulz, Roberto Greco
Illustrations: Olivier Schawalder
Interview: Emma de Clercq
Olivier Schawalder’s devotion to hair manifests itself in many forms. When he isn’t working on heads, the Swiss-born hairstylist continues to experiment with the medium in other art forms. From drawings and illustrations to sculptural installations, hair permeates all elements of his practice.
Starting out as an intern in a small salon in Switzerland, Schawalder later moved to Tokyo to pursue working for Toni & Guy. He promptly fell in love with the culture, finding inspiration in the reverence and dextrous creativity which defines the Japanese approach to hair. Moving into the world of session styling, he quickly established a name for himself by working with Tokyo’s leading brands and publications. In 2006 he began assisting renowned hairstylist Luigi Murenu during show seasons, eventually joining Murenu’s team in Paris full-time. Now represented by Calliste, he is coiffeur to France’s chicest women including Isabelle Huppert and Carine Roitfeld. INFRINGE spoke to the hairstylist about his artistic endeavours and how his time in Japan has shaped his hair vision.
When it comes to hair, would you say you have a trademark style or signature approach? Perfectionist-Control-Queer-Goth!
You’re now based in Paris and previously lived in Tokyo. How do you feel that these cities have influenced your work? Since I was a child, Tokyo has always fascinated me, I feel very close to the culture and the people. I especially love their approach to beauty, the way they always strive for perfection. While Tokyo is very peaceful, Paris is the opposite. It can be a very aggressive city and you really have to fight for what you want. But at the same time I feel that I fit in here, and work wise it’s great because there’s a lot happening in Paris when it comes to fashion. But my heart belongs to Tokyo!
“I love to draw, because unlike hair, it can be completely controlled and I can really go into detail”
Collaboration is such an integral part of session styling. Are there any creatives that you particularly enjoy working with? It depends… there are many! There are a couple of designers, stylists, artists and make-up artists that I really clicked with instantly, but it’s very rare to meet people who share exactly the same vision as you. That’s why it’s so major and magical when it happens!
What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration? The animal kingdom meets Serge Lutens meets the Blitz kids.
And your most memorable career moment so far? The first time I worked with Jean-Paul Goude.
Alongside your session work, you also create illustrations and fine art sculptures. Can you tell us a bit about this? I would say that this is what I enjoy the most! For example, I did these illustrations when I was working with Luigi Murenu. I adored illustrating the major hair he was doing for all the shows. I still draw a lot, it really inspires me. I love to draw, because unlike hair, it can be completely controlled and I can really go into detail…