Guido Palau: Hair

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Raquel Zimmerman by Guido Palau
Raquel Zimmerman by Guido PalauPhotography by David Sims

In celebration of his new book, Hair, we sit down with legendary hair stylist Guido Palau to discuss street style, David Sims and his inspiration

The Kate Moss grunge look. Elaborate Frida-Kahlo style pleating. 2013’s big curl revival. Each one of these hair trends can be largely credited to Guido Palau, a name now synonymous with reinventing youth culture, from punk rock Mohawks and Bowie hair wedges to the incredible architectural basket weave created for Alexander McQueen in 2011. Once told by Vidal Sassoon that he’d never make it as a hairdresser, Palau’s handiwork now stands as a well-oiled pillar within fashion, his creations inspired by a blend of raw talent and youthful rebellion.

A new book is released this month celebrating Palau’s legacy, and his iconic alliance with photographer David Sims. Titled Hair, (the follow-up to Heads, published in 2000), the book is dedicated to the late Alexander “Lee” McQueen, whom they both worked closely with. In celebration of the release, AnOther sat down with Palau to discuss their relationship, the fashion industry and the impact of youth culture.

On youth culture... 
“When I think back to that period, the 70s, 80s, 90s, it is always present in my work. I grew up in a period where hair was so visual on the streets, starting with punk in the 70s, and then going on through the New Romantic period, New Wave, Goth, and all the other subcultures that were around at that time. They really impacted on me and I think they come through in all my work one way or another. It always has a punk ethos about it."

On 80s street style...
"I moved to London in the mid-80s, which was a very exciting time visually. Street fashion was just beginning and the streets were kind of like runways. It was amazing, and that gave me my first taste of fashion and style. From that point on I realised that I’d like to get into fashion. Back then, hairdressing wasn’t the industry that it is today. It was only just developing at the time. My first job was for a woman’s weekly magazine called Woman's Own.”

"My work always has a punk ethos about it" — Guido Palau

On Vidal Sassoon...
Even though I was fired, and they said that they didn’t think this was the profession for me, those two years I did spend there I look back on very fondly. The whole Sassoon aesthetic really imprinted on me, especially the work that Vidal did in the 60s. I was very fortunate that later on I got to meet him and we had a conversation and he was a very nice man.”

On David Sims...
When I met David he was just an assistant. It was the year that would now be considered as the grunge period in fashion. I didn’t really have a style of my own and he pushed that out of me. He told me to look at individuals and the way that people wear their hair in real life and through his guidance I picked up on a style which I made my own. He always believed in what I did which was very encouraging, we all need people like that in any chosen career.”

On his favourite shoot...
"The Jil Sander and Yohji Yamamoto campaigns that I worked on with David Sims in the '90s. They were really exciting for us because they were such big campaigns for such young people in the fashion industry to be handed. I think those images will hold the test of time, which is always a very good validation of the imagery."

On Alexander McQueen...
Lee’s last show Plato’s Atlantis involved two very complex hairstyles: one consisted of intricate braiding and the other a dramatic chignon – like a sort of alien coming from the head. When I think about some of the things I did with him I don’t know how we pulled it off really, it was so much work and there was so much anxiety attached to them. It was so much fun though as well."

Hair by Guido with photography by David Sims is published by Rizzoli priced at £45.

Text by Mhairi Graham