At the start of 2017, London hair sculptor Tuttii Fruittii and her partner Toni Tits opened their first bricks and mortar salon in Deptford. Catering for all genders and hair types, transformation and self-expression through colour is at the centre of their philosophy. “That’s what we pass on to the clients – to feel free to play with your identity”, Toni explains. Tuttii adds, “I think with all the evil that’s happening in the world at the moment it’s nice to keep positive and colourful. It’s nice to lighten up the world a little bit”.
On the origins of the clown motif, Tuttii explains, “I just love the whole outrageous, mischievous performance side to clowns, of not taking life too seriously and being able to have a laugh”. The act of performance is a central part of their lives, when they are not at the salon they perform as video art duo CandyKONK, and are part of all-female ‘urban tribe’ Haus of Sequana, who have brought their multi-sensory performances to art venues including the Barbican Centre and Wellcome Collection.
Tuttii is the hairdresser at the helm of the salon, while Toni handles the visual side of the Tuttii Fruittii brand. Named ‘Tuttii Fruittii LONDON The LadyBoi KLOWN Hairsculptors’, the salon is the latest incarnation of their business, which has existed in various forms over the years – none of them conventional. For the last 4 years, Tuttii ran her salon out of a caravan which she transformed into a unique hair studio. Until recently, it was located in the schoolyard of the former Tidemill School in Deptford where she, along with several other artists, lived as property guardians. They were forced to leave the school and caravan when redevelopment of the area led to the school facing demolition to make way for luxury flats. A sad but increasing reality for many Londoners, Tuttii and Toni reflect on the crippling effect of rapid gentrification on small independent businesses like theirs. “It’s so hard to start a business in London and have the money to survive” Toni says, “there are so many people with brilliant ideas and they just can’t make them happen. That caravan was a really amazing gift for us. Without those 4 golden years of building a business and name for ourselves we wouldn’t be here today”. Tuttii adds, “alternative creative spaces are becoming so hard to find in London. Everything is so controlled now, every piece of land has got something happening on it”.
In a happy twist of fate, the barbershop which Tuttii had had her eye on for years became available to rent at the exact same time that they were forced to leave the school. “Literally as soon as we were evicted we saw the sign in the window for this shop” Tuttii explains, “it was a bit of a blessing in terms of timing. I used to walk past this shop nearly every day and I’d always say, “this is going to be my shop one day” and it was just amazing that the universe delivered”.
“I just love the whole outrageous, mischievous performance side to clowns, of not taking life too seriously and being able to have a laugh.”
Going back to the very beginning, where did the name Tuttii Fruittii come from? Tuttii: Years ago I met a group of sisters at the Stone Circle in Glastonbury. I used to wear a lot of African prints and colourful headscarves, similar to Carmen Miranda. One of the girls, Lady G, used to say “oh it’s the Tuttii Fruittii girl” and the name just kind of stuck. I never actually say to anyone what my official name is, I always like to be called Tuttii, my other name doesn’t really feel like me.
How instrumental would you say London has been to the salon and your movement as a whole? Tuttii: London is a big part of who I’ve become. When I was living in Portsmouth I felt really trapped. You know what it’s like in small towns, it’s quite judgemental, and people don’t really express themselves like they do here. As soon as I came to London I literally exploded. You can be who you want here, no one judges you, especially in Deptford. You can do what the hell you want and no one will blink an eye. I just felt so at home straight away, like I could finally breathe and just be myself.
What’s your clientele like? Tuttii: To be honest it really varies; it will go from one extreme to another. I have a lot of older ladies and guys who want more classic hairstyles, and then the other side of the spectrum is really extreme in terms of hairstyles for performers, artists, queer and trans people – it’s a total mix.
Toni: You’ll get a day when you have someone who is really colourful and creative, sitting next to an older local Deptford person and they’re chatting away to each other. It’s really nice for everyone to be able to connect in one space.
How would you describe your approach to hair? Tuttii: I’d say it really depends on the client. If I were doing something more extreme I would probably look at their hair more like a canvas. I would layer it up and create different shapes and angles like a sculptor would. That’s how I like to do hair.
In a way it’s better than a canvas because it grows back!
Tuttii: Exactly! The possibilities are endless!
Tuttii Fruittii LONDON The LadyBoi KLOWN Hairsculptors is at 2c Douglas Way, SE8 4AG, London
“From writing the play, I’m aware of how vast, nuanced, beautiful and delicate barbershops can be. Also, how ridiculously funny, over the top, exaggerated and naturally theatrical those spaces are.” – Inua Ellams