Photographer | Debby Gram
Art Director and Stylist | Icarius De Menezes
Hair Sculpture Artist | Pierpaolo Lai
Interview | Icarius De Menezes
Burnt toast, smile wrinkles or the paint smudge on an artist’s hands, the real influential Hair Stylist Pierpaolo Lai untwines the braid that is his history and reminds us of the beauty in the broken, imperfect and messy things in life.
Ever since I was a child, I have had 2 invariable dreams:
To become a fireman and a hair artist.
One of my fondest memories was when I was sent to make a hair appointment on my mother’s behalf.
I entered the hair salon? and became totally inebriated by it all.
I could smell the strong perfume emanating from the hair dyes and their colors.
While for many, this scent is commonly despised for its acridity, yet I remained entranced by it.
I sat there, looking through the bounteous cosmetic magazines.
It was visible how happy they made me, so much so, that the hairdresser, a friend of my mother’s, would then gift them to me.
This passion of mine was passed on to me from my mother, who would too, often help her friends dye their hair at home.
My mother, by the way, is/was really great!
The first haircuts of my authorship were done to my aunt, poor thing, she was deaf-blind but that did not stop her from telling me they were beautiful each time.
She couldn’t even see them, but it pleased me so much to see her so happy!
That was the childhood path that led me here.
FIREMAN X HAIR ARTIST
FIRE & HAIR
When I became a fireman/firefighter…
We were a good team, and during the calm/dead/ periods (of no emergencies), I often enjoyed cutting my team’s hair.
There is one memory in particular, that I will always laugh about, one day when I had just started cutting hair to begin with, and experimenting with a new cut, that I had to learn, with a kind of wave, mind you this was in the ‘80s, when we were suddenly called to do an immediate intervention for a small fire.
I could not stop laughing, we all came out with the same hairstyle, with our hair combed the same way, as if we had just left a photoshoot.
I made the definite decision to leave the fire department and register in a serious hairstyling academy.
It was the Milano Acconciature. I was traveling between Milan and Sardinia.
Initially I chose Cinema & Theatre as my specialization, but then changed it upon meeting Antonio Marras in the 1990s.
Then in Paris I met Luigi Murenu, and that was a stepping stone in my career.
It was Luigi that introduced me into the world of fashion, catwalks, shows and photoshoots.
I later met a makeup artist who helped me get an agency in Milan, and that is where it all began..
LOVE OF DEFECTS
We Italians are a great people of artisanship.
People who are used to work, to put their hands to use, to manufacture and we always do these things with great passion.
We are not longer just Italians, we are a group of cultures that are creating a new generation.
This is all great, but I also believe in people’s general passion.
In fact, of mixtures I know of.
GENIUS AND GENIUS
I was once based in New York for work with Luigi Murenu.
He, of Italian culture, who knew how to make folds, in indeterminate ways, as we did in the ‘80s.
Then from working in Paris, where the cuts had to be beautiful and built.
He was a genius at this.
I worked with him for 5 years, until he began to work with the British Paul Allan.
The British culture of the ‘90s, was the culture of destroying the cut.
To first build something perfect, and then destroy it, to make it look natural.
This is my personal baggage of experiences, this is what I carry with me, and therefore all these comprise me, this specific recipe of experiences.
Of a face, many people are attracted by the pain seen on the lips, the eyes, or the cut of the eyes but I am attracted by what is imperfect. The defects.
I like sneaky ears with salience.
Both on men and women.
The faults make people a bit special.
It is a peculiarity, not a defect.
I am crazy for Barbra Streisand’s face.
The fact of it not being beautiful, but being so particular is what makes it beautiful in its defect and difference.
BEAUTY IN DESTRUCTION
BUILDING BEAUTY FROM BATTERED REMAINS
I enjoy looking at people, first they want my blood because I sometimes stare.
Maybe it’s the way they dress, or comb themselves in such a particular way.
Sometimes it slips through people’s fingers what and how they can create without knowledge or even realizing they’re doing so.
I remember one morning, in particular, in New York, on the subway on my way to work when I saw this old lady.
She caught my attention because she had braids, and one of them had broken down.
I photographed it and then later I redid the style in a photoshoot.
I studied art history in college.
I have always had an eye on the past and then revisited it in a contemporary key.
That is what goes through my brain.
I make beautiful creations and then I destroy them.
It’s complex to describe.
It is as if I had to build a super-modern house but from battered and destroyed remains.
That is what I do.
HAIRS AND WIGS
I had the pleasure of meeting incredible people in the show industry.
Perhaps, I might single out 2 that especially impressed me.
The first is Björk.
I remember she opened the door in a kimono and matching Japanese shoes with long hair.
We began discussing the mood, the style she was supposed to have for this party.
She asks me for a “bob” cut.
From very long hair to very short hair.
She was very happy with it and I moreover, because she is a personality and a singer I love so much.
The second is Lady Gaga.
An incredible character.
She was going to a Versus party in New York.
She wore a slightly shabby wig.
I put the wig on her, cut it short and set her up.
She looked at me and said:
“Everyone makes me strange and instead you made me sexy”
That made me ever so happy.
I use all my senses.
I contaminate, I look, I inform myself, observe, listen to music, I try to do everything in my reach and spirit for my work.
I am a strong believer in spirituality.
We must let ourselves go.
There is nothing better than that.
My sensitivity has influenced my work immensely.
I think sensitive people, we have different perspectives from the generality.
I consider myself a sensitive person.
You can be sensitive in different ways.
I feel sensitive to everything that is aesthetics. To all that is beauty, form, color and light.
I remember as a child I had to undergo eye surgery.
I went into the operating room, and my mother told me that all the lights above were cameras.
I was crazy for cameras.
I have always taken tons of photos.
I’ve always built my whole life around the aim of getting to do what I do.
I did it all organically.
I do not understand the people who do not get excited when doing this work.
We are builders of beauty, dreams, light, shapes, color, makeup.
It’s again, complex to explain.
But I get excited just talking about it.
It is almost a kind of magic that travels through my body.
A magic that stimulates my brain, follows to my hands.
I make beautiful works!
Joshua Bering | Why Not Models Milan
Riccardo Pedini | Next Models Milan
Make up Artist | Barbara Ciccognani | MH Artist
Coordinator | Andrea Bassi
Stylist Assistant | Leonor Proença de Carvalho