At NYFW, hairstyles help tell a story and lead a brand’s vision. In some cases, the hair trends are more likely than the clothes to appear on the streets, but Wella Professionals Global Creative Director of Care & Styling and legendary hairdresser Eugene Souleiman proves that fortune favors the bold.
Souleiman, who describes himself as a “pressure player” thrives on the energetic, sometimes chaotic, backstage scene.
“Hairdressers have to make quick decisions, and just make it all work,” he says of the NYFW environment. “You could spend 45 minutes building a hairstyle and a makeup artist puts their hand on top of a model’s head and ruins it. What are you going to do? You have to be totally flexible.”
One change Souleiman is excited to see is the evolution of beauty during NYFW. “Back in the days of minimalism, people really wanted every girl to have the exact kind of look, like every girl was the same, literally the same. There wasn’t one hair out of place,” he explains. Now thanks to multicultural casting and the expanding vision of beauty, several hairstyles are seen across a show. He says this season’s wearable NYFW hairstyles to be not exactly clean (think second or third day hair) with punches of color and textured microbraids.
How do you think hairstyles at NYFW have evolved over the past few years?
“I think people’s idea of beauty has kind of changed drastically, like really very very drastically. And I think the world is a smaller place, things are more accessible for us now. There’s a real mix of people from different places in NYFW now, and I love that. I think that’s really what’s quite inspiring. Now you’ve got girls from Brazil, girls from Africa, girls from Asia, you know, you’ve got mixes of races. It’s like one big pop up salon backstage in a funny kind of way, because you’re used to working with so many different people, different hair types.“
It seems that more attention is paid to all the different models now, rather than as a collective whole.
“You’re able to work in a more playful way, it’s like less pressurized. It’s really about understanding the individual. And I think even though you work with the concept of a show and an idea, we have a more bespoke kind of take on what we’re doing, like making one style work for this girl, but this other girl’s got curly hair, so you’re working with more empathy, I think.“
What’s your favorite part of NYFW?
“I enjoy that excitement, and I enjoy the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen, you know. When you go into a house you never really know what their idea is.“
What styles do you think are going to be big this season?
“I think it’s sort of safe to say that women are the new men right now, and there’s this very strong beauty going on with women. There’s a lot of really strong viewpoints about the new feminism. And I think there’s a really big need for that. So I think once you tap into that zeitgeist, it’s really quite clear where we should be going with wearable hair at the moment. Women don’t have a lot of time to do their hair. And the thing is, why not enjoy yourself for what you are, and your hair for what you are. And I think that’s really where we are. I think there’s a sense of honesty now, and I think people are more realistic. Like, “You know what? I can’t do that to my hair.” When someone comes to terms and likes who they are, and they’re not trying to torture themselves or fit into a particular mold which has been shattered, right?“
What are the strong hairstyles women can adopt into their routines post-NYFW?
“I’m very much into hair that feels like there’s some movement – not total tortured movement, but movement that feels kind of effortless and more fluid. There’s some life in it, and a sense of freedom. But, it’s still being stylized. Natural, windswept hair that’s maybe pulled back off the face. But not pulled back off the face like it would have been done in the ’90s where it would be like, product and schlack. I’m talking about hair that feels like you can actually touch it, you can get your hands in your hair and there’s a sensuality to it, but strength too.“
Are there any bolder looks you think will be trending?
“I’m also into hair that feels slightly Victorian, like just kind of thrown up and curly and a bit tumbly. It’s quite an interesting sort of dichotomy because I think when people talk about feminism they talk about women emulating men and being masculine. And I don’t think that’s the case now, because I think women are beginning to own their femininity, not go back in time and slick their hair back and be really severe. Trying too hard is so not cool.“
With NYFW in particular, designers tend to work in extremes, do you think that will be the case this year too?
“Yes, there’s this modern and lifestyle oriented, very full, 2-day old feeling hair and texture. And the other direction is the complete opposite – fantasy, beauty and dreams and creating something that is not touchable. People are either into that or the other. There are fashion shows where people say “Oh, I’d wear that!” and then there are other shows where people are like “What the…” But within that polarity, there’s diversity. There’s a lot of room to be creative.“
Some of the hairstyles you created for Spring 2019 shows, like Thom Browne, Dion Lee, and Jeremy Scott, are all wildly different (see images below). What was your vision for each?
“For Thom Browne, I wanted complete lunacy. I called it fallen unicorn hair and we teased the hair and then hit it with a straightening iron. Jeremy Scott had a rawness to it; I want to bring the perm back. I love this hair because it’s almost like a feather cut, a very early 70s vibe, with beautiful fresh color. For Dion Lee, we did micro, almost invisible braids, pulled back away from the face. It’s a very modern look.“
By Kaitlin Clark