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Japanese hairstylist Shinji Konishi has always been drawn to the transformative quality of hair and make-up. “I’ve always liked anything with impact,” he says, “things that are strong and surprising. In the early days I was using a lot of grotesque elements in my works, like scars and other freaky stuff. Basically, I’ve always wanted to create things that are unusual.”

“I’ve always liked anything with impact”
Shinji Konishi
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shinji konishi at his salon komazawa-bisyo
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Konishi created his first ever animal headpiece, a wolf, following a request from a client on a shoot. The brief consisted of “one model with about a hundred different hair looks, three or four of which had to be very unusual,” he explains. He responded by creating a range of quirky one-off headpieces, shaped like fruit and animals.

The wolf piece would later become the starting point for a 2008 art exhibition, for which Konishi created an assortment of animal pieces together with the late art director Nagi Noda and hairstylist Asami Nemoto. The unnervingly lifelike recreations of animals, including a rabbit, bear, elephant and dog, gained him some high profile fans – Lady Gaga among them. “I made a piece for her when she came to Japan,” he says. “ She wanted an elephant and a deer. I also made a bat out of blonde hair which I gave her as a present.”

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“Ears, horns, fangs, wings… we look for anything with a pointy element”
Shinji Konishi
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Each headpiece is entirely handcrafted by Konishi, and can take up to three weeks to complete. “The key element in my work? Precision” he says. Konishi begins by sculpting the animal shape out of either paper clay or polystyrene, using oblaat (thin, edible paper made from rice starch) to craft the smaller details, such as ears, horns, and teeth. Next, the hair is carefully applied, layer by layer. Konishi explains that to make the piece look as realistic as possible, “special attention is paid to the direction of the hair and the way in which it falls”.

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Watch video HERE

Credits

Photography Panos Damaskinidis
Video Antonio Celotto
Interview Nathan Dytor, Gen Itoh
Words Emma de Clercq
Special Thanks Shinji Konishi Website komazawa-bisyo.com

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