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Rudi Lewis began assisting the iconic stylist Eugene Souleiman in 1998, which ignited his passion for session work. His work has been featured in publications such as Love, i-D, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, working alongside photographers including Solve Sunsbo, Alasdair McLellan and Mario Testino.

Rudi Lewis Working

How did you get into hairdressing? As a teenager, I was known to take the clippers to any friends who were stupid enough to let me. I never intended for it to become a career, but when I was 17 I moved to London and somehow ended up running a salon in North London. I soon found myself at Windle in Covent Garden, where I became co-director for the best part of a decade. Along the way I met Eugene Souleiman, and he asked me to help him on his many shows. It just blew my mind… that’s when I knew I wanted to work on photoshoots and fashion shows.

Rudi Lewis fishtail braid
Image credit: Tom Allen

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your profession? Styling hair for shoots is really about collaboration between the whole team: the photographer, the stylist, the make-up artist and the model; the most rewarding feeling is when you know that everyone brought their best that day. When the vibe on set is buzzing, you know the pictures are going to be great. When it finally comes out in the magazine and you see it and everything is bang on; all the elements are right. It doesn’t always happen that way, so it’s a special feeling when it does!

The constant travelling and being away from home and family are undoubtedly the most challenging aspect. It’s tough when you don’t live in one of the major fashion capitals (I’ve lived in Stockholm for six years now), because almost every job means getting on a plane. I spent 70 hours flying last week, and that’s before getting to each of the various jobs and meeting the expectations of the people you’re working with. Although spending a few days on the beach does help make up for it!

Rudi Lewis and Philip Messmann
Image credit: Philip Messmann

What inspires you? Wow, everything… I love photography, especially the work of those like Gavin Watson, Derek Ridgers and Joseph Szabo, who each document youth culture and real social movements. I love music and definitely draw ideas heavily from the bands I love. Art; I love textures, so anything that makes me want to reach out and touch it, to see how it’s made. People on the street; some of my best inspirations come from seeing people’s attempts to do stuff to their own hair. I like hair that isn’t quite right; those batty old ladies you see with squashed, set hair, stuff like that. I guess I have spent so many years working with hairdressers that I find perfection a bit boring. I look for beautiful mistakes in things… that’s my hair philosophy!

You’re part of an industry dedicated to using hair to create expressive imagery. Do you express yourself through your own hair? When I had more hair I did! These days it’s just a crew cut, and I mostly just cut it myself with two mirrors and the clippers. Fussy hair doesn’t really work in my job!

Rudi Lewis Hair
Image credit: Amy Troost
"In this job, you essentially become a walking encyclopedia of hairstyles."
Rudi Lewis
Rudi Lewis and Amy Troost
Image credit: Amy Troost

What is your favourite era for hair? In this job, you essentially become a walking encyclopedia of hairstyles from different eras – and really I love the hair from so many different periods. If I had to choose I’d say the 60s: the hair, the clothes, music and the photography were all so much about breaking from the past. Things just seemed so optimistic.

Who is your hair icon? It’s always been the musicians I loved, like Morrissey, Paul Weller, Nick Cave, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry and Patti Smith. My hairdressing icons are Eugene Souleiman and Guido Palau.

Rudi Lewis and Tom Allen
Image credit: Tom Allen
Rudi Lewis Hair
Image credit: Rudi Lewis
Rudi Lewis Male braid
Image credit: Rudi Lewis

Rudi Lewis is represented by LGA Management
Interview Anthony Mascolo
Images courtesy of Tom Allen, Amy Troost, Philip Messmann, Rudi Lewis
Special Thanks Rudi Lewis Website

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