German self-taught hair designer Anja Zurawski discusses all about hair couture, the magazine cover, and the future of the hair art industry.
When we hear the term ‘haute couture’, extravagant evening gowns and embellishments come to mind. However, other elements of fashion and beauty can just be as opulent, such as makeup, hair and nails. ‘Haute couture fashion’ is high-end custom-made clothing that is unique, bringing exclusive fashion concepts to life, even if they are bizarre. Similarly, hair couture or ‘haute couture hair’ is the creation of handmade hair designs that are the epitome of craftsmanship and luxury.
So to feast my eyes and understand the splendor of haute couture hair, I talked to Anja Zurawski. She is a couture hair artist based near Düsseldorf in Germany, and the hairstylist behind our March 2022 magazine cover. And as soon as I discovered her work, I realized the sublime world of hair couture is just waiting to be explored.
Instead of making everyday haircuts for your average client, Anja’s job is to create editorial and avant-garde hairstyles. Hair couture is made when a stylist completely sets their creativity free without the limitations of utility. The result is wearable sculptures that are literally over-the-top.
Sometimes excessive and sometimes surreal, Anja’s designs are anything but basic. Her hair designs set a mood, tell a story or create a theme. Hair is the focal point and the rest of the styling elements like clothing or makeup just complement it for visual storytelling.
The World of Hair Couture
Although hair couture gets way less media coverage than dresses, we’ve already seen it in the fashion industry. Some of the major fashion houses like Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy have showcased unusual hairstyles at Couture Fashion Week in Paris.
Haute couture hair is all about working with extensions, wigs, headdresses and hair accessories to create original and imaginative hair art. We see them in beauty editorials, magazine covers, runway shows, sometimes on red carpets and even at weddings.
And even though we may not wear these types of hairstyles in our everyday lives, avant garde hair couture is still relevant. Haute couture hairstyles are inspirational and trendsetting in the industry. “The idea behind hair couture is to show different hairstyles and give inspirations for other stylists,” says Anja.
They also give an idea of where the world of hairstyling is headed as a whole, with respect to the colors, cuts, volume, styles, accessories and more. Just like haute couture dresses, hair couture can also inspire the everyday haircuts and colors, as hairstylists at salons begin to simplify them and make them wearable.
Journey as a Hair Couturier
An artiste extraordinaire, Anja is 34 years old and has been working with hair since 2004. But then she further explored her passion of hair couture and has been a master stylist since 2011. Her work is constantly evolving, and for three years now, she’s been using wigs to create unconventional hair art.
She works at a wig-store as her day job, and hair artistry is her passion, for which she works from home. She displays her work on her Instagram account (@hair_couture_art), where she also posts hair couture tutorials and videos.
Contrary to how it may seem, Anja doesn’t have a formal education in hairstyling and beauty. “I learn everything by myself,” she mentions. “I try some new things and new styles develop as a result.”
She tells me that hair itself has been the motivation behind her career path. “I love hair every time.” And it’s easy to not get bored when your work allows you to make your bold and unconventional vision a reality. That’s what she loves about her work, she tells me. “Creativity has no limits.”
Just like many other designers, her personal everyday hairstyle is straight and open hair. But her imagination truly comes to life with the work she creates. According to her, her favorite type of hairstyles to create are, “Fancy hair, avant-garde and editorial hairstyles.” So it’s no wonder that the projects she has most enjoyed working on have been editorials, too. “The Cover for Imirage magazine and some other publications like Estetica magazine,” she informs.
I asked her what hobbies and interests she has other than hairstyling, and she replies, “Only hair!”
So what inspires her, I ask. “I find good inspirations on Pinterest,” she tells me. “By looking at some other [types of] art, for example flowers inspire me.”
So what magazines can our readers follow to get more such inspirations? “Infringe magazine,” she informs. I also asked her what are some celebrity hairstylists and celeb hair couturiers we should follow on Instagram. “Silvester Finold,” she replies, who is a London-based avant-garde hair stylist; and “Charlie Le Mindu,” a French hair couturier and headpiece designer.
If you look at Anja’s work, it’s easy to see that these works of art couldn’t have been easy or quick to create. To design and work on the finer details, it takes many hours to make a look that is created specifically for a theme and custom-fitted on the model.
The types of wigs she uses include, “Synthetic wigs, human hair wigs, with lace and without, and also self-made low-budget wigs.” So what does her hairstyling kit include? “Hairspray, brush and a lots of big pins,” she informs.
So what does an average day in the life of a hair designer look like? “Every day is different,” she says. “I wait for [the right time]. And if I am motivated to work, then I use the spirit and work for as long as I can.”
So exactly how long does it take Anja to do an average hairstyle? “Sometimes a few days,” she replies. “Each of them is different and needs different times.” Taking the designs from concept to reality is the most challenging part of this work. “Implementing the ideas and thoughts from my head,” she tells me.
Furthermore, as much as producing unique hair art gives her a creative outlet, the process in itself can be draining at times. I ask her how many looks she creates per month. “Very different,” she informs me. “If I’m in the working spirit, I do many on a day… But sometimes a few days, nothing.”
Story behind the Editorial Shoot and Our March 2022 Magazine Cover
On ShilpaAhuja.com’s cover shoot, Anja’s work is architectural and edgy. “It’s a hair explosion in beauty art,” she describes. She wanted to work with “zig-zag forms, like an explosion” for this shoot to create a “strong and intriguing” look. She calls it “Silver Explosion”.
Anja talks about the team that helped bring her vision to life. “The model is Valeria,” she tells me. “She is a famous model in Germany, and was in TV in a famous show ‘Germany’s Next Topmodel’ that searches new models. “There’s also Sabine the photographer, and an amazing makeup artist Hannah.”
The process behind creating this hairstyle was very interesting. Using strands of silver and mauve synthetic hair, she first created a base on a dummy. She glued the pieces together with liquid hairspray, attaching a mesh base for the top part. Once the hair dried, she installed it on the model’s head.
Thereafter, she stuck pieces of hair on the mesh base to create somewhat of a headdress on top, using hair-clips and tape. “This hairstyle took a few days, because dry times are long,” she mentions.
The Haute Couture Hair Industry
2020s are the decade where practicality meets eccentricity in fashion. Everyone can freely express themselves through their fashion choices, and flaunt them on social media. That’s why it’s a great time to observe the growth of hair industry now more than ever.
“Hair couture is a world with noch limits and a never-ending creativity,” says Anja. “I try new products every time, I like the variety.” Anja is also excited about the growth of this industry. “I’m happy if more stylists try, if they [have the] potential to start working creatively.”
And this is so important in the age of social media where the lines between couture and ready-to-wear are blurring. Social media creates opportunities to for the everyday fashionista to wear pro-makeup looks or “statement” pieces. Simultaneously, many fashion houses are coming up with couture collections that are all about simplicity. There are no rules anymore.
We predict the hair couture industry will flourish in the coming years. Sculptural hairstyles may not be something we can wear every day in the real world. However, the future is digital, where everything is possible. They will be more relevant in the metaverse when bold fashion choices will become more commonplace, and we won’t be limited by conventional styles.
Metaverse fashion is already a trend at Paris Fashion Week. Dolce and Gabbana’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection was designed for the “hyper-futuristic cyber world”. Similarly, Dior’s FW22 reimagined fashion for the ‘The Next Era’ with a “forward-focused mood”.
So are you ready to bring your hair fantasies to life?
Shilpa Ahuja the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion. Other than defining the direction of the magazine, she also writes about fashion & beauty trend forecasts, industry analysis, and opinions.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University.
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