The influential hair stylist tells us what it takes to make it big in the beauty business.
Despite achieving fame as David and Victoria Beckham’s hair stylist and for judging BBC reality show Hair (“Great British Bake Off for hair”) Alain Pichon is remarkably down to earth. Contrary to what you’d expect from a superstar hair stylist, his idea of a good time is more yoga, cooking and spending time with his kids than jet-setting across the world – though we suspect that, pre-2020, he was doing his fair share of that anyway.
Throughout the pandemic he’s been keeping grounded by offering his services gratis to NHS key workers and, as we come to terms with Lockdown 2.0, taking the keys to our VERO account. Over there, he’s been giving us the lowdown on his cinematic must-watches and favourite places in London as well as unveiling a stunning, fibre optic-themed hair story shot by Rankin
Below, we catch up with Alain to talk working with Chris Hemsworth and what you need to do to rise to the top in a creative career.
What’s your background as a hairstylist?
As a fourth-generation French barber coiffeur, I started my apprenticeship at master Michel Brosseau’s salon near my home town in the Loire Valley. In 1987, I moved to London, worked at Toni&Guy and subsequently joined their artistic team, where we travelled around the world promoting new hair collections. In 1993, I joined the Camilla Arthur agency as a freelance hairstylist shooting with Rankin in magazines such as Dazed and i-D
Your work fuses hairdressing with fine art. Why does hair interest you in this way?
Back in 2005, I had my studio space in Wimbledon Art Studios, where their open-door weekend allowed all artists to show off their work as part of their exhibition and I used this opportunity to produce art from the unique component I knew most, hair. I created two pendulum pompom pieces using hair extensions of all different colours and textures. This completely opened my mind to the understanding of hair as a medium and led to me creating more stand-alone, conceptual shapes.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
I have great memories from all the beauty story and magazine shoots I have worked on. Shows are a big part of my career, and each season I travel to work fashion month in NYC, London, Paris and Milan for Prada, Calvin Klein and many other designers. I have also been lucky to collaborate with awesome artists from [ the fields of] fashion and entertainment, as well as celebrities. Within the film industry, I have collaborated with costume designer Colleen Atwood on hair concept and creation for Chris Hemsworth’s character in the 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman, and for Eva Green’s character in Tim Burton’s Dumbo. Within TV, I was asked to be a judge on BBC3’s Hair competition, where young hairdressers fought through gripping hairstyling challenges. Kind of like The Great British Bake Off for hair. It has been fantastic to have had some long-term clients such as Trudie and Sting, David and Victoria Beckham and, more recently, Eva Green and Jude Law.
Tell us one piece of advice that all aspiring hair stylists should keep in mind?
The main advice I would give anyone who has true hair passion is to never give up until they reach their next goal and to learn all the techniques they can use to facilitate their creations. It’s important to understand what part of the industry you want to gain recognition in and I recommend not missing any opportunities and spending as much time as possible working and learning. Finally, you have to understand that working as a hairstylist is about collaborating with all your colleagues and clients.
Are there any place in London that inspire your work?
I remember early in my London career, during my daily street search for models, I was so excited to see so many cool looks everywhere; hanging out in art exhibitions around Camden, Shoreditch flea market, Covent Garden and Peckham, where I had a studio.
What films help get you in the creative mood?
I am lucky to own a home projector which is great for watching nature documentaries and sci-fi movies. I love the large screen, it makes it very easy to see the cool hairstyles in the backgrounds of films like Blade Runner, Star Wars, Star Trek and Avatar.
How do you overcome a creative block?
Ideas are easy, making them happen is another challenge. The most important thing is to allow time for everything and be strict with scheduling so eventually, every project can be completed. There are so many visuals to take inspiration from today but your main inspiration should come from you. So I suggest taking your own photography. Whether it is of your own work so that you can take a step back and reflect on what you have done, or find something that will motivate you to create a new piece. This is what I have done with my second Instagram account @alain_pichon_visuals.
What have you done to keep creative and look after your mental health this year?
I try to have personal projects, all quite different but with hair, it stops me from getting complacent and keeps my mind active. Lockdown has been difficult for everyone and having projects has been one of the main ways I’ve kept positive. One of these was donating my hairdressing to NHS workers, and to the vulnerable and elderly people in my neighbourhood once lockdown was lifted.
6 November 2020